Getting back into shape

I make no secret of the fact that I have a day job in addition to writing my novels. Some in the publishing community say it means I don’t take my dreams seriously enough. My children, however, have told me once or twice that they enjoy eating. As their voices are typically loudest in my ear, I tend to listen to them more than faceless critics. That said, it also helps that I enjoy my day job too.

While my day job has a corporate headquarters, its staff are scattered across North America. This has allowed me to meet and interact with people coming from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, which has been an even bigger plus. I’ve also since learned that I am one of many who have chosen to give a new career a chance.

For example, I learned the other day that one of our most recent hires was a spin instructor in her once-upon-a-time past professional life. It came up in conversation when she mentioned she was stiff and was shocked by how out of shape she’d become. She also mentioned how difficult it was to get back into a workout routine after taking an extended absence.

It occurred to me that I could say the same about my blog writing habits.

I’d been incredibly disciplined for several years. I’d written even when I could barely summon the energy to get out of bed thanks to a fever. I’d strung words together in between birthday parties and bedtimes. I’d filled page after page time and time again. I’d told myself once the manuscript was done getting back into the blogging habit would be easy.

It is not. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the formula. If anything, I know what needs to be done better than I did before. However, I’ve forgotten how to properly warm-up. That said, I’m here today. I showed up. I followed my own former instructions.

I might not be fit enough to teach a class at the moment, but I’ve taken my first step toward getting back into shape. And when it comes to writing, or pretty much anything else for that matter, there is a lot more you can accomplish by trying than by giving in to all the many excuses to hold it off another day.

The Book That Almost Broke Me

I did it.

I wrote another book.

Ok, in fairness, I wrote another manuscript. The book part will be a few weeks longer yet as it still needs to go through early reads, professional edits, and formatting. But I wrote another book. (Update – the book is done and scheduled for launch on March 26, 2020)

So what, you might be saying. You’re a writer — a novelist — that’s what you’re supposed to do. I thought so too until I tried to write this one.

However, this time was different from the rest.

Perhaps it was the fact that it is the final book in my science fiction trilogy. It was as if my characters refused to share their story with me, knowing it likely was their last.

Perhaps it was the new house or the new job. Maybe my brain needed its old combination of background and routine to get into its groove.

Perhaps it was my family. The kids are getting older now. I am unfortunately finding they aren’t as willing to go to bed before the sun completely sets, just because their mom needs to hit her daily word count. Nor have our weekend become any less full.

Perhaps it was simply me.

amuse yourself with more writer problem memes at https://writerblueprint.com/writing-memes/

I should have finished this manuscript in February. That was my intent. I would take a break from the blog for the holidays and focus, instead, entirely on it. When February passed, I said, eh, it’s a short month anyway, I’m not that far behind.

Weeks stretched into months and still the most glorious words in the writer’s language, ‘the end’ continued to elude me.

I wrote during this time. Don’t get me wrong, but it was a steaming pile of word turd mixed with verbal vomit left behind to fill a blank page and little more. Thanks for that imagery, you might be thinking. Just be glad you weren’t the one expected to clean it up.

This is all to say, I might be late, but I’m still here.

I set a goal — I missed it — but I didn’t let a self-imposed deadline stop me.

Instead, I found a way to finish what I started.

I wrote a book.


Update: Lies & Legacy: Project Gene Assist Book Three is available for pre-order at books2read.com/u/bMpYAv

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Invention of the Year: Kids’ Motion Sickness Goggles

My family has logged an inordinate number of hours this summer on various US highways, byways, and the occasional gravel trail. We’ve gone from the mountains to the sea and several places in between. I wish I could say all this travel was for fun, but sadly that’s not been much of the case.

However, it could have been worse. (This post includes affiliate links)

Far, far, worse.

My eldest son suffers from acute motion sickness and we’ve spent the last ten years honing our senses in order to detect the little signs and giveaways that indicate that it is either time to pull over or locate a makeshift barf bag. The signs are subtle. First, there is the unnatural quiet that descends upon the back seat. Then there is the closing and stowing of electronics or the howl of wind from a rear window cracking over. Ignore any of these signs at your peril.

