Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sick Days

I used to take sick days much more liberally. Feeling a bit sniffly? Sick day. Might be running a fever? Sick day. Work sucks? Sick day.

But now, I'm a boss. I'm in charge of things. I have things to get done!

I can't just take a sick day whenever my body aches and shivers. No, I have to suck down cold medicine and go into work and get that stuff done. Because, logical or not, I feel I have a responsibility to do so.

Ironically, at this point in my career, I've stockpiled a goodly amount of sick time. Back in the day, when I'd skip work just because it sucked and call it being sick, I would be using sick time essentially as I earned it. Now that I have more sick hours than I know what to do with, I don't do anything with them.

I must be some kind of adult or something. Ugh!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Best Friend in the World

It is my great pleasure to relate that I have had a chance encounter with a woman who I must now consider the world's greatest friend. Not my friend, nor even my acquaintance, no, I had only the most tangential of contacts with this woman, but even that brief moment is simply inspiring.

You see, on Wednesday night, my husband and I were out enjoying an evening of Idaho Steelheads hockey. We had some nice seats on the upper level, right along one of the blue lines. We had food, we had drink. We were merry. 

The one sore spot happened near the end of the first period when a bunch of rowdy men sat behind us, loudly talking about how they did not, in fact, have tickets for this section. They also had a tendency to stand during the action, which is, during hockey games, an offense punishable by removal, and removed they were. One of them, whilst departing, even managed to kick my hat off my head - an action for which I received neither acknowledgement nor apology. 

Those men having left, I looked back at the stretch of empty seats behind us and saw on the floor a dollar. 

Now, this dollar may or may not have been there before the rowdies. It may have fallen from the row above. One simply can't know the provenance of a dollar bill resting on the floor of an arena. Well, let me correct that statement. I can't know it. 

But I met someone who can. 

The Best Friend in the World.

Because, you see, when I got up and snagged that dollar from underneath those empty seats, and then walked back to hand the single dollar to my husband, she stalked over to us, brimming with righteousness.

"That's my friend's money!"

She knew. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, she knew that dollar belonged to her friend. And, being such a good friend, she couldn't let one single dollar pass into the hands of random strangers at a hockey game unchallenged.

We didn't really know how to react - we were not prepared to interact with such devotion. My husband handed her the dollar without a word and I, well, I had been drinking and I may have been hard pressed to keep from giggling at her quest for a single dollar that she somehow knew belonged to her rowdy friends. Drinking can make one unaware of such brushes with greatness.

And so later, when two of the six rowdy friends returned, she gave them that dollar.

I know it was only a dollar, but I like to believe that they were warmed by her gesture. That they knew themselves to be in the presence of a person endowed with greater compassion and conviction than they deserved.

Could there have been, after all, any truer display of Great Friendship? I submit there could not. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

No More Excuses

Now that I have the paper copies of my book in hand, I really have to get to work on my next projects before my husband gets too grumpy.

And I think I've got a handle on what kind of tone I want to use for the guidebooks, so it's really just a matter of getting the butt in seat time. I should have some time over the Thanksgiving break to do that - if I make the time and take the time.


On a completely different note - and you should stop here if you want to avoid pictures of spiders - this weekend, I saw the weirdest looking spider on one of the bicycles under our apartment stairs. It was big and globular and orange and I had to take pictures and figure out what it was. Turns out it is known as a jewel spider or cat-faced spider, and is only very slightly venomous. Based on the way it hasn't moved for the past five days, I'm pretty sure this one is completely harmless due to death.

It's not tarantula big, but it's pretty big, hanging out on the end of a set of handlebars (not my bike). 

I don't really see the "cat-faced" aspect of it, even with a closeup. 

Maybe a little cat-faced from this angle where the knobs look like cat ears. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book - Hike with Me Number 5!

A bit later than I wanted to get it published, but I finally worked out my issues with the cover formatting and knuckled down and got the ebook versions prepped for both kindle and smashwords. So now I've published 5 volumes of Hike with Me.

Four solo trips, two segments of the Idaho Centennial Trail and one non-Idaho hike along the Washington Pacific Coast.

Hundreds of color pictures. Thousands and thousands of words.

A large print, full color paperback edition for each one, along with ebook versions available across a variety of online retailers.

I don't think I really believed when I started writing these that I would be able to keep going for five years. It was an intention born during that first solo trip, when I thought about how I might share how my journey felt with a very specific audience - my mom. Most people in my life, I could, theoretically, take on the trail. Even though my dad has a bad back, I could take him on a short trek, keeping his pack light. My brother, sure. But my mom has multiple sclerosis. She doesn't travel well even by car. She would never be able to come out and experience the trail.

So, with the intention to share the experience with her, I've shared it with even more people. Not to mention, I've got a reliable Christmas gift to give each year that's unique and personal.

So. Check it out. Hike with Me: Idaho Centennial Trail Owyhee. Pictures of the paperback to come when they arrive.

FREE through January 14, 2018 with code CS55F  on Smashwords
On Amazon kindle 
On Amazon in Large Print full color paperback
On Barnes and Noble Nook

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Derailed!

I was sick last weekend. As in, spent most of Saturday in bed and most of Sunday bundled up on the couch, tight-chested, sniffly, fuzzy-brained sick. I made zero progress in preparing the ebook version of my latest hiking book. And, in part, I believe, because of the illness, I had the worst possible time getting my cover in shape for the print version.

See, there is no way to preview what your printed cover will look like other than submitting your files for review. And that process takes 24 (or more) hours. I've submitted that damn file 7 times in the last week. The first few times were rejected, and I own that that was my own fault. I didn't calculate the spine width correctly, so they couldn't use the cover I submitted. Okay. Fine.

But once I got the spine right, they kept giving me covers with random lines. I know from experience that what you see on the digital proof is what you get. I learned the hard way not to order thinking that it would fix itself in printing. No, it has to be perfect before I approve it for sale and buy my author copies. And nothing I was doing was providing the perfection I sought.

I even got to the point where I couldn't make the pdf come out right on my own end. But I think I've got it now. I just had to create an entirely new image file in GIMP, copy the visible layers and paste so that there's no room for any sliding or extra lines. If it doesn't come out right this time, then I'm going to scream.

Next, I've got to finish reformatting the word file for Kindle and Smashwords formats. Smashwords is more difficult because they have a fairly low bar on file size. Although I should be alright this year, because this book is much shorter than last year's. Less pictures, a bit less text. It's tight. This should be the easy part, but when you're sick, sitting in front of a computer reformatting isn't an easy task.

