Porchcat Dave

Porchcat Dave nearly moved in tonight. I was carrying my Kindle, picked up the packages at the front door and was holding Cardiff's leash. As I tried to get everything in the door, Dave just walked on in. Luke sniffed him but didn't react. Owen growled a little. Cardiff just looked resigned to having another cat who likes to headbutt and snuggle him. Charlotte glared from a distance.

I gently shooed Dave back out onto the porch. He gave me this sad, hurt look. I offered him the red plastic shelter. "The door is too small" he said. I brought it back inside and cut it larger. "It's still too small" he said, even though it wasn't. He went in, turned around, came back out again and looked at me again. "I thought this would be the night you let me live with you."

"Sorry sweetie. Not tonight."

"I'll just sit out here in my little red tub and eat my Woe Crunchies, then."

"You do you, sir." Meanwhile I really want to bring this guy in.

Anyone interested in him? He's really sweet, very soft, and is probably a father/uncle/cousin of Charlotte and Owen. He's been neutered and had at least the basic shots through a TNR program, but he's really not happy being a street cat.

A Serious Bullet Journal Attempt

Some friends were discussing bullet journals on Twitter. One friend admitted she's always afraid to write in a new journal because she doesn't want to mess it up.  I said that's why I decided to make Excel pages for mine.

I am not artistically inclined. I have terrible handwriting unless I really focus. I also get upset when something that is meant to look exactly like something else doesn't match.  Hand-creating pages for a bullet journal would stress me out, which is the exact opposite of what I want.

So I was searching for Bullet Journal page layouts and found "printables" for them. Basically templates that you can print out and paste into your journal.  Then I thought "Why not just use a binder and printed pages? Then I can add more as necessary and not have to sit around with gluesticks and scissors?  I'm getting pretty handy in Excel, and that has nice, neat grids, so why not try it?"

So here's what I have.

The pages are 8.5"x11" for a standard binder. They can easily be sized to A5 for a smaller binder like a Dayplanner or something similar.  

First I did my bill page.

This is actually A5 size. 

This is actually A5 size. 

You don't need to see exactly who I pay, but I wanted to show the basic setup -- the first cluster is for the things that absolutely have to be paid every month: utilities, mortgage, and such.  

The second cluster are things that have to get paid every month most of the time, but not necessarily EVERY month - credit cards, store cards, etc.

The third cluster is things that get paid every month but are optional and could be cancelled. 

The last two lines are things that don't get paid every month but are vital to remember to pay on time.

I don't care about tracking the exact day something got paid or how much I paid them. What I want is a quick, clear reminder of what I have and have not yet paid.

Next. Habits I need to keep or start.

Plenty of room for more habits if I get any good ones.

Plenty of room for more habits if I get any good ones.

Print it out, write the name of the month up there with "Daily Habits", black out the last few days of the month that don't apply for that particular month, and go on. Color in the date each time you accomplish something.  See how I even stuck "writing" in there in an attempt to make it a daily habit?  

I copied the layout and changed the habits to the medications I take.

And then there's the most important page.

This one is harder to get to A5 size.

This one is harder to get to A5 size.

Month and date can be written in next to "Daily Life". This way it's nice and generic and I can print out as many as I want and use them over and over again. (I may drop the 2017 from the title line because it seems kind of silly to me now).  I can record the weather, what time I went to bed the night before, what time I got up, how I'm feeling on a scale of 1 - 10.  

I have nightmares (which don't bother me) and anxiety dreams (which do) so I thought I'd track those, in addition to whether I have dreams in general. 

Blood sugar and carb tracking because Go Team Diabetes. I figured I'd also track water just because I really should drink more of it. I kept the scale 1 - 10 just so it was even with the rest (did I mention I don't like it when things don't match?). This exact page is also duplicated directly below it so I can print it out double-sided. Save some paper and some room.

So that's it. Easy, clean, flexible, adaptable... the beauty of using a binder is knowing I can add sections and pages as needed.

Now I just have to use it....

Prepping for the New Year

2016 has been a bit of a clusterfluff hasn't it. 