I didn’t know then that I would be spending so much of this summer on the road, but whether by coincidence or providence, I decided I’d had enough after nearly being christened again following a long drive into the mountains. I recalled seeing an ad with a set of funny-looking goggles appear in a browser search months upon months ago claiming to relieve motion sickness. I’d dismissed them at the time as nothing more than yet another way to separate me from my money, but at that moment, seeing my boy’s normally happy face take on a shade of pale green (yet again), I decided to give it another look.

“Order them mom,” my son begged.

Who would have thought something so small could have such a big impact

And so I did. A few weeks later, the goggles arrived in a narrow tube. I call them goggles and not glasses as there is nothing in the four rims (two in the front, another one on each side) other than a thin chamber containing a blue liquid. The frames themselves are made of a thick rubbery plastic that bends and makes you wonder how well the device can actually stay up on a child’s ears.

However, somehow they do.

Even better, after forcing him to wear them for ten minutes at a time for one long car trip after another, I am happy to say they somehow work too!

The downside is now my son’s ravenous appetite is still in full effect from journey start to journey end. This has done a number on our travel meal budget as he used to not be able to stand the sight or smell of food for at least an hour after we finally put the car in park, but I suppose I prefer cleaning out a few extra snack wrappers to the alternative.

We may still have miles and miles to go before we sleep, but at least, thankfully, we don’t have to immediately find the laundry machine when we get there.

The Outdoorsy App: A Non-Review Review

The best part about the kids being in a scouting program is the excuse it gives us to get out into the great outdoors. The worst part about scouting is then sleeping out there.

After a series of shivering through near-freezing nights and huddling under nothing but a thin piece of treated nylon during thunderstorms, I decided that as much as I enjoy hiking, it might be nice to actually stay under a real roof during our next trip to the mountains. Luckily for me, my other half mentioned he was thinking the same thing.

He told me about an app he’d found called Outdoorsy.

Think of it like Lyft/Uber meets Airbnb/HomeAway. Only, instead of it being a ride-sharing program or app to let you rent out an unused room, you can use it to turn that depreciating asset/eyesore you call a recreational vehicle parked out front into a potential profit center. It also gives a person like me, the chance to actually try to see if RVing is the way to travel.

1998 Coleman Mesa – our home away from home for the weekend

It may be the fact that I live in an urban area and am centrally located between the mountains and the sea, but there were more than a few options for us to choose from when planning our trip. In the end, we decided to go with a 1998 Coleman Mesa pop-up trailer, which, thanks to its low profile, would allow us to travel around the sharp turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway and under NC’s historic stone bridges with ease.

It would also mean we would have a regular sized vehicle during the long weekend for taking us from one trailhead to the next. We thought that extra vehicle would be our truck.

Unfortunately, the holiday weekend meant we weren’t the only ones to hit the road for the weekend. Unseasonable highs hadn’t helped either as people, like us, sought higher ground and cooler temperatures.

We’d been stuck in slow-moving traffic for more than a couple of hours when suddenly the check engine light appeared on the dash. The truck began to groan. If that wasn’t bad enough, we were at the base of the mountains by this point, meaning our cell reception had already begun to degrade.

My other half looked none-to-pleased. He’d just gotten the truck, which is still relatively brand new, checked out by a mechanic prior to our departure. We pushed on, but at a slower, more careful rate. What choice did we have?

Her Royal Highness Approves

We finally limped into the campgrounds where my mom and stepdad (who’d had the foresight to drive separately) sat waiting. The sun hung low in the sky–too low to worry about pesky details like how we were going get home. We sprang into action. One crank raised the roof. Another lowered stabilizing blocks. We sweated in the effort, but it made me glad our rental harkened from good old 1998 when vehicle systems were still more mechanical than computer driven.

The most challenging part about the setup was figuring out where the various poles needed to shape the more tent-like portion of the camper, especially as the sun had fully set by this point, but even that didn’t take too terribly long. Soon we were settling in for a much deserved night’s rest.

Did I sleep better than I might in my regular tent? You bet I did. Though the camper shook anytime someone tried to sneak outdoors to … er… commune with nature, I remained thankful for the mattress under my back and the solid walls that could protect us against any unexpected change in weather.

We spent the weekend hiking and enjoying food cooked over the open flames of a campfire. My kids spotted waterfalls and at least pretended to be interested when the park ranger regaled us with the story of how the river running beside us got its name. Spoiler – it was violent.