Okay, when I'm sick. The last thing I want to do is sit at a desk and try to think. Hard enough to push through the sick-fuzz at work. Which I did - I didn't take any sick days, I just lost a whole weekend. Grrrr.

So the ebook should be out this weekend, with any luck the print book will be available before that. If I can just get them to make the cover look like it should. Might be time to try bribes. . .

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Almost a Book!

The book is finished. Well, just about. It needs to get approved and then it will appear as available on retailers. My part is pretty much done. It's just about the shortest one of my Hike with Me books, and I think that's alright. Shorter books are less expensive to print and therefore I can price them lower.

I am still considering making versions of the books that have normal sized print instead of large print so that I can see about selling them at even lower prices, but that's a large investment in time, getting the font sized correctly and then re-arranging the images so that they are still near the text relevant to them. It will mean more pages of just pictures, which isn't a bad thing, per se. But it is difficult to get the formatting done, because I can't just place two pictures on the same page in the Word template - I need to create a new whole page image with the two images. Otherwise, a single line of text ends up accompanying the two pictures, and that looks silly.

But that can't be my next project anyway, because I've got some guidebooks to work next. I think I can reasonably get both of those done before the end of the year, especially with the week my workplace is closed between Christmas and New Year's. I just need to make it a priority to get them written and pictured.

If I save enough money, I want to do another online writing class, but I don't know when that's going to happen. Also, I need to start planning next year's solo trip so I can close the gap on the ICT and have the bottom quarter done. There's a lot to do, and that doesn't even include getting in some fiction writing, which I haven't been doing AT ALL.

I have found writing a bit difficult to get into in the past few months, and I do partly blame the political climate. My focus gets torn in all sorts of different directions and I just don't make the energy to put into writing. Plus there were factors at work that have made my days a lot more full and occupied my brain even when I'm not actively at work.

I think getting the guidebooks out will help me get back into writing, because they will be projects that I can complete and get a sense of accomplishment from. I feel more confident about my non-fiction than I do about my fiction. Even though I've actually made more money from fiction so far than non-fiction (and the amounts are tiny, either way), I don't have the same kinds of doubts about the non-fiction. I create them, they are finished, and I put them out into the world. They'll find their audience, or not. I'll move on to the next one.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Chicago Visit


I got to see a Blackhawks game! Thanks, Dad!





There are no Dunkin' Donuts in Idaho. I missed them. 




A whole store of Nutella... there was a line coming out the door.






I got excited by weird things in the grocery store - like this barrel of pickles. 

And also how the candy shelves at the checkout have their own lights.

It was very rainy.

I got my kolacky fix. I swear, if someone would just start making these in Idaho, they'd catch on. 


We got to see the Daily Show Undesked! Again, thanks Dad and also thank you to John Schmitz.

I did not take great pictures of the experience.
I blame my camera phone.
I circled us in the audience. Ambrose's hair definitely sticks out in the crowd. 
There's that hair again - my kind of blends into the darkness. 
That one's a bit clearer :) What an incredible experience!

My dad told my husband that his cat wouldn't drink water out of her bowl. Proof! Coco can and does drink water out of her bowl. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Been Traveling

Well, I've spent the last week in Chicago and the suburbs thereof. It was good to visit family and have them meet my husband at last. More later.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Liquid Reset

For no better reason than the box of meal replacement shakes we bought came with enough for 16 breakfasts, I stopped my liquid breakfast experiment at 16 days.

Overall, I would rate the experiment a success. Although I still felt sick during the first week, the IBS symptoms did start fading in the second week Almost without my noticing, I was sleeping better and having regular movement in my bowels. There was still gas happening, but it wasn't as painful. And, right about now, I'm happy to settle for not as painful.

I'm going to keep aiming to drink about a gallon of water per day, because that seems to help no matter what else I'm doing. And I'm just going to see how going back to a normal breakfast does for me. I don't want to stick with the liquid breakfast, because I've been burned too many times by sticking to something that seems to work.

So I stopped rather than waiting for the inevitable failure of the liquid breakfast diet, where I made a rule for myself that I would not eat solid food until I had been awake for at least 4 hours, in addition to consuming the meal replacement shakes. On days when I did 5am Crossfit, that wasn't much of a hardship - up by 4:30, snacks allowed by 8:30. I usually wasn't even hungry by that point. The weekends were a little more difficult. The longer I slept in, the longer I had to wait to eat solid food.

The first weekend of the liquid diet, I slept in to 7:30 on Saturday and 7 on Sunday. Waiting to long to eat "real" food was too hard, so I ended up getting up at 6 both mornings the following weekend. 10 was a much better time to wait for than 11. Though during the week when I was at work, it wasn't that hard to wait til 10 or even 12 some days, a good 7.5 hours after I woke up. Keeping busy will make time fly.

Now starts the chaos experiment. I'm not going to get into another rut. No more than two weeks eating the same kind of breakfast every day. Of course, I'm expecting that my body will decide to work on larger cycles and I'll end up being just as confused about what works and what doesn't in another 6 months. But I'm going to try. I have to keep trying. This IBS thing is a puzzle and I do like solving puzzles.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Keep on Booking

I finished the written draft of this year's hiking book last week. Ambrose liked it. And, over the weekend, I got the pictures all set up and captioned. Next step is inserting the pictures into the text in the Word template., which will take another weekend or so, depending on how many need to be reformatted to fit on a single page together. I'm excited to have it ready so early in the year, but the truth is, I'm not really going much faster than I have in previous years.

In the past, I've done my book hike in August, and finished writing around December. This year, I did the hike in May and finished writing (just barely) in September. Publishing has been in December or January, and this year I'm confident I'll get it ready in October - though I'm still going to send books as Christmas presents.

After I get this completed, I've got a couple of guidebooks that I'd like to write up. Those projects should be shorter, and I'd like to get those done by the end of the year. My inventory is slowly growing, and the sales continue to trickle in each month. Sometimes enough to buy a cup of coffee, even (not Starbucks though).

I haven't been as focused on writing fiction this year, though I did that workshop and I feel like it has helped point out one of the weak points in my writing. My husband has pointed out another that I'm still working on.

Dean Wesley Smith writes about letting the creative side out to play without letting the inner critic censor what gets written, but he also writes about the importance of doing a clean draft. I think that I've become so practiced at writing clean that I let my inner critic take a bit too much control during my writing process, and the result is something that is clean but lacks passion.

