I'm off work today for Confederate Memorial Day. Believe me, we got plenty of flack when they started giving us that day off as a holiday. It was actually part of the compromise for removing the Confederate Flag from the State House dome. As part of the deal, the flag was moved, and Martin Luther King, Jr., day and Confederate Memorial Day were added as official State Holidays (but I think State Employees are the only ones that actually close their offices on this day).
I know it's obscure, but before you start squawking tell me: Would you refuse a day off? I won't. Not even on principle. Plus, honestly, I think they're required to give us so many holidays a year and I think we just ran out of the major ones, so we had to move on to secondary ones to get the extra day in.
Well, a day off's a day off, and I plan to enjoy it. It gives me a chance to get some little things done that usually sit until they pile up to the point where I have to make time for them. That's good. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that efficient time management is a must for a busy lifestyle.
That's a good point to ponder on this extra day off. Somebody asked me recently how on earth I find time to write with a full time job. The short answer is efficient time management. I'm lucky that I was taught that in college, and it's one of the skills I've found most useful in my life. It isn't always easy, but the truth is that we make time for things that are important to us, whether we realize it or not. Writing nights and weekends is the obvious answer, but I have to admit that I make a fair amount of progress by taking my laptop to work and writing on lunch breaks too. It's only an hour, but if I do that two times a week then it's the equivalent to another weeknight of work. And another secret is that I don't watch much TV. I watch 3 shows during the fall season (Arrow, Supernatural, and The Americans - all come on the same night, so I can "block out" Wednesday nights for that), and 1 show during the summer (Breaking Bad). I look up news and weather online so I don't have to watch it on TV. And yes, occasionally I do forego recreation to get writing done. I've passed on watching football games, lunches out, and shopping or "hanging out" on days off like today to write. And I have to humbly admit that I even write on sick days, if possible. One reason I made good progress on my novella this week was because I was sick with a virus Monday, but I drug myself out of bed and wrote a chapter anyway. It isn't always easy, but with some planning you can make time for things.
I tell you, a busy life is a blessing. It's a life of abundance, but you have to manage it wisely to experience and enjoy it to the fullest.
Speaking of the novella, it has a name now - Incursion. It looks like it going to be 10 chapters with a prologue and epilogue. I know the pros recommend against prologues and epilogues, but I like it and that's my style. If people like the piece then they'll read it. Plus, I endeavor to keep them short. To me, they're the bookends of the story and I'm not going to abandon them just because it isn't popular. Platform shoes went out of style after the 70's, but darn if I don't see women wearing those atrocities again all the time. So there. Style is a poor reason to change something that works for you. Or to do something that doesn't work.
Anyway, I've written 5 chapters so far, which is excellent progress. More than I expected at this point, really. But alas, I did push myself to make this progress and my wrists are achey, so once I complete this entry then I do plan to take a break from the keyboard for the rest of today and tomorrow. You have to balance the planning and time management with common sense, and I won't make any progress at all if I push it too far with my wrist. So given my good progress this week, I'm using today to spend time with other people and things that I wish to nurture in my life. Like hanging out with the birds, tending my roses, and having lunch with Mom. A day off is a rare gift, and I want to enjoy it to the fullest.
That's all today. I hope you have a Happy Friday and that the mom's out there have a good Mother's Day.
It figures. Yesterday was a chaotic day from hell and what happens?
I have an idea for a novella.
Isn't that the way? You have a day when it's all hitting the fan and suddenly your muse decides to return from it's Grand Canyon vacation, or wherever the heck he was anyway.
It actually started out as a short story. I had to take my laptop to work for a meeting and decided to write a rough draft of this vague idea I had for a sci-fi story. I spent the entire hour writing and still wasn't satisfied. It was while I was hustling through the afternoon portion of the chaos that it hit me: What I just wrote was part of a bigger story. So I dug up some of my research from when I wrote Splinter. I brainstormed. And darn if I didn't come up with an outline by the time I left for work today.
The good news is that the story is set in the Jovan system just like Splinter, so I don't need to do any additional research. Well, that I know of now, anyway. You know how things pop up as you write. But still, I can reuse a lot of it and many of the pieces are in place. I'm so excited! I think this will be my summer writing project. And you know me - I'm most content when I'm working on a writing project.
Here's the basic outline I came up with:
Prologue - History of the future
1. Jovan Council discovers a nuclear weapon has been detonated on Earth & the magnetosphere is showing signs of shifting.
