Monday, August 31, 2015

The Drying Time

The last part of summer 2015 has been the driest period that I've experienced since moving here to Louisiana in 1986. We saw just how dry when Lana and I took a walk yesterday at the Abita Springs Flatwood Nature Preserve.

A creek flows through the Flatwoods, which is primarily a pine savanna. Most years in late summer, the creek is no longer running but still has one large, deep, long pool, and a few smaller ones. We had noticed a week ago how low the main pool had gotten and how shortened it was. Yesterday we saw that it was down to quite a small mudhole and were saddened to see a bloat of dead fish all around its banks. I imagine they simply ran out of oxygen. (The following pictures are not pleasant to look at, but you can click on them to enlarge them.)

One thing you don't see in these pics, and I didn't know it was there until we got home and Lana started processing the images, is that there's a very much alive snake curled up under one of the logs. Last week we saw it catching what appeared to be a frog in the pool. You also don't see the numerous raccoon tracks in the surrounding mud.

In some ways, even sadder than the many dead fish were the fifty or sixty small catfish swimming aimlessly around and around in the remnant. Mudcats are tough but unless we get some rain in the next day or so they won’t make it either. 

After seeing this, I walked about a few hundred yards along the creek and found not a single other pool. There were a few spots where the mud was still barely damp, but no other water at all.  The animals that come to our yard are faring better because in addition to food we’ve been putting out water each day. Still, I hope we get some rain soon.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Hint of the Cool

I stepped out the door at about 6:15 AM on Monday and found it refreshingly cool. It’s been a long, hot summer. That’s not unusual for us down here; I can’t say it’s been much different than any of our other summers as far as the heat goes. It has been, however, a drier summer than we are used to. The big creek at the Flatwoods nature preserve near our house is almost totally dry. There’s only one pocket of water left, and it is rapidly disappearing. I’ve never seen it this low since we moved into our place in 2006. We’ve been putting out some water for the birds and other critters in our back yard.

I’m glad to see the worst heat behind us, although we’ll still have some pretty brutal days. I’ve never been one to particularly mind the cold, although I’ve always lived in the south where the colder temperatures seldom get to the extreme. In the time I’ve been in Louisiana, it has only gone below ten degrees once, and that was a cold snap that lasted several days. I’ve seen snow about three times since 1986, two of those since we moved to the Northshore after Hurricane Katrina. The snow has never lingered more than a few hours.

Frankly, I rather enjoy cold temperatures, at least as long as I can eventually find a place to get warm. Down here, I tend to wear short sleeve shirts year around, although in the coldest period of our year, usually January-February, I may pair the shirt with a windbreaker when I’m outside. During our “winter,” which has to be put in quotation marks for those who might mistake it for a real winter, I often get asked by people at school: “Aren’t you cold?” This is because they are wearing a heavy coat and gloves while I’m still wearing my t-shirt.  These days I just respond with: “Aren’t you hot?”

Just like how, sometimes, I feel as if I were born out of time, I often feel as if I were born out of place. Maybe I should have been a Neanderthal in Ice Age Europe.

Come to think of it, maybe I was.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Gods of Talera Progress

I'm working on the fifth book in the Talera series at present. The title is Gods of Talera, and it will bring to conclusion a number of threads that have been running throughout the previous books. Mid-summer, from mid-June through mid-July were a highly productive time for me. During about five weeks, I wrote over 25,000 words on the project. 

Then in late July the real world came back to intrude in a big way and my production dropped way off. Week-long plumbing problems, the AC going out, Lana's surgery, blood tests for me, more AC issues, taking back chairship of the research IRB committee at work, and then getting ready for the fall return to school, brought my writing to a near standstill. I've managed only a few thousand words since that all started. 

Nevertheless, the book is still moving forward and I'm at 58,000 words on it now. I can largely see my way through to the end, although exact details are still a bit hazy. I had originally hoped to have a strong rough draft done by the time school started, but now I'm pushing my schedule back and plan to have the final work done by Christmas. We'll see.

 A lot will depend on how heavy the school year  is. When I was younger I could work an 8 or 9 hour day at school and then come home and still write another couple of hours. That's really not happening for me much these days. Much of that is physical. By the end of a day my legs often ache and throb so badly that I can hardly sit in a chair. Plus, my emotional state is not as responsive as it once was. It takes me longer to recover from emotional shocks and I'm not as able to lose myself in writing in response to emotional upset as I once was. 

The secret, of course, is to find workarounds for those things that throw me off. I've always been able to do so before and probably will now as well. The main thing it takes is will. 


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sorry I Haven't Been Around

School started Wednesday and I've been doing 12 hour days. No chance to visit blogs and tomorrow is not likely to be any different. I should be around for a visit this weekend and sometime next week should be getting back to a somewhat normal routine.

Part of the reason for the long hours is that Xavier experienced a nice enrollment increase and our department had one of the biggest increases of all. Great to see after a few years of falling enrollments. Certainly increases our work load, though.



