Scheduling Writing, Part 2

Wow. I started trying to schedule my writing and immediately blew it.

Let’s see. I worked on my novel on my lunch hour for one and a half days. I actually wrote the first day. On the second I was about to write and suddenly it hit me that if the people of the island that may well end up with the name Santa Chiara are so eco-conscious, then they’d probably want to be served by electric, rather than gas-powered passenger boats. So I stopped writing to see if that’s possible. And I found a few concept vehicles like that, but nothing in production. I’ve decided that that’s close enough.

Then, on Friday, I used my writing time to figure out what to do about my phone. My phone locks up and reboots for no apparent reason, and since I am one of those unlucky people who had Sprint and are being migrated over to T-Mobile, I’ll need to put a new SIM card in to make it work anyhow, I’ve figured that maybe I should just get a new phone. I asked the phone guy at my store about getting a Galaxy S22 or whatever the newest phone is and found that T-Mobile will need to migrate my plan over by hand so that I can use the T-Mobile version of the phone.

I worked Sunday, but on Sunday, I only get half an hour lunch, so I didn’t have any noveling time then.

So, tonight, I couldn’t sleep because details are backing up in my brain since I haven’t been able to put them into actual writing since Wednesday. I’m not even supposed to be up now (it’s 1 am on Monday, June 6* as I write this). I was going to go to bed early so that I can get up early and get my walking in before the heat hits. Then I lay awake trying to sleep instead of, what’s the meme? About some people being able to sleep instead of plotting seven-book epic fantasy series or broiling in existential dread? I can’t figure out how to post it here, but the author is C.G. Drews, who posts on Instagram under @paperfury.

Yeah. That’s the kind of night I’m having.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! I know I’ve done this one before, but it’s a goody, so I’m posting it again. Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh. So funny and relatable and just amazing. If I didn’t have 400 books in my to-read, I’d probably go back and reread this again.

*I remembered that today is the birthday of one of my childhood friends and then I spent half an hour trying to figure out what he’s up to these days.

Scheduling Writing, Day 1

I took a stab at doing some fiction writing on my lunch hour.

My protagonist (I’ve named her Abby temporarily, after the mom of my cat Velcro) and her dad are still on the hydrofoil out of Naples, and I’m using this time to start to establish the family and the relationships.

Much like me, my protagonist has motion sickness in boats, so she’s bored. She can’t read because she . . . . Actually, her motion sickness is more like Alex’s and Thomas’s. Abby cannot read in a moving vehicle. I can, so long as I’m completely wrapped up in what I’m reading. Neither Alex nor Thomas can do this in most situations.

My motion sickness comes from a mismatch between what I’m seeing and what my inner ear is feeling. I do pretty well with open windows or in the front seat or, again, if I’m distracted.

Anyway she’s bored and her dad’s keeping up a conversation with her, telling her what they’ll experience there and things. Abby wants to be back home helping her mom, who is a jewelry designer, open her first showroom.

I really only know two cities well — Chicago and San Antonio, so I’m setting Abby’s home in Chicago. I figure that it’d be more likely that a diplomat of some sort would have a home base in Chicago than in San Antonio.

Even though it’d be nice to put them in San Antonio. I remember a couple of years ago reading an article about how the city has been trying to encourage “creative class” jobs in San Antonio and how it’s just not working.

Heck, they can’t even keep corporate headquarters here. In the last few years, we’ve lost the headquarters of both the La Quinta hotel chain and AT&T. Both left here for Dallas, because Dallas has better infrastructure for large corporations and also is better connected to the rest of the world.

San Antonio’s airport is better than it was, but it’s no DFW. Additionally, if you look at a map of San Antonio, the perimeter of the city is 330 degrees of not much, and 30 degrees of congestion in the form of US 281, Interstate 35 and Interstate 10. More or less. I’m not going to pull out a protractor. It could be 320 degrees of not much and 40 degrees of congestion.

But if San Antonio wants more “creative class” jobs, having Abby’s mom be a world-class jewelry designer opening her first showroom would help raise awareness there.

I know it might be more realistic to put the family of a diplomat in New York or DC or somewhere like that, but I don’t really *know* those cities like I know San Antonio. It’s likely that this book may be set entirely on the island (I’m toying with calling it Santa Chiara, after St. Clare of Assisi, St. Francis of Assisi’s BFF). But what happens if I finish the book and discover that the story of Abby doesn’t end there and we have to follow her home? That home better be somewhere I know well.