So far this year the partner-in-crime has had several serious bouts of illness. My car has been in the shop a few times. One of our cats has had some health issues. Everything is disorganized.

Now that it's December I'm starting to get things organized for 2017.  Let's do better next year, right?  I did start seeing a therapist this year about my out-of-control stress levels and it's starting to help. Getting things organized may also help. Should help. In theory.

I'm going to make another attempt at Bullet Journaling. It really helped me at work and maybe it'll be good for me at home to keep things from getting out of control.

As far as other kinds of journaling...

My reading journal is on Goodreads. (Dear CannonBallRead6 - I have been reading! Just not reviewing! (that totally doesn't count, I know.))

My movie watching journal is on Letterboxd (and I saw almost no movies this year. igh.)

I'm going to try to be better about updating this "blog". More stories about my critters. Things that might invite feedback (because hi? I hope you're out there reading this and you're someone other than my mom?) and a little interaction with people.

 

 

NaNoWriMo Day 25

This year started strong.  I did a pretty good job of staying close to my daily wordcount and I had a good run of days in a row where I wrote. I finished the first chapter. I liked what was going on. I wasn't sure where it was going to continue to go, but it was going at least.

And then the internet went out in the house for a week. That was irritating.

And the election happened. That was heartbreaking and scary.

And then work got unexpectedly busy. That was kind of okay but tiring.

And then my significant other got incredibly sick.

We spent the night before Thanksgiving in the ER. He was admitted. Until today he was in the ICU. He's getting better now but I've been stressed and worried and trying to take care of the stuff that he usually does, the stuff I usually do, and trying not to fall apart completely because we are talking scary, incredibly sick. The good news is he's moving to a regular room today and hopefully he'll be home by Monday.

So as far as NaNoWriMo goes, what I'll probably do is edit what I've written, call it a short story, and release it on Patreon.  If you're not already a patron, now would be a good time. You're guaranteed a short story of about 3000 words that no one else will have read or will ever read.

I'm really hoping that starting in December I can get back on track. Maybe it's time to try something new with the writing - put the Pardoner stories back in the trunk for a while.

NaNoWriMo Day 5

Word Count: 616

Soundtrack: VNV Nation again.

Research: Waterfront Promenade

No writing happened yesterday. On Thursday my home internet was starting to crawl so I used my phone's data to connect.  I didn't want to do that yesterday as well, so I spent the entire night trying to troubleshoot the connection. Nothing worked. I spent about 90 minutes on the phone with my provider today and they finally determined that it may be the line coming into the house.  They'll have someone out here on Monday.

So tonight I'm back to using my phone data. I didn't want to lose another day, especially considering I may not be able to write tomorrow. I'm going to Pennsylvania with some friends to see a band.  If I don't write in the morning before we leave, I'll be even further behind.

Today's effort wasn't the best, but it was something at least. And now I'm done while I still have some data left.

So Many Cats

There are a lot of feral cats and indoor/outdoor cats in my neighborhood. There are several people on my block alone who will feed them, and one neighbor who seems to routinely take them in to be neutered/spayed and vaccinated. Or at least there was, because there are a few unaltered males in the neighborhood now.

All four of my cats were rescues.  Three of them came from this neighborhood.  The two youngest cats are siblings that were born in the window well of my basement window. They're called Charlotte and Owen.

Back when Charlotte and Owen were baby kittens there were three adult cats in the neighborhood that were clearly related to them. Their mother (obviously related, and called "Mommacat" back then and mostly "Emma" now) and what I assume were her two siblings: her brother Porsche (they are nearly identical except for size), and a third cat that looked identical to Porsche, only with a moustache (Dave - because back then they were "Vera, Chuck, and Dave").

Dave disappeared for the longest time. I assumed Dave was the least feral of them and had gotten adopted off the streets. Dave showed up for dinner tonight - looking great. Fat, shiny, ear-tipped. So maybe Dave has found a home and just came around to visit the family

(note: Dave may be a girl. I haven't been able to get close enough to check. For the longest time I thought Porsche was (and he was Portia) because he had been neutered and I never got a good look at his back end until very recently).