Passion is what my husband wanted to see in my hiking book this year. He knows that I can be passionate - how not when we live together? But he had yet to see that really come through in my writing. I think I need to let go a bit more in my writing to get there. To consider less the placement of words and sentences and more the expression of ideas. I need to let my inner English teacher take a break, and let my inner five year old have free rein. Because it's in the passion that my writing voice is going to come through and maybe allow me to buy two cups of coffee a month from my writing earnings!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Liquid Weapon

With my IBS becoming an irritant not only to me, but also to my husband, and starting to affect my ability to do my job, Ambrose and I knew that the time had come for some experimentation.

We had been avoiding certain foods, such as oats and soy, for a while now. Sticking to cereal for breakfast rather than oatmeal. Switching from soy milk to almond milk.

But that didn't help long term.

So the new plan is liquid breakfast. For the last five days, I've been drinking my breakfast.

And although drinking a nutritional supplement meal makes me feel like an invalid, it seems to be improving my situation. I'm still getting some bloating, but it's less. Some pain, but not as much as before the switch. My bowels are moving more consistently, especially in the morning.

Of course, I'm not doing the experiment in an entirely fair way. I've also gone back to a goal of drinking a gallon of water a day, because that seems to help, too. I do think that the combination helps. I'm not eating solid food for about the first five to seven hours that I'm awake, and it's an improvement.

But it could be just an improvement for now. It seems the one thread that ties together this whole IBS journey is the efficacy of change.

My diet changes, and I start doing better. I embrace whatever the change is with religious fervor, and before I know it I'm stuck in a whole new rut. Eventually, my gut tires of the rut and starts to complain. I agonize for a month or two, and then the bright idea comes about to change things again. Presto! The new change is the new path and I shall not stray from it!

Until next time the pains return.

I'm not sure what to make of that. Maybe I'll try rotating what I eat every 30 days or every 60 days. The thing is, I'm really quite content eating the same thing most days. For breakfast, especially, I like to have a routine (can't spell routine without rut).

So we'll see how long this lasts. I really should start recording what I eat, and how it makes me feel, and probably my weight, too. But I just don't want to. I don't want to admit that I've got this condition that requires those tasks of me.

But if I don't, then I'm never going to be able to track what's going on and figure out if this stuff is really all random or follows some underlying pattern - even if that pattern is change.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Written Word

I haven't been getting my butt in the writing chair over the last week or so. Ambrose and I did go on a short backpacking trip last weekend, so I have a partial excuse, but that's not really enough. I want to finish my solo write up by the end of the month and have the book for sale before I visit family in October. Though I won't likely have finished copies to give them at the visit.

I know once I finish the write up, the photo part can be accomplished in a weekend's steady work. Formatting the book and getting the layout right for print is not a hard part for me. I enjoy creating the photos and captions and making it all come together. It's simple work, repetitive, steady. When a mistake is made, it is simple, if not always fast or easy, to correct.

The writing part is different. I don't have a template. I don't have as much structure to dictate what I should or shouldn't be doing. I look at the photos I took as I write, but they don't provide the narrative. They can't convey the harshness of the wind, how cold it was and how it sometimes drove particles of sand into my face or blew so hard that I had trouble walking forward. Even the video I took of the wind whipping my tent doesn't tell as much of the story as my words must bear.

I have to find the story, create it and frame it without knowing exactly what its shape should be before I start. I know what I want to do - I want to share my adventure. And I want to share how these adventures have changed me and how I approach life. Hiking alone grows self reliance. It makes me more confident and sure of myself. It proves to me that I have the ability to do more than I realize.

And, if I write my book right, it will give others a taste of those results, and encourage others to strive and try to do things that they never would have thought possible.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Everything and Nothing

I'm going through another period of having IBS issues. I have to say that what I like least about this whole diagnosis is how random it seems to be. I don't know how to control what's happening. I really thought I had things under control last winter after I started taking the mint pills, but it didn't last. I don't know if the mint pills really had any effect, or if they just happened to coincide with a time that I was feeling better. 

Changing what I eat doesn't help, at least not for long. Excluding certain items, including others, drinking more water, drinking less water, nothing seems to make a difference for long, as if my digestive system just has trouble making up its mind, what will affect it and what will leave it calm. 

There's a burning pain going on that is pretty constant at the moment, but it isn't heartburn. Too low, too frequent, not helped by heart burn remedies. It keeps me awake past bed time and disturbs my sleep so I feel exhausted, which stresses me out more, which surely doesn't help anything. 

Gas buildups cause pain and nausea, but I'm almost at the point where I've accepted that the feeling like I'm going to puke is really just a burp. There does linger a trace of paranoia that this time, that burp will be more than just gas. But so far, I haven't had any vomiting even though it has felt like it was going to happen. 

The gas pains can get intense. They don't like to stay the same, so sometimes it feels like pressure, other times like a stitch from running, and sometimes it feels like ripping inside. 

My husband is frustrated to see me in pain and be unable to do anything about it. I know he's not mad at me, but I still feel like it's my fault that I'm not feeling better faster. 

I suppose I'll have to start looking at more unconventional methods, perhaps starting with dancing naked under a full moon, followed by a snipe hunt. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Progress!

I finally got my butt in the writing seat over the last week or so! The write up of my solo trip is proceeding nicely, nearly finished, and then I can get serious on the Chamberlain Guidebook that Ambrose wants me to write and the Queens River Guidebook.

The guidebooks will be short pieces meant to help people who want to explore those areas with a little more recent information than is readily available right now. After our eclipse trip into the Queens River area, we learned that the area isn't well described in the guidebook that we learned about it from, in part because the terrain has changed and the trail has been rerouted in places. The Queens River literally changed its course between last year and this year at one of the crossings, so a short guidebook that could be updated every year might be useful.

I'm almost done with the third day of my solo trip write up. One more good weekend of work and I'll be done with the writing. Then it's Ambrose's turn to do the proofreading and I'll start with the photos. I'll definitely have these books ready for Christmas gifts.

I just hope the air around here clears up soon. Boise has a red air quality alert going on right now, and I'm definitely feeling the effects. Everything smells like smoke, even indoors, and my eyes have been burning all day. Not conducive to focusing on writing or anything else.

But I know that I just need to get my butt in the seat and I can get it done.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Acceptance

My ankle is still bugging me. But I managed to take it on a 24 mile backpacking trip and saw the eclipse totality in the wilderness, no one around but my husband. We had an entire meadow to ourselves, and a full view of Mount Everly. Well, technically, we had a little company. A small plane was flying overhead and managed to sneak itself into my totality pictures. I actually think it adds something to them.

Totality and airplane. I don't have the best camera (or camera skills) for this shot.
And after my husband and I returned from the trip, I tried giving my ankle a few more days of rest to see if it would finally stop hurting.

