Venting on a Rough Month

I normally try hard not to complain too much. Complaining is like trying to talk about politics: It's pointless and just annoys everyone else. Although I often fail, in recent years I've tried to be either positive, funny, or quiet. I used to have a reputation for turning the things that go wrong in my life into humor columns, but I can't anymore because ... well, I'd getting ahead of myself.

But please indulge me, just this once.

Because it's been a really, really bad month.

Actually, the really bad month started last month, as my fourteen regular readers already know. Just before we left for Missouri to see the total solar eclipse, my wife and I learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. We did indeed get to see the eclipse, but that was, pardon me for saying, eclipsed by our worry over Jean Stroud's medical condition. We spent most of that week taking her to various medical places, and were there when she started chemo.

Then we came back to Indiana so that Emily and I could do our jobs, only to rush back over Labor Day weekend when things took a very rapid, very unexpected turn for the worse. It turns out her cancer had progressed much further than any of us realized, and she passed away while we were driving somewhere through west central Indiana.

Honestly, that's not something I'm ready to talk about yet.

Now, I could probably turn everything else that happened in September into a humor column, because it was all small stuff of the type we're not supposed to sweat. But when you're already in a state of shock, and the stuff just keeps on happening, one after another, it just can't be made funny.

I should consider us lucky we didn't get into an accident, like we did last September. That ended in splints, X-rays, and car shopping. I'd thought it as bad as a vacation could get, until this September. This one turned into the vacation they schedule in Hell, and what follows is just a sample.

But no accident, although we had a close encounter with a coyote. We drove some five thousand miles over the course of four weeks, most of it in the last couple of weeks. And we drove most of it while sick.

Emily got it first. Nothing accompanies settling your mother's affairs like a bad head cold. We made two trips to and from to arrange and hold a memorial, and to take care of a thousand details, most of which had to be done by Emily as the only child. Those trips were done with frequent Kleenex breaks. I did my best to be a supportive spouse, until I was also felled by little warrior germs that set up shop in my sinuses, then invaded my lungs.

All that driving. After it was over, the chiropractor could identify the model and make of our car by the bends in my spine. By the way, I've made that 500 mile trip for a decade, and have seriously never seen as much road construction along the route.

In the middle of it, we had to come back to Indiana because we'd previously signed up for an author appearance and didn't want to be no-shows. That was on a Friday, and Emily took advantage to work her saddle barn job on Saturday and Sunday before we headed back south. Believe me, she made more money there than we did as authors.

In fact, my author aspirations took quite a hit during September. We sold only a few books that Friday (although we handed out some business cards and bookmarks, which often lead to sales). A few days later I got my publisher's first sales report on my newest novel, Radio Red. Between its release in April and the end of June, the sales made me ... cry. It's the worse opening of my nine books.

Oh, and the newspaper that ran my column stopped publishing, so I no longer have a home for "Slightly Off the Mark".

At least that gave us a little time to watch TV. With a planned vacation, we'd set the DVR to record the shows starting up in September, and had hours of unwatched shows already recorded. Emily was at work when that last straw went dark and permanently dead, falling on my last nerve. She missed the horror-movie screaming noises that came from ... someone ... after the good people at Mediacom said they'd speed a technician our way in only a week or so.

All minor stuff, really. TV shows? You can catch up with them online. Poor book sales? My next novel is just around the corner. Illnesses pass, spines recover, and our car gets really good gas mileage. The dog slept for about twelve hours straight after we returned the last time, but now he's good as new.

It's just that stuff builds up, sometimes.

I don't know. Maybe the hardest thing after the memorial was cleaning out Jean's storage unit. Not because of the 90+ degree heat, dust, and spiders, but because you're suddenly going through memories at a time when it's most painful. We had to start three times, and in the end brought some boxes home into the air conditioning to be looked after later.

They say you have to go through bad times to appreciate the good times, and if that's so I'm feeling pretty darned appreciative. So, okay ... rough month. But if you've been watching the news at all, you know that everyone's been having a pretty rough month. Now and then we all need to vent a little.

Speak of the Devil: Answering The Call Of Duty

Speak of the Devil: Answering The Call Of Duty: I wanted to get these shots in sooner rather than later, so I decided to have this and the next post here in my writer's blog. This pa...

All set up

We're all set up, along with dozens of other people, in the basement of the Kendallville Public Library!



Still going to the library

Even though we've been in Missouri for most of the last two weeks and Emily has a cold (she's getting better), we still plan to be at the Kendallville Library Friday. Hope to see you there!

http://kendallvillelibrary.org/about-us/library-news/art-and-author-fair/

Jean Stroud obituary

I've been meaning to post my mother-in-law's obituary, but it's been busy around here.  And to make matters worse, Emily has an awful cold.

http://www.fordandsonsfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Jean-Snowbird-Stroud/#!/Obituary

Memorial

We're at Girl Scout Camp Latonka in Missouri for my mother-in-law Mamma Jean's memorial. We'll have a pot luck around 5-6 and an informal memorial, then a bonfire down by the lake ... exactly the kind of thing We think she'd like.

Stephen King at the library! Or at least, writers who want to be that famous

I have to be redundant, at the risk of repeating myself, which I do all the time, often more than once.