Other frequent visitors include Charles (presumed to be the father of Charlotte) and Owenfather, who is obviously the father of my Owen.  There's also an orange cat that shows up every three or four days that I have creatively named "Orange" (Ori for short).

I really think I want to try to catch Orange and take him to BARCS (the local shelter). He's so affectionate and sweet, but clearly bothered by some kind of eye infection/irritation/cold (there is always much scrubbing after petting him to keep my cats safe) and recently a limp. He's just too much of a love to keep living out there. I can't afford to get him patched up and neutered, and he would not do well with my cats.

Anyone want a slightly raggedy Orange cat?

Orlando

Today my twitter feed has been full of horrible news: the mass murder in Orlando; the guy packing weapons heading to Pride in Los Angeles; a bomb blast in Beirut; people accusing Muslims, Christians, terrorists, domestic terrorists, and mental illness for all of this.

I don't talk much about politics or religion.  I'm apolitical and an atheist. I am also Not Good at dealing with the real world and real-world tragedies.  Sometimes this probably comes across as shallow or self-involved.  I'm not. I'm absolutely not. I'm a distraction. I'm the comic relief.  I can only be the voice of silliness in the back of the room that is desperately hoping that someone will notice and remember that there are still good people in the world and we can't let hate win.

Don't let hate and sadness win.

So I googled "the funniest picture ever."

I hope this helps.

ternus.jpg

 

 

Things I Learned at Balticon - Part 2

I knew I was leaving things out of the previous post.

  1. Useful websites:
    1. Submission Grinder - Does the same thing that Duotrope does, only for free. That is, it is "a submission tracker and market database for writers of fiction". 
    2. The Passive Voice - a lawyer who shares articles and writes about things relating to authors and publishers and self-publishing. It's not legal advice, but the site can give you information about things to watch out for.
    3. Writer Beware - (which I'd totally forgotten about!) for really detailed and up-to-the-minute warnings about scams, disreputable publishers, editors, or agents, and contests that aren't on the level.
       
  2. Writer's Digest magazine really does have good articles.
     
  3. Never submit a story to someone who tells you that you'll get paid in "exposure" only.
     
  4. Never submit to a publisher that requires you to pay them.
     

Things I learned when I got home:

  1. While I was gone, a large spider moved into my computer room and I must relocate to Canada. I love spiders, but this is not the web-kind. This is the "jump on its prey" kind and I don't need that kind of stress.
     
  2. My cats missed me.
     
  3. My do g is totally exhausted after three days of daycare and it's adorable.

Things I Learned at Balticon

It's actually things I learned or had reinforced at Balticon, but that isn't as snappy a title.

  1. Joe Haldeman's wife is a very sweet lady and I get the honor of calling her "Aunt" now because the whole Haldeclan is a fantastic bunch and will do things like "adopt" friends of the family. I'd never met her before this weekend. I still haven't officially met Joe.
     
  2. Several different people on several different panels said it's really important to read bad books and watch bad movies. Sometimes several times. Watch them and try to find what didn't work. Why is this a bad movie or book? What could fix it? Was their potential in it?
     
  3. There are a lot of highly acclaimed books that are actually pretty crap, and that's OK too. 
     
  4. There is nothing wrong with writing in the second person. 
     
  5. At least one person should hate a choice you made in your writing style.  But if the majority hates it, it was probably a mistake.
     
  6. Never kill the "dog".
    1. If you're going to kill the dog, don't do it by surprise. Foreshadow it so when people go back and re-read they'll realized they should have known all along.
    2. And by "foreshadow" they mean shadow. Don't make it obvious. Make it so the reader goes "Ohhh... that's what <that thing> meant" or "Crap. All those times they made heart attack jokes...".
       
  7. You can always go back and add foreshadowing in a later draft.
     
  8. Reading, researching, listening to music or podcasts, and watching TV can count as "writing time" so don't let people make you feel bad about that.
     
  9. Social media also counts as "writing time" because you're making connections and interacting with your audience. 
     
  10. DO NOT TEAR DOWN OTHER WRITERS.  That can hurt you professionally in so many different ways.
     
  11. DO NOT ARGUE WITH YOUR CRITICS. That can hurt you professionally in so many different ways.
     
  12. Writers' groups are brilliant things.  Also, people who really want to write professionally will not steal your ideas so don't be afraid to share. See rule 10. 
     