It wouldn't, so I've moved on to another tactic. I'm getting back into my exercise routine. I'm going to do my best and take what care with my ankle that I need to, but I'm back going to cross fit and the gym.

I keep wondering if I should have gone to the doctor about it. Or if it would be worthwhile to go now, since my ankle is still hurting and its been several weeks. But at this point, I'm thinking I'll just gut it out. Give it support, ice now and then, stretch it and do ankle abc's.

Yesterday at cross fit, I read a quote written on one of the chalkboards:
Accept your circumstances. Accept exactly where you are and strive for progress. Stay present and fall back in love with the process of getting better. Because focusing on the future can destroy us. - Michael Cazayoux

It really hit home to me that I need to accept that right now, my ankle isn't 100%, but I'll get it there. I just need to do what I can and focus on healing and improving.

Easier written than done.

But I'll try.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Emphasis

I got a massage last week. I'd been looking forward to it this time especially because I hoped the therapist could help calm down the leg muscles that kept pulling on my hurt ankle. I'd been trying to rub the muscles into submission myself, but there's only so much I know how to do.

She did indeed do a lot of work that helped my body feel better. But I think the most important thing I got out of the experience was a realization that I had been stressing. A lot.

I stressed that I was injured and had to cancel a backpacking trip. I stressed about being ready for the next backpacking trip - the one to go and view the eclipse that I'd been planning for years. And I had the normal stresses of work.

What I didn't have was my normal method of stress release, namely, vigorous exercise of the backpacking and Crossfit varieties preferably. I was being cautious, perhaps excessively cautious, about working the hurt ankle. I wanted it to heal in time for the eclipse trip so much. Just heal the heck up and let me hike.

I realized that I need to have a game plan for the next time I can't use vigorous exercise for stress relief for whatever reason (hopefully not injury again). I don't really know what that plan is going to look like, but even just acknowledging what I was doing to my body, especially my muscles, helped. After the massage I was more conscious of not tensing up because of stress.

Not sure what I'll come up with, but I'm going to figure something out, because I really don't like the way I feel when I'm stressed.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Hot Seat

I tend to be cold. When my husband is stripped down to shorts, pushing me away because my body heat is making him sweat, I'm nearly shivering in a sweatshirt, huddled under blankets. I've warmed up a bit since I started backpacking, especially when I'm out there, working hard and breaking a sweat. But at home (and at work, where they air condition the spaces extra cool), I get chilly.

Sometimes I solve this with layers of clothing. Others with hot tea or a quick set of calisthenics. But the best and most reliable solution is actually writing.

For some reason I have yet to figure out, sitting at my desk and writing always warms me up. If I'm already a comfortable temperature, it won't be long before I'm sweating. If I'm bundled up in a sweatshirt, it won't be long before I tear it off. This phenomena cannot be explained by the heat of my laptop alone. There has to be more to it.

It is nearer the window than the couch where I sit with my husband, but not that much nearer. And in the winter, that should make it colder. Except we usually set up a heater near the window to counteract that. Okay, in the winter it makes sense I'd get hot, with the heater and all. But not in the summer or spring or fall.

Writing doesn't make me tense or stressed. There's really no reason to become heated. But I do.

I guess the only way to find out if it's the writing or the position is to move things around, but there's really not room in our studio apartment for much rearrangement. We haven't rearranged any furniture since we moved in. There's just room enough for everything to stay in its place.

The mystery shall remain. I really should start using it to my advantage more often though.

Too cold? Time to write!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Spinning Wheels

I don't feel that I've gotten very much done in the last week. I haven't been getting my butt in the writing chair because it doesn't seem the best place for the ankle. And also I'm a little sad about the whole being injured thing and sorely missing going to Crossfit. And last week was incredibly hectic at work, because I had been planning on being out this week.

But since I'm not going backpacking, I'm not taking the days. What would be the point of taking a vacation if I wasn't going to use it to go somewhere? At least, a vacation of a whole week. I hardly know what to do with myself over the winter break when work shuts down for a week. No way am I voluntarily doing that when I can't even go exercise.

But I do have some more books up, though I need to turn focus to creating paper versions of them, as well as publishing the rest of the shorts and working on a collection. Plus get to writing. That's the trick. Somehow, I'm able to get my butt in the chair for at least a few minutes each week and get something posted on this blog and my gym blog, but I'm not getting there at other times.

I know I can get work done if I get my butt in the chair. I just need to get myself there more often. Which should be a lot easier now that my ankle isn't all swollen. It's still a bit sore and tender but I walked with just a brace yesterday, no crutch, all day. I even went to the gym, though I only did weight machines and upper body work.

I might be able to get back to Crossfit - with no running - as early as Sunday. And I'm feeling more positive than ever that I'll be taking my planned backpacking trip to the Sawtooth Wilderness for the eclipse.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Not Quite What I Planned

I was planning on getting a bit more done over the weekend than I actually did.

But this time, I have an actual excuse that is sort of valid.

First, the results: I published one short story and submitted one to a paying market. I also published a short novel. It's more than I had last week, so I will take it as a failure to success. Especially the short story, because I've been very hesitant to self publish short stories. Okay, the short novel was a triumph too, since it's a story that I've been writing for years and only wrapped up this last May.

I would have spent more time at my computer desk, but I rolled my ankle while running at crossfit on Saturday and felt it was better to keep the thing elevated as much as possible through the first 48 hours post injury. My new desk chair has many advantages, but it isn't possible to comfortably sit in it with an elevated foot.

My focus now will be to continue to put up those short stories that I can't figure out a market to submit to and get back on to writing my solo book and the Chamberlain Basin guidebook that Ambrose wants done.

I'm actually a little bit down after rolling my ankle. I'm worried that I won't be able to do my backpacking trip next week, and maybe even miss my big hike for the eclipse. It is so frustrating not to be exercising at the level that I was. I know it's in a good cause. I know that rest now will enable me to keep going later. But I just want to go out and get sweaty! And not from crutching my way down the hallway at work.

I guess this will just help me get my butt at the writing desk, since I can't channel my energy towards hard core workouts that leave me exhausted (but in that good way).

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New, Quick Challenge

I have 7 stories that are finished and ready for something to be done with them. I have to stop sitting on them as if they'll get better if I look away for a while. I'm not getting much writing done this summer, and I'm allowing myself that for now. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't be doing anything.

New challenge. Submit to magazines or publish all 7 stories by July 31st. That gives me a whole weekend to work with plus a few days. I just need to set myself a reasonable goal and get my butt in the publishing/submitting seat.

