To Do or Not to Do

Things have been a bit busy lately. So while I’ve (mostly) kicked this cold, it seems to be tormenting my wife on a recurring basis. On top of that, she and I have begun a rotating schedule of crazy days. Last week, I had a couple 12 hour days back to back and this week, its her turn. And as the only parent home with twins, your attention is pretty much just focused on them and nothing else.

And because of all of this, work has become sort of condensed. Or just dense. Lots to do all the time. I was out Monday with my kids and I’ll be out again Friday traveling for a friend’s wedding, making my remaining free time all the denser.

I’ve found that I need the occasional to-do list of tasks or things to accomplish, but I only ever seem to work from the bottom up. The newest stuff is checked off pretty quickly and the stuff near the top tends to sit there. Hence why my first line on today’s list is and has been “blog” for about a week and a half now.

But with all these things I have to do vying for my attention, let’s talk about things I want to do …

I’m still pitching The Red Door. It’s hard not to get discouraged at times, but I keep myself motivated by only querying maybe three people at a time. I don’t always wait a full 8 weeks or whatever to try again – maybe only 2 – but I do try and keep the numbers small. My reasoning being that with every pass, I go back and revisit the pitch. I’ve tweaked the letter and opening couple pages a bunch now to make them as strong as possible. Obviously, this is a subjective business, so I’d like my work to speak for itself and I’d hate to be the one getting in my own way with a bad pitch.

Blame my career services day job, but I see this kind of thing all the time. Great candidates sometimes have terrible resumes and cover letters. Employers will never know how great they are until these documents get cleaned up and the applicant gets out of his or her own way. It’s not them who aren’t working, it’s their approach. I try and do the same.

As far as distractions go, I’m still working my way through The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild again. I could beat it at any time, but I’m getting all the shrines now. I’m up to 91 or something. I’m basically just twiddling my thumbs and turning my brain off until the next game. Having a console-quality experience in my work bag is the best brain brake ever. I used to think that my PS4 was my favorite guilty pleasure, but hands down, its the Switch.

Vignettes

Inspiration is real. Waiting for inspiration is BS. By slogging through the trenches, I’m back on board the Altered Egos train and genuinely look forward to working on it again every day. There are two metaphors in that sentence.

I’ve worn a tie so much at work these days that my son says, “Daddy, no tie,” on a near daily basis. It’s not that he doesn’t like ties, he knows that I’ve been against them lately and he’s super supportive.

My daughter has developed a second joke. Her first one was telling me, “poopy diaper,” when she definitely didn’t have a poopy diaper. Now, she’ll sit on this plastic fish while in the bathtub, look me dead in the eye and say, “fish on the butt!” and then devolve into a giggling fit. I’m psyched that she’s telling jokes. She didn’t get the toilet humor from me, though. It’s all high brow over here.

I keep querying agents hoping for a bite. I try and pitch maybe two or three every couple of weeks. Way I see it, if my query is bad, then instead of cutting all my chances at the same time, I’m doling it out piece by piece. Granted, that means its taking a while. But I’m not ready to put The Red Door to bed yet anyway.

While I’d rather work with an editor and a publisher, Plan B is to self publish. I’ve written five novels by now – two of which are what I consider to be publishable – but I’m waiting until I have three before I hit the self publish button. I figure that three novels of three different styles will be a good starting point and I’ll go from there. Spaghetti on the wall, that’s my approach. Throw enough and something’ll stick.

I’ve been working D&D back into my life, playing with a group about once a month or so. I’m DMing, but I’d much rather play. But since I’m the one making it work the most, I’ll take DMing as a small price to just be rolling D20s again. I’ve looking into joining an online group that meets more frequently and while that sounds great in theory, the twins don’t allow me much free time. The only reason I’m even playing D&D now is because I’ve somehow convinced my wife to play too. She either really loves me or feels really sorry for me. A bit of both?

Right now, we’re watching the days go by, more or less. We were coming to terms with our current family dynamic and thought that was going to be it. But life, uh, finds a way. That cat’s out of the bag, internet. Come March, the kids will be outnumbering the adults at our house.

There and Back Again … Again

It’s been a while!

I’ve been out of work on paternity leave for the past month. My wife and I received a pair of beautiful babies on August 7th. One born 6 lbs 3 oz., the other 5 lbs 12 oz.. Since then, they’ve both put on some weight, but they’re still pretty tiny and I know I’m a little biased here, but I think they’re pretty friggin adorable. Ask me again at 3 am when they’ve been screaming all night and I may change my mind.

Anyway, I knew it wouldn’t be a vacation, but I prepared my “dad bag” full of all sorts of personal entertainment just in case: books, 3DS, netbook, journal, music, etc. I figured I’d have at least some time to do something fun. I mean it’s an entire month! A friend of mine did nothing but play Final Fantasy XIV when he had his second kid. I was pretty excited to do the same.