  13. You should write every day if you can. If you're in the middle of a depressive episode or totally fried from your day job or due to family stress/commitments, read instead. Watch TV.  Listen to music. See rule 8 and 9. Also rule 12.
     
  14. If you have a full-time job, take a serious break between ending one job and starting the writing. Especially if you work from home and your work space is also your writing space. Go write somewhere else if you can. 
    1. Connie Willis writes at Starbucks.
    2. Panera is also a popular choice.
       
  15. Writing longhand can sometimes help your brain switch between full-time-job and writing. It's also good if your day job involves a lot of typing, or to prevent you from getting stuck in a revision loop and not moving forward.
     
  16. Read the submission guidelines. Every time. Even if you've submitted to the place before because things may have changed. Follow them. Gimmicks or rule-breaking will get their attention, but not in a good way. It can hurt you professionally in so many ways. 
     
  17. Someone out there in the world made an incredibly amazing Dalek costume.

You Know You Don't Update Enough When You Can't Remember Your Password

Over on my Patreon page I'm doing a series of posts for patrons-only. For as little as a dollar a month you can get 30 short stories or scenes. It was supposed to be one a day for 30 days, but this week the non-writing life got a little stressful and while sitting down to write would have been a great stress reliever, sleep was also a pretty tempting stress-reliever. Also on Wednesdays the channel ION has a Law & Order (mothership) Marathon.  I'm still going to do the 30-topic challenge, but it's obvious that it's not going to be a daily thing.

I do a lot of writing longhand when I have some downtime at work: waiting for SQL queries to execute, while processes are running, and during lunch. So when work is busy I don't always get those chances.  When it's busy at work I don't really have the attention span or the energy to spend more time at a computer typing things. 

This means I'm also way behind on my Cannonball Read reviews. I'm only seven books behind in my reviews because I'm not reading a lot either. So I'm actually fourteen books behind, because I have seven to review and I have seven to read to catch up with where I should be in order to read 52 books this year.

The year is just about half over. Time to finally start all those New Year's resolutions and keep moving forward.

Stories About My Dog: Part 2

Never get a terrier.

Terriers are smart, funny, lively, often silly dogs that will bring you great joy but at the same time terriers are smart, snarky little bastards that will challenge everything you do or say. They learn the rules so they know what they're breaking. They constantly push the envelope. The good thing is, if you correct them they don't get offended. "No" isn't a negative to a terrier. It means they need to rethink things and try a different approach to get around the rules. It means they've learned how to push your buttons and will do the unwanted thing often -- usually for comedic purposes.

My dog isn't allowed in the kitchen. That's where the cats eat and it's where the litterbox is kept. There's a gate in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen. The cats can go through the bars or jump over it, but the dog cannot. 

Sometimes when we leave the gate open he'll sit there and stare at the gate as if it were still a barrier. Sometimes he'll whimper or fuss. Sometimes he'll wag his tail very hard and bounce and do his "look at me!" dance.

Sometimes he'll silently put one paw across the line and stare. Waiting. Daring you to say something.  If you don't (or if you don't notice), two paws will cross. He'll just stand there like that -- technically not in the kitchen, but not NOT in the kitchen. 

And then if you look at him, he'll back up and give you this innocent "Oh, was I being bad?" face. 

He will be bad on purpose. Sometimes he gets jealous of the cats. If I'm reading and I have a cat in my lap, Cardiff will purposely get into something. He'll pull junk mail out of the recycling basket, carry it into the middle of the living room, and stare at you while he tears it apart.

If you ever see a terrier keeping its back to the room, take away whatever the dog is chewing on.  It's never going to be a dog toy or a chew treat. It's going to be your earbuds. Or your fountain pen. Or the book you borrowed from your mother.

Cannonball Read 8: Review 5

Disclosure: I was given this novel by the author through a CBR8 giveaway in exchange for a fair review. 