Which doesn't make it any easier. I'm not sure where I might submit some of the stories and I'm still hesitant (scared?) to self publish shorter works. I could see doing maybe the 8000 word short story as a standalone, but not the 4000 or less ones. And they aren't all genre stories. And I am so good at making excuses!

So instead of working on stories or even covers, I played around with photos on Gimp, trying to combine two shots, one focused on a road and another on a distant mountain. It looks pretty neat, but it isn't what I wanted to be doing.

I know these stories that I've written since finishing the Depth workshop have better openings than stories I've written before, but is that enough? My husband liked them, but he likes everything!

So I have thrown down my own gauntlet and I'll just do it. I'll get some covers together and put the longer stories up. The shorter ones too if I can't find a market to submit to. Just do it. No one is going to punish me for trying.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Readjusting to Modern Life

Coming back to civilization after a 7 day backpacking trip is strange. I no longer have to wake up at 5:15 and immediately pack up everything and carry it to the next destination. There are so many people around and I may, at any moment, need to interact with them. Fewer critter sightings (although I did see a cat and two kittens this morning that I think might be feral or at least homeless on the way back from crossfit).

My husband and I have also been experiencing some gastrointestinal discomforts that began soon after we got home. I'm kind of glad we're both having it, but it still feels pretty awful.

There were days on the hike when I felt clear headed and ready to write and others that I felt muzzy and uncertain again. I want to get working on my solo book, but I'm not making the time for it. And I'm not making the time for it in part because by the time I'm done with my day job I just want to sleep. Maybe I can take a short nap after work and then feel more like writing.

But I'll probably wait to try that until after this, ahem, discomfort clears up. It's probably an allergic reaction to work.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Gone Fishin'

Okay, not really. I don't fish. At least, not on a regular basis. No, Ambrose and I are out backpacking.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Distilled

I figured out yesterday morning that the 2.5 gallon container that I thought had drinking water in it did not in fact have drinking water in it. Instead, the container, into which I'd made over a gallon of inroads over the weekend, contained distilled water.

Now, drinking distilled water won't kill you. It tends to be less flavorful than mineralized water, though I didn't notice that. I had instead felt lightheaded and loopy, a little out of sorts. I have to wonder now if the other container that I finished off over the weekend also had distilled water, but it's long in the recycling bin by now.

I didn't drink a lot of water yesterday because I don't like the taste of the water that comes out of the sink. But I did eat a lot of watermelon, so that's got to count for something.

I want to start feeling better, and I hope that this water mistake can be blamed for any feelings of not-well-ness I've been having because Ambrose and I are going on a long backpacking trip next week and I want to be completely ready. Back to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to see if we can make a better go of it this time.

As I told my co-workers, this year, instead of pressing on when we reach the small campsite on the jeep road, a tactic that ended with Ambrose stumbling into camp after 1 in the morning, we will be stopping there and finishing the trek in the morning when we reach that point. Along with another change in route, and familiarity with most of the route, the hike should be easier than last year, but that doesn't mean easy.

So I'm going to make sure I'm drinking water complete with tasty minerals for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Feeding (All) the Birds

My husband puts out birdseed  nearly every day. We feed ducks and the occasional pair of geese, doves that nest in the roof of our apartment complex, squirrels and little birds of more kinds than I know how to identify.

All those birds gathering at our back door day after day provide entertainment not only for us but for passersby. Especially the four-legged passersby who scare off the birds with their excited sniffings.

They also, in turn, provide a living buffet for the birds of prey that scout nearby. Ambrose has seen them more than I have, because he's home more. But yesterday, I finally got a chance to get some good pictures of the fiercer birds that we feed.

I don't want to mess with the blinds and possibly scare it away.









Picture taken just as the bird flew off. 

It doesn't look like the bird was actually standing over any sort of substantive meal. 
Now I just need to figure out what kind of bird this is.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Resetting

Lately, I've been having a hard time writing. Or sitting down to write, one or the other. Perhaps both. My mind just doesn't feel energized. I feel fuzzy-headed instead of clear. I'm tired.

So I've taken a break from minimum word counts. I need to adjust my goals. Because doing Crossfit 4 to 5 times a week, plus preparing for backpacking trips, plus work and additional workouts 2 to 3 times per week is apparently taking it out of me.

Whatever "it" is.

Motivation? When I first felt this way a few weeks ago, I tried sitting down and typing even though I didn't feel like it. The words came slowly and I didn't enjoy it. That was the key - it wasn't fun. And I want my writing to be a time of fun, because I want it to be fun to read. The passion needs to be there.

So I'm going to catch my breath, see if this fog passes and then refocus and get to writing up my solo trip. I do think of it often, things I want to include, the way I felt out there, when the wind was driving into my face, icily cold, while the sun beat down its heat, no one around, not even trees for company...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Sucks

I'd like to introduce you to my pain.

This is the pain that the doctors assure me they believe is real, but they can find no cause for it. The pain that dances along the left side of my abdomen wearing spikes, almost a pressure, tingling and burning and seething. The pain that leaves a while and then comes to visit, an unwelcome guest whose unpredictability is at least as troublesome as their baggage.

It's a throb at times, a strum at others, rippling through my abdomen like a dissonant chord.

It makes my sleep restless. It brings me close to tears.

I know what gas pain feels like and this is not it. Sure, what the doctors call irritable bowel syndrome, code for "something's wrong, but heck if we know what," does include gas pains at times. And they are horrible, filling me to bursting, making my stomach feel like an over-inflated basketball ready to pop and I so wish that it would just pop and give me relief from the pressure squeezing my insides. The gas is not a good feeling, but it's not the pain that I want you to meet.

This pain is special, it doesn't stick around to be examined or codified or classified or rectified.

The doc tossed some pills in my direction, give these a try, they might help. And, to be fair, in a situation that isn't, they do help with the pain. They lessen it, but they create complications. When I work out, I sweat a lot - except when I'm taking these pills. And more irritatingly, because, to be frank and honest, it is unlikely that the FDA approved these drugs after testing them on a group of women, let alone a group of women that included women with nipple piercings, I discovered a side effect unknown to both my doctor and my embarrassed local pharmacist. They cause my well healed piercings to extrude crystalline gook that stinks, gives me an itchy rash if it stays on my skin too long, and cuts up the inside of the piercings. Fun!

So I don't take those pills for the most part. I take a mint/ginger/fennel oil pill, which has its own travails because I intensely dislike the taste of mint, but also seems to help keep me stable once I get there.

But I'm not stable right now and I haven't been for a few months. I was managing from about the end of December to the end of February, but I was on antibiotics for a while and then I went to a conference and everything kind of fell off the rails. On and off, the pain has been back, unpredictable. I can't fix it. I can't do anything with it unless I want to invite the side effects back into my life (along with not really fixing things). And I don't. I just don't.