2. Council reviews/debates consequences. Speculates on causes. Decides to ban further immigration from Earth due to radiation & uncertain political situation.
3. Ship openly goes to Earth to deliver sentence.
4. Return to Jovan system to confirm the mission is complete.
Epilogue - Earth's fate.
This is general and will likely be changed by the time I finish part 1. Still, it's a plan to work from, and a plan is good. Truth is, I don't even have a working title, and I'm still not sure what Earth's fate will be. I suppose it depends on whether I'm having a good day or a bad day when I get around to writing that part :)
I'd like to keep this in the range of a novella; perhaps 20,000 - 25,000 words. I'd like for it to be longer than Quarantine but not a full length novel. I need to get some more "quick reads" out there for readers. People seem to enjoy those. Since it's so short, I plan to self-publish this piece.
Of course, I'll keep you updated on my progress and will no doubt share excerpts as it progresses.
That's all today. Take care and have a great rest of the week.
Many of you already know that I'm a proud "mommy hen" to 3 birds - Oliver (Ollie) the budgie, Zacchaeus (Zack) the sun conure, and Chloe the sun conure. Heck, they even have their own website and blog over at http://conurecorner.weebly.com
and Zack and Chloe are on Twitter as @wazzupzack and @ChloeConure.
But these aren't the first birds I've had. In fact, I had 3 birds when I was in middle school - college too (hmm, it seems that having a 3 bird home is becoming something of a pattern with me. Yep, back then it was just 3 budgies: Petesy, Samson (Sammy) and Delilah. Don't laugh, because I started getting these birds with I was 10 years old, and I didn't get to name any of them. Mom named Samson and Delilah, and we adopted Petesy from a great aunt that went in a nursing home with Alzheimers.
My apologies for the poor quality of this photo. It was taken with a Poloroid camera sometime around 1992 - 1993 and I scanned it because it's the only picture I had of all 3 of them.
I will say, too, that bird care has come a long way since I adopted Sammy at the tender age of 10 in 1985. We know so much more about better food, better toys, better cage design, and even how to arrange our homes for birds to have happier, healthier, and longer lives. In fact, the average life expectancy of a budgie back then was 5-7 years. When we got Ollie in 2010, I was told it's now around 15 years. I think that speaks to exponential increases in the lifestyle of our avian companions.
These discoveries are great, but I'm discouraged by the fact that many people don't seem to realize the improvements that have come along in the past couple of decades for bird care. Oh, the people I run across online are savvy and up on things. I believe it's because the Internet and social media is a great tool for spreading the word to other bird owners on our discoveries in this area. But at the local level, I'm still shocked by people that continue to buy crappy seed and shoddy toys at Walmart or the grocery store, and wonder why their bird always seems lethargic and sick. Or that don't provide fresh paper in cages, or use cage skirts, or deep clean at least weekly and wonder why the area around the bird cage is a smelly mess. Or get frustrated with their bird gets noisy, covers then, then wonders why that pissed them off even more. Or worst of all - they do everything right and are loving owners, but they don't clip the bird's wings, then are absolutely dismayed when they walk outside one day and the bird flys away because it saw a predator they didn't, and it's never found.
Yes, there is a lot to learn about bird ownership, and although there are many books on the market to tell you how to care for them, most of them are species specific. You get great information on how to care for that particular bird, but they lack in the good, old fashioned common sense things you need to learn about having a bird in your home. Plus more people have dogs and cats, so naturally most of the "pet book" market is dedicated to them. The information for birds is out there, but it's scattered and has to be gathered.
In perusing my Sun Conures Yahoo Group and Twitter, I started to think "if only there were a book that gave that good, general advice. We recently helped to rehome a green cheek conure that was found at Rick's work, and in thinking about all the things the new bird owner needed to know, it occured to me. Hey, I'm a writer. And they always say, if you're a writer and the book you want to read isn't out there, then write it yourself.
And so, welcome to the catalyst for my next book project. I'm planning to write a non-fiction book about basic things you need to know about integrating an avian companion in your home. Some of the topics I plan to discuss are:
· Birds & your lifestyle – what’s best for you, what’s best for them.
· Cages – best style, easy cleaning, mess control.
· Feeding – pellets, seed, and snacks. What foods are good to share.
· Toys – chew/preening/snuggle – and don’t forget happy huts and mirrors (for keets!).