I received the book Friday, March 18, read half of it on the 19th, and the other half today, the 22nd. Life interfered on Sunday and Monday and I couldn't sit down to read it, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about it.

I don't really like using terms like "page-turner" because they're cliche, but this one ... this one really did fly by quickly. The chapters are short - each focusing on a different primary character - and I kept going "Oh, I should do (whatever). One more chapter. Wait, this one's short. I'll just do one more." And that's how I got through half the book in about an hour and a half. 

The book starts in 1995 when fifteen-year-old Amy goes off with some guy. He's older and handsome and she knows her stepfather wouldn't approve but he's so nice to her and he seems to really like her, so she trusts him. 

Of course, she shouldn't  have trusted him. He assaults her and leaves her for dead.  She ends up in a persistent vegetative state. And that brings us to 2010 and journalist Alex Dale. Alex is doing a story on persistent vegetative state and sees Amy in the ward. Alex remembers Amy's story - they're the same age and Alex is aware that she could have just as easily been where Amy is now. Alex (whose personal and professional lives are a mess) decides that her redemption could come from writing about Amy and hopefully closing the case. 

Each chapter does focus on a different character, but the primary characters are few and each one does move the story along. There aren't any characters where I thought "Oh I can skip these".  At about the halfway point I thought I'd figured out who attacked Amy.  A little past that point I thought "Oh, wait. No. I think maybe X attacked her, but it was Y that lured her away." A little later than that I thought "It couldn't possibly have been Z, could it? That would've come out of nowhere."

At the end, I was wrong. The red herrings were carefully placed.  They were small ones. Red guppies, maybe. Carefully worded sentences that could be interpreted a few ways and in a few cases I interpreted wrong (but then thinking back, I could see what Holly Seddon had done and how easily it could have been misunderstood).  So much more satisfying than getting it right early on. I don't doubt that other people will figure it out well before the end, but these people will still keep reading to see how we get there and how the storylines are resolved for the two main characters.

Try Not to Breathe: A Novel
By Holly Seddon

Patreon Reminder

Don't forget. I have a Patreon page. Right now the Spouse is off work recovering from surgery to repair a broken collarbone. If he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid (he's part-time). So throwing a little extra income in this direction will really help. Even just a dollar or two a month!

I'm working on figuring out what to do for rewards for patrons. Normally, if you pledge $10 I'll write you a short story about almost anything you ask. They'll be made available to all the patrons. Right now, in an effort to get some more support going, if you pledge $3.00 or more I'll make you the same offer -- make the pledge and then tell me what you want me to write. It'll then be made available to all patrons.

My Patreon Page is here: https://www.patreon.com/MorganFerdinand

Cannonball Read 8: Review 4

The blurb says this:

An elderly woman is found poisoned in the upstairs bedroom of her home whose front door stands 52 steps above the street in an old-fashioned whodunit that blends clues, red herrings, suspects, and humor.

It has a solid 4 stars. I wanted something fast to read and this promised me funny.  It was free.  I got what I paid for.

Two homicide detectives get a call to investigate a suspicious death in a historic neighborhood. All the houses are built on a hill with a steep set of stairs leading to them.  The cops are both fat. HERE'S THE JOKE, GUYS. TWO FAT GUYS HAVE TO GO UP 52 STEPS.

In print this would be 221 pages. About 200 of those pages are dedicated to how fat these guys are, how hard it is for them to get up these steps, how much they eat, how they mindlessly eat candy while interviewing the granddaughter of the recently deceased, and break for lunch. At one point, going back down to the street, they decide to ROLL DOWN THE HILL.  HA HA HA FUNNY, RIGHT? TWO FAT COPS ROLLING DOWN A HILL.

They end up in the hospital.  These two are a class act, guys.

The "hero" is a guy named Dekker. He claims to be Christian and talks constantly about how he reads his daily devotional and takes the time to reflect on it, but he's downright cruel and offensive to his neighbor, a woman who's clearly interested in him. He lies to her, insults her, and has fantasies about harming her dog.  What a sweetheart! He's a widower who's still in love with his wife who's been dead for decades, and he spends his nights sitting in his living room watching "Make Room for Daddy" and "I Love Lucy". He considers the 50s to be the epitome of comedy, and at one point is disappointed to find out that a DVD of classic commercials is mostly from the 70s. Unsurprisingly, he's also pretty sexist. He'd probably be racist if there were anyone other than middle-class white people in the book.