But I wanted to remind everyone of the Kendallville Public Library's Art and Author Fair, coming up Friday, September 15, from 2-7 p.m. This is something I believe they plan on doing every year, or at least annually, at their own risk of being redundant.

It's critically important to support your local artists and authors, especially if they live in your area. Emily and I will be there, but so will several others of the art and artist variety. In addition, I'm trying very hard to start a rumor that Stephen King is stopping by, to such an extent that I'm actually trying to find some random guy (or woman) named Stephen King, who can come in just long enough for me to honestly say Stephen King will be there. If he does show up, maybe he'll sign something for you; who's to say he's not the real Stephen King, and the guy on the book photos isn't a model, or his personal assistant?

This is a change from my original plan, because there doesn't seem to be a single J.K. Rowling in Indiana.

Anyway, the "Showcase Kendallville and Job Fair" is going on at the same place on the same day, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. (Maybe Stephen King needs a job?) So there's stuff, and things, plus it's a library, which is cool. Please make an attempt to stop by and visit; and remember that Emily and I tend to discount our books at events like this. Even for Stephen King.

The library's page for the event is here:

http://kendallvillelibrary.org/about-us/library-news/art-and-author-fair/

And here's the Facebook page, which is indeed on a page, and has faces:

https://www.facebook.com/events/261574904246629


(Remember, this is a library, so at least Stephen King's books will be there.)


50 Authors from 50 States: Some Interesting Facts About Oklahoma! Brought to...

50 Authors from 50 States: Some Interesting Facts About Oklahoma! Brought to...: I’m a native Oklahoman born and raised among the waving wheat (which really does smell sweet) and acres and acres of cotton fields an...

Writing, Revision, and Thanksgiving Bloat

When it comes to revision, there are two kinds of writers: Those who need to cut, and those who need to ... um, uncut.

Most writers tend to put too much into their first drafts, and so have to go in and cut later. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as they actually do go back. A bloated manuscript is like your uncle on Thanksgiving evening; just sitting there, listless and fat, dull and motionless, at least until the half time bathroom break.

Well, that's how I am at Thanksgiving, anyway.

I have the opposite authorial problem: I tend to write sparse. Usually, the word count for my novel manuscripts is at the low end of what's considered a novel ... which maybe isn't such a bad thing, in these days of too much to do and not enough time for a good read. If War and Peace was written today, it would just be War.

I expanded the name of my novel in progress from Unnamed Space Opera to Beowulf: In Harm's Way, because that added one word to the word count, and every little word counts. Kidding! Actually, Unnamed Space Opera has been used. Anyway, late last year the manuscript had a word count of 62,500. (give or take, depending on the title. Okay, 62,522.)

I got busy for awhile after that, leaving the story to get "cold"; which is a good thing, not like at Thanksgiving dinner. Then, in April, I made a mistake: I sent the first three chapters and a synopsis off to an agent, and I went through the now-cold manuscript for a final polishing.

Unfortunately, I did it in that order.

I thought I'd fixed up the first three chapters previously, but as I went over them again I found several mistakes, plus areas that could use improvement. Writing off that agent (I've since received her form rejection), I started work again. I made numerous changes, and added something like two thousand more words. Along the way I realized I'd started small story arcs with a couple of characters that never really closed out in a satisfactory way. After some thought, I came up with a 2,000 word scene toward the end of the story that I think does the trick.

So my manuscript, which I "finished" before the holidays last year, weighed in at 66,788 words. That's over 4,200 words more than the previous version, even considering the stuff I removed while adding other things. That, by the way, is the second time I let the manuscript get cold.

What have we learned from this? One, let your manuscript cool, or it'll burn you. Two, writing's hard. Three, don't throw away a shot at publication because you're in a hurry. Four, don't overeat at holidays. And I suppose the thing about not giving up your day job still stands.

So I'm done now, right? I mean, I spell checked and polished the thing six months ago! No ... no. I made so many changes in the story, I had to go through and polish all over again. That's the biz. The "final" draft now weighs 6,7248 words, almost 500 words more.

Then my wife gets a look at it. She finds all the problems I missed, and I start all over again ... again.

Now I'm curious to know about your revision process, if you're an author. Or even if you're not--there's no law saying non-writers can't revise. But for now ...

For some reason, I'm in the mood for turkey. Hopefully that speaks to food, and not the quality of the story.

Hurricane Harvey, go away

Here's hoping Hurricane Harvey soon moves on and leaves the stricken residents of Texas and Louisiana alone.

From what I've been able to gather, Harvey isn't all that different from other very strong hurricanes of the past, which is like saying being mauled by a 950 pound grizzly bear isn't all that different from being mauled by a 925 pound grizzly bear. But unlike past hurricanes, it's been stalled by other weather patterns; in the time Harvey has been hovering over the coast, Katrina had already made its way inland to Indiana.

50 inches of rain forecast. I mean, 50 inches of snow qualifies for an "I survived the blizzard of ..." t-shirt. That's, what ... five inches of rain, give or take?

And so ... record rains. I don't have to tell anyone how bad things are down there, and North Korea's attempts to help by firing rockets at it have so far had little effect. For those of you in the path of this apocalyptic shower, I can only say that we're all thinking of you, and hoping you'll dry out soon. Keep your spirits up ... another thing easier said than done.