Abby is going to, of course, have friends. One is a young man who is like Snuffleupagus. No one else will see him for a long time, if ever. Is he the missing prince? Is he a ghost? Is he just shy? Or does he just have lousy timing when it comes to everyone else? Her other friend is a young jewelry designer who makes friends with Abby, then realizes that Abby is her mother’s daughter and that her mother is kind of the friend’s hero, but the friend is trying to figure out how to be “Hey, your mom’s my hero” without sounding like that’s the only reason they’re friends.

I’m still working on what happened with the Prince and where he is going and what’s going on and things like that. It’s kind of funny because like nobody reads this blog and so I’ve been like “Let’s talk about plot points of my novel; no one is ever to read that either.” But I’m going to keep plugging away at both novel and blog and hope that someday I’ll be able to make the money I need to pay off my mortgage.

Speaking of money, here’s today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link. Ooh! Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale! Britta’s wedding is coming up and the other girls from the Princess Academy are coming to the capital to help with the festivities. Miri is particularly excited because she is going to spend a year at the university.

Hm. One of my plot bunnies that I’ve been feeding for the last . . . 10 years? It started out as alternative history, but I would be telling brown people’s stories and aside from a thin line leading me to a Krai of Russia on the border with Mongolia and a rumor that my father’s mother’s family have Rom ancestry, I’m so white I disappear in front of a blank wall. So I’ve been, like, “Fantasy?” But I don’t really have room for magic in this world. But the Princess Academy books are fantasy despite not having spellcasting and things. The magic is that the people of Mount Eskel can communicate through some kind of kinship with Linder, the stone they harvest. I wonder if I can use something along those lines . . . .

Summer Travel Plans?

Unfortunately, I don’t have any money to travel this year, well, not much travel at least.

Here’s the deal. Years ago ,Thomas and I went to Louisiana. We didn’t really have a plan, we were just tired of being in Texas, so we got on Interstate 10 and when East. It was a nice drive we ate at Popeyes in Orange. Our local Popeye’s had been tasting sort of off for while by then. I think that they hadn’t been cleaning the fryers correctly or something.

So this Popeye’s looked pretty new, so we stopped there and the chicken tasted really good. It didn’t have that rancid oil taste. By the way, in the years since then, our Popeye’s has gotten their act together and it’s much better.

We stopped at a Welcome Center in Louisiana that was on a bayou or something and had beautiful plants, Spanish moss, and bugs. Lots of bugs. We were just amazed at the quantity and quality of the bugs available at that rest stop.

We got back in the car and drove until we got almost to Lake Charles Louisiana. At this point we saw a sign for some kind of nature preserve so we exited from Interstate 10 and made a right turn we just kinda drove south trying to see this nature preserve. There was a big ditch, or creek, or canal or something by the side of the road. We saw lots and lots of alligators and the stupid things clearly didn’t want to photograph them because every time the car stopped they sank. I got lots of lovely pictures of the ditch, creek, canal, etc. We never did see the nature preserve but we got to the ferry. We were out for an adventure, so we took across the, I guess it’s probably a bayou. The road that we got on on the other side took us back Interstate 10 and we drove home.

I had no idea where we were. I mean we were in Louisiana, clearly, but we weren’t that far into the state. Alex and I are planning to take a day trip at some point to find it. These days we have Google maps and things. We might even be able to find the preserve because it looks like there is a nature preserve down by Cameron Louisiana which also has a ferry. My guess is that that’s probably where we were, but my memory of the ferry is there being something like a small town on the eastern side of the ferry. In my memory it looked kind of like the town from the Popeye movie with Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. Of course, that was 30 (!) years ago, so I’m probably misremembering. .

Oh also when I first came up with this idea, I researched ferries in Louisiana and that seems to be the only one that actually fits. It’s not impossible that this is not the fairy and the fairy I went on the very wrong has been replaced by bridge also it’s been 30 years (!).

Actually it’s no less than 30 I became friends with Ray in 1994 and we told him about the trip we came back, so it had to been 1994 or later. So there’s that.

Of course, there is a another wrinkle to this, which is the cost of gas. My car gets some pretty good mileage for the age of the car. I tend to run about 25 miles the gallon on the highway. So, since gas is supposed to get more expensive as the summer wears on, I’m going to estimate how many miles it’s going to take and budget six dollars for every 20 miles to make sure we have extra. Additionally, we may end up with car trouble, so I probably should budget extra. Or, alternatively, we could rent a car, which would cost more upfront in car cost but save us may save as little gas and may not end up with a stranded in Louisiana with a car that doesn’t drive.

I wish my mechanic hadn’t closed. I am looking for new mechanic — reasonably priced, does good work also Alex is looking for one for me because my car is making is kind of strange noise when I turn. The noise goes away once the car warms up. Alex is actually going to get one of his friends who can identify car sounds to listen to my car turn.