Then it was time to return home. Cranks were turned in the opposite direction and support bars were safely stowed. The truck even managed to get us back home. Then all we had to do was drop the keys and the camper back with its rightful owner.

Would I use the Outdoorsy app again? Absolutely. I only wish I could give our truck an equally high rating.


Here are some additional pictures from our trip, which I hope you will enjoy:

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The one thing you can trust about SPAM is it never spoils

I made a promise. It was a promise I thought would be easy to keep. I was wrong.

I told a friend that I’d wait to see Avengers: Endgame with her, and then she went and got sick, so now I’m having to go to some extreme lengths to avoid spoilers – like actually reading the contents of my spam folder. Lucky for me, it’s proven to be entertaining. Not as entertaining as, say, seeing how the storylines of more than twenty movies can be resolved in a single cinematic-marvel. But entertaining in its own way all the same.

I thought I would share some of my favorites.

“I’m envious. Seems like every time I come back to your website you have a new interesting thing for me to read. How do you stay so motivated? Do you research all of these posts before posting?”

This comment was attached to a post I’d written about the different tools I’ve used for ebook conversion so I might have approved it if the link and user name attached hadn’t been a red flag.  That said, even knowing the compliment wasn’t genuine, it was a bummer to send it to the discard pile. After all, I’d worked hard on that post (and yes, not only had I researched all the products, I’d used them extensively too)

“I together with my guys were reading through the good tricks found on your site and immediately developed a horrible feeling I never expressed respect to the blog owner for those techniques. Most of the young boys became totally glad to read through all of them and have clearly been tapping into these things. Appreciation for really being really helpful as well as for pick out these kinds of exceptional things most people are really desperate to learn about. Our honest apologies for not expressing appreciation to earlier.”

Someone sent in this comment after reading a funny story I’d written about waking up in the middle of the night thinking there was an intruder in my house, when in fact it was only my robotic vacuum cleaner. In case you are curious, I no longer have it run at night as it clearly cannot be trusted. I also have no idea what things the young boys, referenced by the commenter, are tapping into.

“Throughout this awesome pattern of things you actually secure a B- just for effort. Exactly where you confused everybody was first in the particulars. You know, people say, the devil is in the details… And that could not be much more correct at this point. Having said that, let me say to you what exactly did work. The article (parts of it) is definitely incredibly engaging which is most likely why I am making an effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Secondly, even though I can notice the jumps in reasoning you make, I am not convinced of how you appear to unite your ideas which make the final result. For right now I shall subscribe to your point however trust in the future you connect the facts much better.”

B-, just for effort? Ouch. However, considering this comment was placed on one of Her Royal Highness’ letters to her loyal subjects, I’ll leave it up to the monarchy to address its particular feedback.

“It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!”

Actually, I do have a donate button, I’m glad you mentioned it. It’s at the bottom of my About me page. It’s been there for years, though I don’t make a big deal about it, so completely understand why you missed it. However, now that you know about it, feel free to click on it and spot me cup of coffee. Talk soon!

And then there was this…

“Hey, how’s it going?”

I like how this one starts out. It’s like we know each other or something. But then things take a turn. (This is why I moderate comments)

“The power that runs the world wants to put a RFID microchip in our body making us total slaves to them. This chip matches perfectly with the Mark of the Beast in the Bible, more specifically in Revelation 13:16-18:

“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

It keeps going.

“Referring to the last days, this could only be speaking of a cashless society, which we have yet to see, but are heading towards. Otherwise, we could still buy or sell without the mark amongst others if physical money was still currency. This Mark couldn’t be spiritual because the word references two different physical locations. If it was spiritual it would just say in the forehead. RFID microchip implant technology will be the future of a one world cashless society containing digital currency. It will be implanted in the right-hand or the forehead, and we cannot buy or sell without it! We must grow strong in Jesus. AT ALL COSTS, DO NOT TAKE IT!

“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).”

Ummmm… okay…

“If you haven’t already, it is time to seek God with all your heart. Jesus loves you more than you could imagine. He wants to have a relationship with you and redeem you from your sins. Turn to Him and repent while there is still hope! God bless!”

Shew. That’s a relief. Here I was starting to worry.

So, apparently, the end is nigh. Good thing I’ve already made peace with our soon to be robotic overloads, however, this is yet another reason my friend needs to get off her sick-bed sooner rather than later. Please get better! We’re running out of time.