The Novel: 16 Drafted Scenes

It has been one month since I posted about the New Year’s resolution that happened to me, so it seems to be a good time for a status update. Posting about the novel and talking to people about it helps keep me accountable and working on it, though my co-author is also doing a really good job of that too. If it were up to me, I probably would have quit already. That’s not to say I’m not enjoying writing this book, because I very much am. I believe the story line is engaging and relevant to teens, and I know we have the writing chops. I just have a strong history of failure at keeping myself working on any of my projects.

So far, we’ve written 16 scenes. By written, I mean we only have a very rough first draft, but we’ve got the basic conflict and tension in each scene, and know what purpose each serves in driving the plot forward. Some of the details of these scenes will undoubtedly change, but it feels good to have this amount of work laid out. We have 20 more scenes planned out, with copious notes and ideas for each, ready to be written as soon as we have the time. We spent hours each day on our Big Bend trip talking through plot points we were stuck on and characters we didn’t know that well. We had planned to write actual scenes during that time, but stepping away from the writing for a bit to talk out the story, to get inside our characters heads and be them for a little while, was extremely useful in terms of moving us forward. Continue reading →

Feats of Endurance

Big Bend is the least visited of our national parks. In 2016, it saw just 388,290 visitors, compared to the 11,312,786 who went to the most visited, Great Smoky Mountains. This is not a surprise, given its location in an almost-forgotten corner of Texas, an 8.5 hour drive from Dallas, if you speed and don’t stop to eat or gas up. The drive down is a wasteland of oil fields and abandoned towns. But don’t be deterred; the park is worth the effort it takes to get there.

What to do when you get there? You can stay in the lodge and hope to see a javelina. You can cross to Mexico, legally via the Boquillas entrance or illegally by wading across the Rio Grande. But mostly, you go to Big Bend to hike. My first day, I did a four-mile hike in the morning up the Lost Mine trail and a five-mile hike in the afternoon to the Window. The second day I did a 15 mile hike up to Emory Peak, down around the South Rim, and back to the Chisos Basin via the Laguna Meadows trail. The last morning was only a quick two-mile (if that) walk to the end of Santa Elena Canyon and back. I would have loved to spend more time lying on the banks of the Rio Grande, soaking up the sunshine before heading back to the 20-degree Boulder weather, but that 8.5 hour drive lie ahead. Continue reading →

Primal Screams

Most days, the sun shines down on me. And that’s not just because I live in Boulder. I live a fairly easy life and whatever is difficult, is generally self-imposed. But once in a blood moon, everything goes horribly wrong.

Last Wednesday night, I had to catch a flight to Dallas. I’ve traveled enough over the last few years that I have my airport timing mastered so that I walk through security, take the train to my terminal, fill my water bottle, use the ladies room, buy an in-flight snack, and have just 5-10 minutes before boarding starts. I see no need to sit around the airport for an hour twiddling my thumbs. To adhere to my plan that night, I had to leave my house that night at 5:45. Everything was in place. The dog was already at his boarding facility, the dishes were done, my coat and shoes were on, and everything I needed was sitting in my suitcase. All I had to do was zip it.  Continue reading →

What Is It I Do Exactly?

I don’t know about you, readers, but it’s taken me years to really remember/know/understand what most of my friends do for a living. Some of them don’t really know what I do either. And hell, I dated someone for many years and never quite understood what he did. Probably that’s because he generally slept in until 10 am, surfed the internet all day, and then took people out for drinks and dinner, but there must have been some kind of work in there somewhere. The friends whose jobs I can actually describe well are friends who I’ve worked with or whose industries I’ve worked in.

Well, if you’re following my blog and wondering what it is I do, I write technical manuals. User guides, upgrade guides, installation guides, and all kinds of other technical content for a cyber security company. At least, that’s what I do in the current iteration of the full time employment phase of my life. In other iterations, I’ve been an ESL teacher, a localization/translation project coordinator, and the managing editor of an elearning company. So, I’ve always worked with language in some form or another. Continue reading →

Keep Your Nose Up

There are no spoilers in this post but there are spoilers in the links I’ve provided. Click at your own risk.

A few weeks ago, I watched the latest season of Black Mirror. Like all seasons after the epic first one, it had some episodes that blew me away (Hang the DJ) and some I could have done without (Metalhead). For me, the primary brilliance of Black Mirror lies in how close we are to every dystopian terror they depict becoming reality. Yes, some more than others, but the technologies highlighted in the episodes seem to me decades away or less, rather than the centuries implied by shows with long-distance space travel and flying cars. The kidnapping/ransom plot in the brilliant debut, The National Anthem, could easily happen tomorrow. And although I vow to always resist any attempt to implant surveillance technology in my body, there are millions out there willing to be early adopters, making many of the show’s other plot lines right at our fingertips. Some of the technologies probably are already in beta testing in a lab somewhere close to home. Since I was going to have nightmares anyway, I decided to rewatch some of favorites from other seasons, such as Nosedive from season three. Continue reading →

New Year, New Project

I didn’t choose a New Year’s resolution, but a resolution chose me. I’m coauthoring a YA novel. This is an unexpected turn brought about in part by reading No Country for Old Men and by a personal and highly controversial project Ironman was working on. No, none of that is supposed to make sense to you. Perhaps I’ll explain someday if this novel is successful and I end up on a book tour.