Maybe I should look into how much it would cost to rent a car for the day.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! Today we have Heist Society, the first, well, Heist Society book by Ally Carter. The Heist Society series is about a bunch of teen art thieves. Our heroine, Kat Bishop, comes from a family, both biological and found, of professional thieves. And Kat has her own found family of thieves who help her as she uses her skill set to right wrongs.

Setting A Schedule for Writing

Today’s chapter in Pep Talks for Writers was about setting a schedule for writing. Ha ha.

My current job has a variable schedule. This means that I can start work anywhere from 8:30 AM to 12 noon and I can get off work anywhere between 5 PM to 9 PM.

Figure out how I can come up with the schedule with that, well, schedule.

For the most part, I tend to do my writing 11-ish? But I don’t know if that’s really a schedule.

I guess I could do some writing on my lunch hour, because that gives me a little bit less of a spread. Lunch is basically between 1:00 and 5:00, but that still works out to that four hour spread that I have at the end of the day. At least it’s a normal time for human beings to be working. I guess?

If I were to try to dictate like I’m doing here on my lunch hour, like I said it would be a pretty constrained amount of time. Of course, I would be walking around the store talking into my phone like an idiot, kinda like I am now. But at least, right now I’m alone, nobody there to watch me and wonder what I’m doing.

Additionally, I do have to work eating and going to the bathroom into my lunch hour. So I guess I’m back to 11 o’clock-ish. It’s ten minutes to ten as I’m writing this right now, because I’m walking around my neighborhood. This is something I can’t do every day, though, particularly since I’m usually really tired after I get off at nine, and sometimes I have to be back to work early the next day.

In fact, I’m really tired right now. It’s 12 zillion degrees out here and the evening breeze hasn’t started*. I’ve been walking for almost an hour and I’m really tired and really hot, so let’s try going back to the 11-ish. Of course there’s nothing says I can’t do both. I can write a short blog post on my lunch hour with the about a half an hour I have available on my lunch.

Oh! I could work on my novel on my lunch then blog posts either now during my 9 o’clock walk or my 11 o’clock sit down my computer. I could even do one of each a blog post now a blog post at 11? I like this idea. Of course that’s assuming I can keep with it.

My theme song when I’m when I feel my enthusiasm for whatever it is I’m doing start to flag is the Daft punk song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Even though it’s like about the hustle and having no work-life balance, which do I need more? A work-life balance or the money to to pay off my mortgage? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Yeah I need the income. My job is not keeping up with inflation. It’s not even keeping up with my first job out of college. I finally reached the purchasing power of my first job out of college and then get this hyperinflation thing starts and now I’m two dollars an hour behind.

I’m thinking I can can stop rambling now and save this to post. I just realized I haven’t gotten my Duolingo in yet. I’m going to copy this to an email, then email it to myself, clean it up, and post it.

*The evening breeze started up just as I was coming back to the house after my walk. Figures.

I Missed a Day

But I’m back now.

Why did I miss yesterday?

It was just a long day, I guess. I worked yesterday. . . . Oh! I tried to get to bed early last night because Evelyn and I were planning on going to the art museum today and so I wanted to get up pretty early so that I could have breakfast with my dad before going to the museum. So I ended up deciding to go to bed rather than staying up to write.

Apropos of nothing aside from my sleep habits, I dreamed about clothing. I dreamed that I was buying a lime-green sleeveless shirt with a collar, and a fuchsia sweater, and an electric blue shirt of some other style to go with a lime green, fuchsia, and electric blue plaid skirt.

And now that I’m awake, I think I actually did have a plaid skirt in similar colors. My mom and I bought coordinating outfits sometime in the 1980s. I got a blue and fuchsia plaid skirt (I don’t remember any lime green) and my mom got a skirt in the same style in blue. We got gauze shirts in the same style in colors that matched the skirts. I loved that outfit.

I am thinking more in fashiony terms these days. I have a pile of black knit pants in varying levels of fading that I wore as work pants for years and I’m thinking of turning them into half as many black skirts. What I’m thinking about doing is cutting the side seams of the legs of one pair, and then cutting the legs off of another pair, cutting the legs of that pair into four congruent triangles, sewing them into the place where the side seams used to be, and then hemming the whole mess at an attractive length.

Let’s call the four skirt sections A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H. I figure that if A, C, E, and G are one shade of black and B, D, F, and H are another, it should look intentional.