So I'm getting to know this pain. Adjusting myself to it. Working around it and through it. I make adjustments in my diet, my sleep, my exercise routine, anywhere I can tweak to try and solve this puzzle and be pain free.

But just when I think I've solved it, the pain comes roaring back for no reason that I can determine. It frustrates me and frustrates my husband, who doesn't like to see me in pain. I waver between acceptance and the fight, because I don't know which will work better at any given time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Shifting Goals

Last summer I had a good run of writing fiction by committing to writing fiction every day. I wrote a good deal and succeeded in my goal.

This summer I decided to do the same thing without considering the factor of my solo trip.

Last year's solo trip was at the end of the hiking season. Once I finished it, my fiction writing challenge was almost over. I could get right on to writing the nonfiction book easily.

Having already completed my solo trip, more than a month ago now, I have come to realize that I do not have time in my day to simultaneously challenge myself to write fiction and nonfiction to a word count every day. I don't want to sleep less; I can't work less; I choose not to work out less.

So I'm making a shift in my priorities. Writing will remain a priority, but it will be nonfiction that I focus on to a word count. For starters, I'm going to keep the word minimum at the same 600 words for at home and 300 when out camping/backpacking, but I might revise that because I typically do find it easier to write my solo books than to make up stories.

Just like "only" hiking 92 miles instead of 100 was not a failure, but a reframing of the goal, so too do I not see this as a break in the streak or cause for sadness. I'm consciously refocusing so that I can achieve my goal of having the solo book ready. Once it's done, I'll go back to fiction able to focus on stories without worrying about the fact that I haven't done my solo book yet.

And I think I'm going to manage to get this year's solo book out in time for Christmas gifts.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Writing Writing Writing

I finished up all the stories that I started when I was doing the Depth workshop. Most of them are fairly short. I think one of them is not bad. But I have no idea how to market them or where to put them up for sale. If to put them up for sale. Still, that is one thing that I've managed so far with my summer writing challenge.

The other thing I've managed is to build a streak. I didn't find it very difficult to keep up my writing over the long weekend when I was out camping, even though I increased the word count from 100 to 300 for those unconnected days. Actually, with car camping, it's much easier because I bring my cell phone and use it as a word processor. Backpacking and writing 300 words a day will be much more challenging.

I've almost finished a story that I started years ago. I'm going to be going through it a bit to make sure it hangs together, but it is long enough that I think I'll just publish it. Too long to submit to magazines to sell. Too short to submit to traditional publishing, though I don't think I'd do that even if I had a suitable piece.

It's a story that I tried to finish at the end of last summer's challenge. I didn't make it then, but it will be finished. I'm going to finish what I start.

Which means I need to get cracking on the write up of my solo hike. I've decided that the name of it will be: Hike with Me: Idaho Centennial Trail Nevada to Hammett. Now I just need to write it. Which means making sure I get butt in seat not only for my fiction words but my nonfiction words as well. And if I get that finished up before fall, then I'll be continuing with fiction through the slow time of winter. Maybe this is the year I get serious about this writing stuff.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Happier Together

I got my husband back last weekend!

He was out of town for a whole week and I can't really express how much I missed him. I mean, the week was fine. I got through it. I did everything that I planned on doing and wasn't late for work or Crossfit. I ate my meals and went to bed on time. I kept up with my writing challenge.

But the apartment was so empty without him. And my bed was so cold.

My whole routine was off, because I had to make my own dinner instead of coming home to something hot and ready. I felt mechanical, as if I were just going through the motions to make it until he came back.

I held my emotions in abeyance, because to acknowledge how much I missed him would mean a long session of crying and I just didn't want to do that. Not without him there to comfort me - and if he were there, then I wouldn't need to cry!

Seems like it's always like that, no matter how long he's gone. I miss him terribly, but I do get through to the other side.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Butt in (New) Chair

It has not been easy to make the time for my 600 words a day. Again and again, I feel like I've run out of time by the end of the day. But again and again, I've put my butt in the chair and started writing.

This has actually gotten a little bit easier since last Friday, when the new chair I ordered online arrived. See, my old desk chair was a metal folding chair that I had put a little inflatable camping mat on for a seat cushion. It inevitably lead to my butt going numb, sometimes within half an hour. Lately, it also exacerbated the back pain, which made sitting at my computer to write somewhat less than fun.

The new chair is one of those ergonomic kneeling ones (this one). I opted to assemble it myself because it was a lot cheaper that way. I only got a little help from my husband in assembly, and I'm sure I would have figured out my problem eventually even if he hadn't said anything...

It is taking some getting used to, but it does not impact my back pain like the old one. And it forces me to sit with better posture. The cushioning is not the best, but the main weird thing about it is my shins tend to get sweaty.

So I'm writing to my goal and working long hours and still getting up for 5am Crossfit. It's all about setting priorities and committing yourself to keeping them. I made the choice again and again to make my goal instead of sleeping or relaxing or trying to attack some of my huge pile of work from home.

I'll get this writer thing down yet.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Writing Challenge 2017 Begun

I'm still recovering from last week's backpacking trip, but that's no excuse not to start up my writing challenge as planned. Monday night, after I had a chance to unwind a bit from work and eat dinner, I settled into my writing desk and stared for a few moments at the blank screen.

I had no idea what to write.

But I was determined, so it only took me a few minutes to remember that I had several story starts from the depth workshop that I could continue. I picked one at random, copied it into a new document and began to continue the story.

It did drag for a while, but by the time I had finished my 600, I actually wanted to keep going.

Tuesday I tried to think about getting started earlier, perhaps before work or during lunch, but that's not quite as easy as it sounds for me. I tend to be distracted in the morning and lazy during my lunch hour at work.

And so I was working hard to get the words finished before my 8pm 'get ready for bed' time rolled around. I did it, but it wasn't easy. I'm having to fight hard against critical voice on this story. I feel like I don't know where it's going or what it's doing. But I'll keep pushing and see what I can do with it today.

The start of a challenge is the hardest, because there's no momentum built up. Skipping a day doesn't feel like a big deal. Once I've got a few weeks under my belt, it will be easier to roll. And I've got a few more story starts to work with as well as the story that I had started just before the depth workshop to finish. I don't lack things to write, and I don't really lack time. I'm even ordering a new chair for my desk so I won't have the excuse that sitting at the current one makes my butt go numb.

Writing is important to me. Now is the time to make it a priority again.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

On the Road

When this blog posts, I hope to be about two fifths of the way through my solo trip for the year.