· Adapting your home. Cleaning, organization, what you can’t have. Tips & tricks
· Socialization – establishing a flock and helping them adjust.
· Training. Yes, you can teach them. No, it’s not 100%. Anything’s better than nothing.
· Multiple bird homes. Cause birds are like potato chips – you can’t have just 1.
· General tips to make your life and home happy and less stressful.
· Fun ending – why birds are the best pets.
So, what do you think? I especially welcome feedback from my avian friends and their human parents. Does this sound like a good idea - and if so, are there any other things you can think of that would be good to cover? This project is on the drawing board, so let me know what you think.
I think this will also be a fun project. I haven't done much non-fiction, and this is an area where I know a lot through experience. Heck, you know I'll share more than a few bird stories along the way too. I'll be sure to let you know when I start, and of course will post excerpts. It's always exciting when you have a new project to start - and I'm doubly excited because I'm also still working on my mystery novel. Move is getting to a halfway point, and this is in the brainstorming phase right now. Since I don't do short stories any more (I only do books and blogging), then I believe I can handle two concurrent projects as long as they're in different stages.
That's all for today. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Yep, that's the right word to describe my schedule these days. It seems there's always something going on. Over the past few weeks we've visited with family, visited with friends, did work on our committees at church, and cleaned house. Work is chaos with license renewals for our biggest program and the legislature making the final push to get things running before regulations time out this month and next month. This has been a brutal session because they're questioning everything with fees down to the jot and tittle and guess what? There are fees in one of my regulations.The June 7 close of the session will be a huge relief - for better or for worse. So that's meant a lot of meetings, on top of meetings I've already had.
Add to that the fact that I didn't feel 100% well with my sinuses 2 days this week but couldn't take off because I had meetings (big surprise), that our big "Share Our Stuff" spring event is tomorrow morning at the church, and I started writing my new book (Move), this week and - yea, insanity.
Incidentally, it's not really out of place for me to start writing a book when things are crazy. It seems the inspiration always hits when I don't have a minute to spare and it seems I have to sledgehammer time into my schedule to peck some research here and a chapter there. I can't explain it. Things will be calm and I'll have writer's block, but let my schedule fill up with dots on every day of my calendar in my iPhone, and the muse is firing off left and right. Maybe the high level of activity feeds inspiration, or gives me more to draw off of. I have to admit that I pounded out a chapter today durning my lunch hour with no problem. In fact, sometimes I find it easier to write scenes there that are in a work related setting. Maybe it's because I'm already in a work-mindset and I can draw inspiration from what I've been dealing with recently. Yes, it's easiest to write in the quiet with free time, but sometimes those short slices of free time feed my muse, I guess by allowing me to draw inspiration from recent experience.
Or maybe I'm just weird and have a busy lifestyle where I've adapted to being able to write anytime I can find a minute. I learned in college that there's no such thing as dead time. They taught me to be a master at handling my schedule and I learned I can squeeze things into every minute of every day. In fact, sometimes I have to plan to take time off. I guess I'm driven. It seems I always have some personal project going on top of everything else. No sooner do I finish the birdhouse village than I'm off and running on my next novel. This one should keep me occupied for a while - and there's no telling what's next.
That's all for today. Happy Friday to you. I hope you have a great weekend.
The pieces that have been floating around for a while and they finally came together. I have the basis for my next book. It's just an idea right now; very rough and full of gaps, but there's enough pieces in place to know that the gaps will fill in and lead to my next book.
The early stages are exciting, but also confusing. There are so many possibilities. My first step is to research. All writers must face the "suspension of disbelief" factor, and the way to do that is to have a base of truth to the story. Believe it or not, this is true of any genre. Even science fiction and fantasy must have constants in place that can be applied to give readers a basis to hang that suspension on - after all, if there's truth that we can realte to in the world we know, then we can suspend our disbelief when we take it on a path that diverts from that truth. My story is going to be mystery (big surprise) with an element of urban fantasy. I have a lot of research to do for this one, but it will be worth it. And often, the research helps the story to fill out by giving the writer more pieces to work with and more importantly, to manipulate.
I've started, though, and I'm excited. I have some good, solid brainstorming notes, which provide a great place to start developing the plot and directing my research. And so, my next book project starts.
Welcome to the journey. I hope you enjoy it.
That's all today. Take care, and I hope the rest of your week goes well.