And if this works, rather than eight pairs of pants that I won’t wear, I’ll have four skirts that I will.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale. In the land of Danland, whenever the heir to the throne comes of age, the priests use divination to find which village the next queen will come from, and then they set up a school for the girls of that village. Usually, the purpose of the school is merely to teach etiquette and things to the girls so that whichever girl the heir chooses will know how to comport herself as queen. This time, however, the priests have said that the future queen lives in a small village where most of the population can’t even read or write. So this time the school will need to be a school in truth.

Tongue Update

I had my first post-surgery checkup today. Everything looks good; I’m healing well. Also, the pathology report came back and the spot that the doctor sent in for the biopsy was the scariest looking spot and, by golly, it was the most diseased spot as well.

The section he sent for the biopsy came back as “atypical,” which means that the cells have the potential to turn into cancer. The entire lesion came back as hyperkeratotic, which means that it’s thickened, but it was not atypical. This is a very good sign.

We’ll have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t come back. I’ll be going back for another followup in early July and at that time they’ll take a picture of the spot. I’ll get a copy of the picture and ask him to point out what I’m looking for. Then I’ll need to check it periodically. I will also need to come back for checkups every six months for the foreseeable future.

But ultimately, this will likely turn out to be a heartstoppingly exciting time in my life that I’ll be able to look back on in thirty years and say, “Wow! That was heartstoppingly exciting!”

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is Dark Souls, by Paula Morris. Dark Souls is the story of Miranda, who was in a terrible car accident in which her best friend died. And that night, Miranda discovered that she can see ghosts. Her parents decide that they need to take a family trip to York, in the UK, where Miranda gets introduced to the ghosts of York. And, yes, the ghosts that Miranda sees check out in reality.

Being a Beginner

I read Chapter 4 of Pep Talks for Writers yesterday and. Wow.

The advice that Faulkner gives us is. . . kind of unnecessary for me? He advises the reader to let go of what we know and embrace what we don’t know. And I don’t know if the flip side of the Dunning-Kruger effect (a/k/a “Imposter Syndrome”) is at work here. I mean, isn’t the whole point of the Dunning-Kruger effect that you can’t observe yourself accurately?

I’ve gone through my whole life feeling like I don’t understand what’s going on. My brain is a treasure trove of useless trivia (often, at work someone will say, “Olivia, what do you call ____?” and I’ll have the answer right on the tip of my tongue), but as for job skills, erm. No.

I think that’s a big part of why I’ve ended up underemployed for my whole life. I have a hard time sounding like an expert because I don’t believe that I am in job interviews and so interviewers are, “Maybe you know something, but you don’t know enough to actually be useful.”

Every time I sit down to write, I’m terrified. I keep telling Alex just to write like he talks because he’s not a fantastic writer, but he’s really well spoken. I mean, writing seems like the easiest thing in the world and not a skill at all. Certainly not one I’m good at.

So. I guess that feeling like a beginner comes naturally to me. Maybe the concern is that I may some day decide that writing is not the easiest thing ever and that I have an actual skill. Will I begin to fail as a writer then, or will it be just the beginning?

The Shooting in Uvalde

Guns have always scared me. I’ll be up front about that.

My uncle was a police officer and he brought his gun to our house when he visited once. My aunt demanded he take it off. He put it on the floor of our living room, leaning up against the wall, and I went around the long way that whole day. I’d heard stories about guns going off spontaneously and, well, yeah.

Even with that, though, I don’t believe in taking guns from everyone everywhere. I mean, subsistence hunting is a thing. There’s wildlife population management hunting, where the natural predators aren’t able to keep up with prey populations and so the government allows hunting of the prey population to bring the numbers down. This makes the overall population of the prey healthier. I can see where that’s a good thing, too.

There’s target and skeet shooting, which are, like, actual sports. That’s a good thing, too, I guess.

But this proliferation of guns has got to stop. Even if the founders intended to let anyone buy any weapons they wanted whenever they wanted, they didn’t have anything like the kinds of guns we have now. They probably couldn’t even conceive of that kind of firepower.

It’s like that meme where someone asks the founders how congress will scale up, like what about when there’s 40 million people in California and the founder says, “How many people in where?” Found it!

I doubt that any of them could see just how huge and powerful and **dangerous** their little original 13 colonies would grow to be.

Having a rifleshotgun (rifles hadn’t been invented yet — that’s how far back we’re going here!) was probably just a fact of life for a lot of people (researching that in another window right now)* and the founders wanted, depending on which version of history you subscribe to, to either allow people to defend themselves from the English government or from slave uprisings. And it’s not impossible that they wanted both. And so, the “well regulated militia.”