The sun would have risen by the 8:15 posting time. I'll be already an hour or so on the trail if everything goes according to plan.

And I'll be heading to the rendezvous with my husband at the halfway point of the journey. Maybe I'll make 10 miles by 10 am, a feat often desired by long distance thru hikers.

Or maybe it will take me a little longer.

I hope to wash my hair when I meet up with him, because I tend to get headaches if I go for more than three or four days without washing my hair. Leaving the shampoo with my husband and the resupply allows me to save a little weight.

I spent Saturday finalizing my packing. I had been working on it in a piecemeal sort of way that I'm pretty sure drove my husband to distraction in the last couple weeks, but Saturday is when it all came together. I checked everything on my list and weighed the pack.

On Sunday begins the drive. On Monday begins the hike. Today will mark the halfway point.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Lings Have Arrived!

We knew that there had to be some lings on the way, because the ducks were visiting in smaller numbers and tended to be separated by sex - males coming in bunches and then females coming in bunches. What we didn't expect was that our sole pair of visiting geese would be the bringers of the season's first set of lings.

We've learned caution from the ducks, so Ambrose's first picture was through the blinds. 

But the geese have always been a bit bolder, less inclined to run from scary things happening inside the apartment. 

For once, I'm glad the geese were not easy to scare away, because I wasn't here to witness the cuteness. 

If I had been home, I would have tried to get some up close zoom pictures of the adorable little goslings. 

Alright, I suppose Ambrose did a pretty good job getting those lings. So cute!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rejection and Challenge

At long last, the rejection came in for that story I eventually inquired on. I'm not surprised that it was rejected. The surprise would be actually selling a story at this point. I know I have to improve as a writer, but I also have to consider that what I write, my style, isn't what the editors of the magazines that I've been submitting to are looking for. That doesn't make the stories bad, necessarily.

Of course, I do need to continue to get stories out for sale, and to write stories. I haven't been devoting time to writing because of prep for my solo trip the first week of May and because there's a lot going on at work. Busy at work is better than bored at work, but I'd like to find a happy medium some day.

I'm glad that I didn't have as much of an emotional reaction to the rejection as I usually do. My skin must be thickening up. I mean, I did have hope for this one. From another magazine, it actually got a personal rejection instead of a form letter. So there was something to it that appealed to more than just me.

I'm letting what I learned in the depth workshop percolate, but I need to get some practice in as well. There's a story that I started before the workshop and then started tearing up because I thought I'd written past the ending. I want to go back and re-do the beginning with better depth and then figure out the ending and be done with it, though I haven't a clue what market it would be good for. I might just publish it standalone for sale and see how that goes. But it needs to be finished first. And I have the starts from the depth workshop to continue off on.

After my solo trip, I need to get back to writing, back to the challenge. 600 words a day from May 8 through September 8, 300 on backpacking days. I know I can write that much or more in a day if I carve out the time for it. So I will.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Duck Fight!

Sometimes I think my husband spends too much money on bird seed and critter feed. And also that he sometimes spreads it too indulgently and on perceived demand.

But we have been getting quite a diverse crowd of birds. We'll see doves and redwinged blackbirds. Squirrels, including a momma squirrel with two growing little ones. The occasional pair of geese and plenty of ducks, of both the mallard and wood varieties.

Just watching them feed can be a calming experience.

But then come mornings like yesterday, when we can spend a quite moment together enjoying the antics of the ducks.



 na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na duck fight!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Gotta Laugh

My in-laws were visiting Boise, driving my husband and I to a restaurant so we could eat dinner and catch up. I often forget to leave my phone ringer on, because I get in the habit of silencing it at work, but on this particular evening it was on. And when it rang, I saw the call was from my mother and only hesitated a moment before answering.

She had called to ask me what my phone number was.

Not some other phone number, like a home phone or work phone. The phone number that she had just called.

I was taken aback by her request and had to repeat it enough times that everyone in the car realized what she was asking (no one ever figured out why). When I got off the phone with her, we all had a good laugh.

There's really no other option. My in-laws understood that my mom has problems with memory and common sense; the laughter wasn't malicious. It was the kind of laugh that stops you from thinking about things that would otherwise make you cry.

The other night, she called me again - only this time, she didn't mean to. And in the days following, I found myself relaying the conversation we had to several people in social situations. Because I found it highly amusing. The conversation went pretty much like this:

"Hello?" I said.
"Hello?" she said.
"Hello?" I said.
"Hello?" she said. "Who is this?"
"Whoever you called."
She laughed.
"I don't know who I called. That's why I asked. I was trying to get Peter, but I guess I didn't."
"Well, you came close. You got his daughter. How are you, Mom?" I said.

When she asked who it was, I could have just answered her straight. I mean, I did know who she had called. A part of me thought she would recognize my voice if I just kept talking long enough. But I also wanted to make a joke of it. A funny story to tell myself so I wouldn't cry on the phone when she ultimately couldn't recognize my voice.

I prefer to laugh at these things, to repurpose tragedy into comedy as a coping mechanism. It helps that my mom is a pretty good comedic audience, by which I mean it's really easy to make her laugh. The words don't even need to be a joke as long as the tone is right.

She laughs. I laugh. I tell the story enough times to make it more a story than something that actually happened. It's just a funny story, a tale, a legend, distant and unconnected to my life except by laughter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Prioritization

In just over a month, I'm going to be hiking over 100 miles of the Idaho Centennial Trail from Nevada border. The Owyhee Desert.

And so, while I want to make sure that I use what I've learned from the depth workshop going forward, I am putting less priority on writing than I am on preparing physically and mentally for the challenge of the early season desert hike. It's been a snowy winter, and a wet spring, so I have hope that there might be decent water supplies. But the truth is I'm likely to encounter less water than would be ideal.

I'm increasing the amount of running I'm doing to try and prepare my legs. This weekend will be the start of hiking conditioning where I'll seek out trails if it's dry and go for the incline treadmill at the gym - with boots and pack - if it's wet.

Writing is still important for me, but it's not a high priority at the moment. I'll be keeping up with my blog entries and there's two stories I really want to finish along with three more from the workshop that I really ought to start. Plus there's the nonfiction project of writing up a kind of guidebook for the Chamberlain Basin Trail and there's also work to do putting some works into wider distribution.

There's plenty to do. And I know I need to set goals if I want to get it done. But I'm not setting any strict ones until after this solo trip - and, of course, after the solo trip I'll have a write up to do. I am thinking about another fiction writing challenge for the summer, along the same lines as last year, but more words. I could start May 8. Go for 750 words a day on home days and 250 words on backpacking days. Fiction words - I won't count the work on the solo trip.