I did none of those things.

I spent most of the month on the couch holding a baby and waiting for the next shoe to drop in terms of diapers or feedings or just plain crankiness. We’ve had our fair share of scares. One of them has a bad case of acid reflux that landed us in the hospital overnight for observation. So it’s been a hectic month. It’s become somewhat easier now that the little dragons are big enough to fit in baby carriers. Seriously, whoever invented the moby wrap – or patented it for mass production or whatever – is a godsend! Getting my hands back after losing them for weeks has been the greatest victory in the world. Now I can hold a baby and make a sandwich at the same time!

My wife and I tried handling it in shifts to allow the other one some sleeping time, but it soon became apparent that such a tactic was impossible. When babies outnumber adults, the adult loses. So we adopted the team mentality. We sleep together. We take care of babies together. It’s made things a hell of a lot easier but as you can imagine, the system isn’t perfect. It pretty much breaks down now that I’m back to work. Without outside help both at night and during the day, neither of us would be able to function anymore.

Things are as routine as they can get right now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough work, but we’re managing. If anything, I think we’re kind of good at it. If we had one kid, we’d be handling this like a pair of stone cold bosses. Seriously, what’s the big deal with your one kid, people? Suck it up.

There are plenty of things I want to talk about, but I’ll save them for future posts. The next one being about coming back to work on a 3/4 finished novel and what that’s taking after having an entire month away from the keyboard. I’d get into it now, but honestly, I’m just too tired.

I hear that clears up in 4-5 years …

I’m an Idiot

I did a dumb thing …

I was so brain dead this morning, I put off writing until this afternoon. Just got back from running home at lunch to let my dog out and I forgot my damn work glasses at home. There’s no way I’m not going to get some serious eye strain from looking at a computer screen without them for the next four hours. Headache city, here I come.

That also means, I most likely won’t get any writing done either. Even staring at the little bit I’ve written here is already making me wince.

Just goes to show you … don’t slack off ’cause second chances aren’t guaranteed.

To 11 … well maybe 9

I’ve been going strong now for a while with the latest book. I’m just shy of the midpoint. A few thousand more words ought to finish the current scene and then its off to the antagonist to ratchet up the stakes a little 🙂

In books past I’ve hit various walls that needed to be pushed through in order to continue. But this time around, I’m pretty much excited all the time. I’m taking that as a good sign. I’ve been aiming for 1k words a day, but I haven’t be religious about it. Sometimes I go so far as to write my word count down. If I’m 50 words shy today, you better believe I need to make that up tomorrow. That said, I think it’s time to crank it up a notch.

Work has been interesting to say the least. There’s this big scheduling deadline that’s been looming over my head for months now. I need to get the spring 2016 schedule of classes over to the Registrar’s office by June. It’s felt like a tightening noose for a long time. First, scheduling isn’t actually my job anymore and second, I’ve been waiting around for the department to hire a replacement. This replacement needed to be trained so SHE could turn in that schedule. Anyway, that’s a lot of back story to try and explain that this week and next one are the two weeks I’ve been dreading for ages. It’s my last hurrah as a scheduling officer, my last trudge through the trenches while I train the new person with all of the wisdoms I can muster. When it’s finally over, the wife and I are going to Disney World!

Seriously. We love it down there. We’re taking another last hurrah before we’re never alone again. Don’t worry, we’ll bring the little dragons back with us.

So I think I’ll wait for all of that to die down before I crank up my word quota. If I can get more in next week, fantastic, but I’m not going to make myself nuts about it. Otherwise, as soon as I fall into the groove, we’ll be off to Florida where I doubt I’ll get much writing done. Although, long car rides are great places to work on some outlining in my head and snippets of prose always seem to spring to mind. I whisper things into my phone while my wife naps in the passenger seat. She wakes up sometimes and asks who I’m talking to.

Oh, you know. Just the voices in my head.

It’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

I got some pretty solid writing in today. I’m happy with the results. It almost didn’t happen too. Well, I had the time for once … but I was driving and brainstorming my prewriting stuff like I usually do and it was just pouring out of me. My muse or whatever was riding shotgun grinning the whole time as some great stuff came bubbling out  while I was talking to myself. I typically use my phone for quick notes, the voice to text equivalent of a jot down but this was the real deal. I showed up to the test in my underwear. Looking to my muse, helpless, all I got in return was “It sucks to suck.” Thanks. Now you show up.

I raced to work and by work, more accurately, I mean a computer. I knew exactly where I wanted to start and then … it was pulling teeth. I had seen the promise land, but the doors were shut. Knowing that I’d done better off the cuff … in my car, made everything I wrote feel stilted and junky. Well, the hell with that. If the promised land slammed it’s doors shut, I’d rip ’em the hell open!