Dekker also spends a lot of time thinking about his partner.  Dekker will wonder what Lou is doing at night. How he spends his time. What he reads. It's a little weird.

There are a lot of characters introduced. Most of them don't serve any purpose except to be "quirky" for a page or two, and add to the list of suspects. They're all broadly drawn and mostly stereotypes: the nosy neighbor, the single mom with her PTSD son, the elderly woman. The mailman. They're all so generic it's hard to keep them straight.

There are hidden tunnels connecting all of the houses in the neighborhood. Tunnels that are apparently big enough that five or six grown men can spread out to search them. Seriously, they've got cavernous rooms and wide tunnels and I think they even go so far down that they connect to the houses on the other side of the street and ... I got tired of trying to work out the whole thing. This is important to the plot because it's how the murderer was able to kill people without being seen. It's very Scooby-doo, right down to the ending, where it turns out that the murderer was a lawyer who wanted to buy all the real estate! Jinkies!

The writing itself is painful at times.  There's a lot of "'Blah blah blah, Lou.' I said. 'Well Cy, blah blah blah.' He joked. I laughed and then he laughed. And then we laughed until we were huffing and puffing for air." Because the author can't go a page without mentioning that the cops are so fat that they get breathless just talking.  Because that's funny, right?!  There are also pages and pages of wall-of-text pondering from our main character "If X was with Y, then it couldn't have been X. Or was it X and Y?  Did they have a motive? Z had a motive, but an airtight alibi. But what if that alibi wasn't so airtight? What if Q was lying for Z? Except wasn't Z supposed to be out of town? Then how would Q know that Z said that thing about W? Did W have a motive? Was Q covering for W? And... what about Naomi!?"

Seriously. Do yourself a favor. Don't get this book. Not even for charity. Not even for free. Not even for a hate read. Just don't.

Cannonball Read 8: Review 3

Sometimes I want a quick read. A comfortable read where nothing too gross happens. It's what they call a "cozy" mystery. If you're not familiar with the term, think of it as a book that's like an episode of Castle. There's a mystery - usually a death - but it's not described in lurid detail. The main character (almost always a woman) may even say something like "I didn't need a close look to know that <victim> was dead."  There are quirky characters, quirky settings, and an attractive person who's involved in the case in some way (usually a cop).

Sweet and Salty Treachery was just that sort of book. The main character (Ali) is part-owner in a shop that specializes in pastries and smoothies in the morning, lunches paired with desserts in the afternoon. Most of their business comes from providing catered lunches to the offices around the storefront.  When HoneyBuns Sweets and Sandwiches get a last-minute invitation to attend a taste testing to win a spot catering a charity event,  Ali is elated.  She packs up some samples and heads to the hall.

Where, of course, the event planner drops dead immediately after sampling Ali's wares.

And, of course, Ali and her best (journalist) friend end up "investigating" and figuring out who was really behind the murder. The attractive cop saves her at just the right time. 

It was a quick read, and a satisfying one. 

Patreon

I'm on Patreon now. 

I'm really hoping that knowing that people out there are interested in seeing what happens with Nick and Alex will get me back into the writing groove. I fell out of it last year and it got much worse through the last quarter of 2015 when the spouse fell ill. Focusing on work and worrying about him left me little time to think about writing. 

He's improving now and I have a little more time for myself and the urge to write is coming back. 

And let's not mince words -- money is a strong motivator. People can talk about writing for the sake of art or writing because their soul demands it, but being able to pay for meds and cat food, or being able to replace the broken coffee maker is also a great incentive. 

There are rewards for different donation levels, but every donation gets something.  You can donate a dollar a month and still get the short stories, character sketches, and other weird little things. 

If you can donate, thanks!  If you can't, I totally get it. I can't afford to back all the creators I want to, either.  But no matter what, please share this if you can.