But for now, it's all about conditioning, training, mentally preparing for a dry, desert hike with little water access. Planning the meals, planning the meet ups with my husband. Getting the maps I need and figuring out the places I would want to camp. Solving the puzzle of my journey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Querying as Directed

I did finally send that email query regarding my story that had not received a response within the magazine's specified time. At first, nothing happened. There was - surprise - no immediate response of REJECTED. Nothing, really, to be afraid of after all.

A response came, about a week after the query, letting me know that they were still considering stories submitted around the time mine was, thanks for the patience, etc...

So, it wasn't actually that scary of a thing to do, and I'm glad I did it. Still pretty sure the story is going to be rejected, in part because I've learned a lot in the depth workshop that I did and I know that story has room for improvement. Though it is one that got secondary consideration from another magazine, so who knows? Maybe it will have appeal to an editor. As the writer, I can't really judge.

I learned that lesson again when completing assignments for the depth workshop. The last assignment was challenging, and I really didn't think I'd done well on it. But my reply from Dean revealed that I had fulfilled the requirements of the assignment, even though I didn't think that I had. Looking back, I think that my critical voice was complaining about the prose even though I was doing the right things.

Now that the workshop is over, I need to set aside some time for writing. I have three great starts that are begging to be finished. Of course, the solo trip preparation takes precedence, but I think I can find some time. It's all about setting the goals and holding myself accountable.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Adding It All Up

I joke about math and how difficult it can be when I'm at cross fit. To be fair, that's because when you work out at 5 in the morning, and you work out hard, numbers can get a bit more complicated to deal with. I joke about it, but I actually keep pretty good, some might say obsessive, track of my numbers.

I like math.

I always have. I was the kid in 2nd grade who got pumped when the teacher announced we'd be taking a "mad minute" math quiz (one page of problems, one minute time limit - go!).

Recently, I talked with my brother and had a realization. He said that he didn't try hard at school, and that's why he didn't get the best grades. He put his energy into sport. Implied, though not stated, was that I tried hard at school. From my perspective, I didn't. I put my energy into reading, but I didn't read textbooks beyond what was assigned. I excelled at school with minimal effort (for the most part - I do still remember how I almost failed vocabulary in 6th grade because I refused to memorize and regurgitate the exact definitions in the book).

For him to match my grades would have taken effort he didn't wish to expend. For me to approach his prowess at sports, I would have had to give an effort I didn't even know I had when I was young. Our perspectives were just so different.

And so, when I encounter people who aren't "math" people, who have a genuinely bad relationship with numbers, I have a hard time understanding. I think it's an important perspective for me to understand, as a writer, but it's also hard to grasp. Algebra makes sense in my brain; it's simple, consistent, and intuitive. To imagine that not being true is foreign.

Even after a hard workout, summing a column of numbers is a relaxing exercise for me. I do have problems with counting sometimes, mid-workout, but burpees do have a way of jarring numbers out of my head.

In my mind, the jokes about not liking math, or numbers, were just jokes. Sure, we say math sucks, like we say Monday sucks or burpees suck - wait, no, burpees really do suck. But the funny part is that math doesn't suck. Isn't it?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Busy Is Good. Right?

Work is getting extra crazy for some reason. Just when things should be slowing down... 

Usually, this time of year would be a lull, but the lull has been filled with new project development. I attended a conference last week, which took nearly my entire work week. This week, I've got three full days of solid meetings, and everything else needs to get squeezed in wherever it will fit. 

I'm working on being "documentative" when it comes to everything I'm doing. I demonstrate a technique, I document it, I follow up on meetings, I make records here, there and everywhere. 

In some ways, it feels like I'm doing two or three times the work that I need to, but I know it will all pay off in the long run. Having processes documented increases the ability of everyone in my unit to do the required work without struggling. 

On top of my intense meeting schedule, I think I'm getting some cold/crud thing - headache, body ache, too hot and too cold at the same time. I probably shouldn't have worked out today, but I guess I'm glad to have experienced the infamous 12.1 open workout. Anyone can do it - it's just 7 minutes of burpees to a six inch target! 

Ideally, next week should be less full of meetings, but I'm not entirely sure that will be the case. This week's set of meetings is the start of a build project, and I'm pretty sure I'll be the main contact for follow up work. Just a feeling that I have. 

My bosses do at least know that I'm in this situation and doing my best to keep my head above water, but I'm frustrated that I don't have the time I want to spend on projects that have been on hold for nearly a month. (I had four out of five days in meetings the week of 2/13, a four day work week for the 2/20 holiday, the conference, then this week. I'm feeling a wee bit behind.) 

Oh, and I'm also doing an online writing workshop. And preparing for a 100 mile hike the first week of May, which includes physical training, research and prep work. 

I am not bored. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Learning Cycles - Setting

One of the things that I learned from doing the 2nd workshop assignment is something that I already knew, but that I hadn't revisited. I mean, I guess I thought I'd fixed it, but now I know that I haven't. The fact is, I'm not very good at describing setting. I fall back too much on details that are generic on the page even though I have a good picture of them in my head.

A few years ago, I tried to refocus on describing places. I took pictures and tried to describe them in words to practice. But I still ran into the fact that I will use a word and assume that it means to everyone what it means to me. It doesn't. A noun alone is rarely sufficient. I need to consider that I could have readers from all over the world, with experiences that cause their word definitions to differ from mine significantly. A house is not a house is not a house.

I'm going to blame Hemingway for my spare setting descriptions- not the writer himself, but the way that his writing is taught in classes. There was a certain fawning admiration on the part of several instructors in my writing classes for the simplicity of his prose. An emphasis came about that a story should have the fewest words possible to convey what it needed to convey. The problem was, no one taught which words were the necessary ones. It was just - cut! cut! cut!

Too much description would bog the story down.

Less is more.

Simplicity!

In a way, I can't blame instructors of writing for having that attitude. When faced with the prospect of reading 20 student written stories, an emphasis on shorter probably saves their sanity. But it doesn't do the students much good.

With my backpacking books, I focused less on describing setting in the first couple because I was leaning on my pictures. I didn't need to place the reader in a setting - that's what the pictures were for! But starting with The Wild Coast I began to try and use those little black marks on the page to put the reader in a place. A very specific place, with a specific emotion. And I continued that with ICT: Sawtooths, writing the reader into the scene more often than pointing them at the pictures.

So now I need to bring that attitude into my fiction writing. Define the place as the character sees it. Make the reader see what I see in my mind, using the magic of little black marks on a page.