I soldiered on, gradually finding my pace and rhythm and then another funny thing happened. Whole sections just popped in there. Like Ray Stanz, they just popped in there. It must have been what every writing instructor ever has ever said about “developing your voice.” Normally, I write how I write and don’t try and alter it in any way. I mean, I want it to sound good and be creative and whatnot, but the words that came pouring out of me belonged to some other guy this morning. And I gotta say, I like that guy. I hope he comes back. I’ll be waiting around in the trees for him. Plenty of bananas to spare.

So today went great. Monday and Wednesday, though, they were a wash. Too much job-work got in the way and after 10 hour days of something else, my brain wasn’t exactly up for any more thinking. Before the muse played its little trick on me – I’m going with it. I know the muses were female in myth, but who am I to judge where my inspiration comes from. – I was thinking about two days gone when I could have been writing and it got me thinking about where the expression “That’s a wash” comes from. What’s being washed? I’m sure I could Google it and find out in a manner of seconds because we live in the 21st century, but where’s the fun in that? I’ve always been fascinated why we say and do the things we do. Like how in every post-apocalyptic setting there’s something they do because Reasons but really it’s just a misconstrued holdover from a previous era. I live for that shit!

Thinking about the wash expression and why we say it reminded me of my dad and his own idiosyncrasies. For as long as I can remember, he’s always used the expression, “six one half does the other.” Just like that. I intuited that it meant two choices being the same thing. I remember asking repeatedly what it means anyway in the hope that he’d explain it better, but he pretty much just reiterated what I already knew. Only years later – and I’m talking maybe high school or even college – did I come across the expression “six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

Suddenly it all made sense. He knew what he was talking about. He was just lazy. Don’t even get me started on his usage of “Murphy’s law.” So here’s an expression that had meaning to him and he wasn’t even saying it correctly. Didn’t matter though. Signifier and signs my friends.

And just as quickly as all of this came to mind on my drive in, I began thinking about my writing for the day and my muse appeared. I shoved all of the intellectual stuff aside to make headroom for the creative stuff. I may not have the most robust vocabulary or even be a good speller – spoiler alert: I suck at spelling – but I do love language. The entire concept is simply fascinating.

There’s Still A Little Bit of Wick Left …

My eyes feel like they’re about to melt into a goopy mess and dribble out of their sockets as I type this. I spent most of the day going over spreadsheets and data and verifying said data and inputting new data and putting a lot of X’s in a lot of boxes. That’s not typically something I do, so I’m definitely feeling some Excel Fatigue (is that a thing?) right now.

Speaking of fatigue, it ended up working out yesterday that I had two long overdue doctor’s appointment back to back. Somehow, fate was on my side for once and I was able to schedule the optometrist and the dentist on the same afternoon. It had been 2(?) years since my last eye exam and at least a year since my last dental check up. I was convinced that after so much time, this recent brow-furrowing and eye strain was just as much a precursor to something wicked this way comes as those shadow spots between my molars they are supposedly “watching.”

So imagine my surprise when the optometrist tells me my eyes basically haven’t changed. I could use a new pair of glasses though, as my current ones look pretty “beat up.” The dentist, who was sure to deliver a hammer blow of bad news, told me that nothing’s changed. Keep on flossing, brushing and rinsing and they’ll x-ray everything next time. If they’re not worried, I’m not worried. Good to know that my aches and pains are self inflicted war wounds of my hectic life rather than something more sinister. I am not, in fact, falling apart. Although after their dilation yesterday and LED retinal flaring today, I think my eyes are ready for little rest.

Oh man, that makes me want to watch Daredevil. Guys, the episode ended with him getting caught by the cops. The cops!

I also found out that there’s a light at the end of my work tunnel as, supposedly, a replacement for my old position is to be hired by next week. I’ll believe it when I see it, but just the thought of it … well, I thought it would be squeal-inducing, but I think I may just break down and sob tears of relief. If I do, I’ll get a picture …

But all of this has somehow made me motivated to really tear into my current novel. I’m maybe 20-25% in and there’s a lot left to cover, but I’m ready to kick it up a notch. This double-job business has put me back long enough. Too long. It might have been worth it if they’d been paying me double salaries, but alas. So I’m ready to devote as much of myself to my own endeavors as I can. Lately that hasn’t been a lot, but I’m so frustrated with work-work that the idea of coming home to continue my own work actually sounds appealing. I’ve been jotting some snippets and the start of threads down so I can hit the keys running as soon as I have a quiet minute to myself. This novel HAS to be finished before August. After then I won’t have a quiet minute for a long, long, loooooooong time.

Or so I’m told.