To get in the right head space for writing for this audience, I spent some time looking back through my senior yearbook. I’m not in the yearbook as much as I was in previous years because I only went to school a half day that year. I was all about making money at my awesome Burger King job, hanging out with my college-age friends, and being done with Alden once and for all. But, I still had friends in school and they left some entertaining and often cryptic messages on the pages of that yearbook. Continue reading →

Life of a Rabbit, Revisited

On a very special day in second grade, an unexpected visitor came to our classroom and told us about his farm and the undoubtedly adorable little white rabbits he had for sale. I had to have one. After a serious discussion, which I barely comprehended, about the responsibility of owning a pet, my dad drove me to the farm that weekend. The rabbits were darling. I selected the whitest of white rabbits with the pinkest of pink noses and named him Snowball. It seemed the best possible name for such a rabbit.

Working side-by-side, my dad and I built a little hutch for Snowball that leaned up against the east side of the garage, protected from the wind and other horrors of the Buffalo, New York climate. The thought of my little rabbit living outside all alone saddened me. We also bought a harness and leash for him so he and I could hop and frolic together all over our lawn. Having a little creature all my own thrilled me. We also, foolishly, built a play area for Snowball out of chicken wire so he would have more room to kick out his bunny legs untethered to my overexcited eight-year-old self. I thought my bunny must be so excited about his new life. Continue reading →

Say What? Edition 5: What Not To Say

Don’t say donzerlyThe Christmas season, which thankfully is over, always reminds me of my first neologism. While I never flubbed these lyrics from what is probably the most sung song in the country, I did spend a good portion of my childhood wondering what wilkenspire was, as in “Later on wilkenspire. As we dream by the fire.”

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Don’t say in order to.  Or should you? In my day job, I often have to decide whether to use “to” or “in order to.” The more succinct version generally suffices, but I sometimes opt for the longer because somehow it seems to provide clarity, though I could never articulate exactly why or how. Then I stumbled across this on the Write the Docs Slack.

I need John to answer the question. (He has to do it. No one else can.)
I need John in order to answer the question. (I need something from him so that I can answer the question myself.)

Ah, sweet relief. Continue reading →

The End of Year Book Report (#3)

July through December 2017

 

Title: Four Seasons in Rome

Author: Anthony Doerr

Date Finished: 7/23

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 9

Notes: Ah, so beautiful. Every sentence of this book was lovely.  It’s a memoir of the author’s year in Rome while writing a novel, just after his wife gave birth to twins. I am not at all interested in children or parenting, yet even though the children are featured prominently in this story, I loved it and felt I could relate. That’s how well it was written. I was immersed in he and his wife’s experiences as foreigners trying to make Italy their home. And Doerr’s use of words made me pause many, many times to consider my own feelings or form elaborate mental images of what he was seeing.

 

 

Title: Hillbilly Elegy

Author: JD Vance

Date Finished: 7/25

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 8

Notes: This was worth the wait in the library queue. This book is a unique look at the experiences of someone growing up poor in America, someone who should have been a failure and made nothing of himself. What makes it unique are the takeaways, what the author attributes to his ultimate success in life. So many decisions, big and small, combined with circumstance. His honest yet non-judgmental look at everyone around him is refreshing and valuable too. It’s a good sociological exploration of Appalachia written in a relatable and ingestible way.

Continue reading →

Sanctuary 2.0: It’s Never Too Late

I could have called this post Christmas miracles, but that would be hyperbolic and hokey. I mean, it’s not like I found a Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun under my non-existent Christmas tree this morning. However, two unexpected events at the Little House on the Prairie have really made this month even lovelier than planned.

You can teach an old dog new tricks. (Unknown, modified)

Trotsky Bear—my jealous, protective, and vicious beast—has been spending a lot of time with another dog lately and hasn’t mauled him yet. In fact, they play together. Play! Trotsky doesn’t play with other dogs. At the off-leash park, he prefers to spend his time sniffing around the perimeter, and if another dog invades his space for more than 20 seconds, Trotsky usually starts to growl. But he and Stuff are almost buds. They stay in separate rooms most of the time, thanks to a chair-icade we’ve constructed, but walk together twice a day and enjoying chasing each other around and tumbling on the ground. At least once a day, they lounge several feet from each other, but only when Stuff is firmly rooted to the sofa, behind protective human arms and legs, just in case. A massive cuddle pile on the bed together will likely prove too much too soon for this visit, but there’s hope for a lasting doggie friendship here.   Continue reading →