But this is just a nightmare. I’ve heard the word “unfathomable” used by two different talking heads between yesterday and today, and I’m just listening from the other room. Oh. My. God. Do you even listen to yourself? Columbine was unfathomable. By Sandy Hook, it was just business as usual.

I just realized yesterday that one of my dreams of what to do with all of these guns was probably inspired by The Wheel of Time. Among the Aiel, when a Maiden of the Spear becomes a Wise One, her spears are melted down and made into things that aren’t weapons — toys, tools, etc.

And that’s what I want to see. Every gun used in a crime, however obtained, should be melted down and turned into something useful — rebar, maybe. Even if the criminal is never caught or is found not guilty, the gun is forfeit.

And even though the standard talk is that shooters in these situations aren’t mentally ill, maybe we should come up with a new mental illness, or an Axis II disorder (that’s where things like narcissism fit in). Or maybe it fits on Axis IV with psychosocial influences.

Mass shooters tend to have four things in common: Childhood trauma, a personal crisis or specific grievance, examples that validate that grievance, and access to firearms. It seems that if we beefed up mental health care in this country, maybe, just maybe, we’d catch some of these people before they go off.

As someone with a degree in education, I hesitate to put this on teachers. My educational psychology teacher gave us an introduction to something called “affective education,” which is where the students are educated on emotions, what they are, how to identify what you’re feeling, how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way, and so on.

I certainly wouldn’t stick that on the classroom teacher unless we can relieve them of some of this testing bullshit, but having the school counselor run a mandatory affective education program might be something we could do.

I wonder if we could extend the school day to coincide with the traditional 9-5 work day and the classroom teacher could have an hour of grading/planning time during the day when a counselor would do the affective education thing. Would that help these traumatized people learn to deal more effectively with their trauma and grievances and prevent mass shootings?

Hmm. . . .

*“Approximately 50-79% of itemized male inventories contained guns in all eight databases we discuss here . . . Guns are found in 6-38% of the female estates in each of the first four databases.”

I Used to Travel . . .

I said these words to a patient today. He is going to a major city on a different continent.

I really do miss traveling, but once Alex grew up, I wasn’t getting enough in income tax refunds to pay up front for travel, and I’d rather not travel than put it on a damn credit card.

I’d started saving up $5 here, $5 there. Back in the olden days, they recommended saving up for large purchases by putting a little money in envelopes earmarked for that purpose. I was doing the same thing, but in little savings accounts.

Then the ends of the lives of Phobos and Deimos ended up being very expensive, and cleaned out all of those little envelopes.

Then we had an expensive house repair, which took out a bunch of money from one of my investment accounts (out of four — I hide money from myself so that I won’t ever run out completely), and so I prioritized saving back the money I took out of those accounts.

The original plan for this blog was to earn enough money from it to fund future travel and maybe even to get to the point where I could write off my travel as business expenses. I mean, that’s kind of the dream come true, isn’t it?

Even since I’ve been thinking of making this a book blog, I haven’t even gotten to the place where I can write off book purchases with the income from this blog. Or *a* book purchase.

I’m going to keep posting here, because maybe someday I’ll have enough traffic to attract some advertisers. Or maybe just getting in the habit of writing will get me to the point where I can sell some writing (travel? book reviews? fiction? all of the above?)

Or maybe it’ll just be nice on a psychological level to put these messages in a bottle for someone to find someday.

For today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link, we have Thirty Names of Night, by Zeyn Joukhadar. Thirty Names of Night is about searching. Our nameless protagonist, a Syrian trans boy, is searching for peace, searching for answers to what happened to an artist named Laila Z, and searching for his own identity.

Writing is Its Own Inspiration? Day 2

Welp. I don’t have much to say today, at least I don’t think so. Additionally, a storm is on the way, so I might want to write and post fast.

I’m saddened and angered by the shooting in Uvalde today. I definitely want to write about that once the storm is over and I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I have to be up in 7 hours and 45 minutes for work.

I have always planned to write about my thoughts about romance novels and love songs, and that’s something I definitely plan to do later. This will likely have a Germane Amazon Link.

I also have had something of a breakthrough on one of my fiction works, so I need to go into that.

Do I have a Gratuitous Amazon Link today? Why, I think I do. If memory serves, today’s book is Ruined, by Paula Morris. Ruined is the story of Rebecca, who is sent to live with a family friend in New Orleans, where she attends a snooty private school where she doesn’t fit in. Oh, and she befriends Lisette, the ghost of a slave. We get to learn how Lisette died, how that fits into the life of the family of “mean girl” bully Helena, and what that has to do with Rebecca.

Now I’m going to post this, then shut my computer down. Good night and I’ll see you tomorrow for my rant on what happened in Uvalde today.