Sunday, August 16, 2015

A New (for us) Approach to TV

TV has just never been important to me. There are a few shows that I really like and that have been an influence on my writing, but most are forgotten within an hour of having watched them. Star Trek is an exception, although I also read quite a few Star Trek related works.

Recently, however, Lana and I changed our viewing habits and that has led to a slight increase in my appreciation for TV. Because of budget constraints, we got rid of all but our basic cable package, and that meant a lot of shows that I might have caught here and there were no longer available to us. Since Lana works at the library, though, we decided to start picking up series from the library and watching them a season at a time, meaning an episode or two a night.

We started with Game of Thrones, which Lana had already watched in this fashion. But getting a chance to see a couple of episodes a night and watching the series straight through a season over a week or so quickly got me involved in the series. When we ran out of Game of Thrones, we started with Breaking Bad, and I was quickly hooked. I also suggested an old TV series called "The Invaders," which I had seen some episodes of. Although not nearly as compelling, we are now on season 2 of the two season show. Of course, there were like 20 episodes a season back then.

We still have some seasons of Breaking Bad, and one of Game of Thrones. After that we'll want to do The Walking Dead when we can get the new season. Some other shows we may try this way, Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Lost, The X Files. I'm certainly liking this way of viewing things better than how I did it before. I've tried to watch series and generally always miss episodes here and there, which gradually leads to me losing interest in the show. This way of viewing helps keep my interest up, and Lana and I have always watched an hour or so of TV together of a night when we eat our meals so it fits our habit already.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Blog Format Change

Well, I've been blogging for a lot of years now, and during all that time I've not changed the background. I probably still wouldn't have if my template hadn't gotten corrupted. Apparently, Amazon changed some of their links and my sidebar suddenly lost all the images of my books and instead showed some meaningless political message.

With some dread, I set out to update my format. I figured it was going to be a huge pain in the butt. Instead, blogger made it virtually painless.I chose the simple template and blogger did all the work with uploading the actual posts. All of the long and laborious links to other blogs disappeared of course, as well as all the links on Amazon to my books. However, the links badly needed updating anyway. I've put in a few links anew, ones that link to my Amazon author's page and my Wildside Press page, but haven't gotten around to any other links yet. Not sure when that will happen, if ever.

So what do you think? Does the new format look OK to everyone?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Something Weird

Well, a few of you may have noticed some weird thing on the right side of my blog. Some "fight hunger" screen has replaced all the links to my books. Don't know how this happened and can't find the relevant problems in the template so I'm going to try today to upgrade my template. If my blog completely disappears, you'll know I've failed.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Summer's Passing

Don't know how so much of the summer got away from me. Or actually, I guess I do know. Summer started with a lot of issues and I didn't get much writing done, but then around mid-June things calmed down and I started to surge on the writing. For almost five weeks I was able to write pretty much every day and my output surged from 4 to 5 hundred word a day to a high of over 2000 a day. It settled down to at least a thousand a day and I added about 25,000 words to Gods of Talera.

No good streak continues in my world, though. Toward the middle of July, Lana's car completely failed and we had to get another one. Then our plumbing stopped up and we were without flushing toilets and showers for about a week. Around the same time the AC started giving us trouble. Lana had a minor surgery during this time, then had to have a major one at the start of August. Most of three weeks went up in flames as far as writing goes.

And when I started to lift my head again after all that, well, it was time to start worrying about school. Unfortunately, my summer vacation from the IRB committee that I serve as chair of ended early and I'm back in the saddle there. Feeling really down about all this stuff, I've taken the last two days off and just played Skyrim.

For all  of my adult life I've worked an academic job. During the school year I rob my leisure time to write. Whenever I've had breaks, at Christmas, or during the summers these last ten years, I've converted my normal working hours into writing. Can't say I see a whole lot of accomplishment from all that. I've got some books out, some stories. I sell a few here and there but never see any real growth in sales.  Writing has certainly not been able to replace the money I'd make if I taught summer school.

I didn't really start off this post meaning to whine, but I guess I have. I figure for the next couple of years I'll just go back to teaching in the summer. Maybe I'll start taking some long breaks from writing. By now it's become at least partly a habit, though. Since the main reason I started this blog was because of the writing, I may cut back on posting even more as well. I've been banging my head against a wall for a lot of years now. The wall's still there. My head hurts.


Sunday, August 02, 2015

Singing versus Music

Lana and I had an interesting discussion yesterday about our musical tastes. Hers are much more eclectic than mine. She likes Metallica and Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow and Motley Crue. I hesitate to say it, but she also likes some….disco. Me? I like hard rock and heavy metal. And that’s pretty much it.

In our discussion yesterday, I had a bit of an epiphany about my own musical tastes. That is, I like music that is heavy on the music, and I don’t care about the singing. Lana appreciates both aspects of music, but—for me—the singing is simply…meh. I won’t listen to music just for the sound of the singer’s voice. The music itself has to be catchy and, generally, full of energy and intensity.

I’m going to link to some examples to illustrate my points. First up is “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. I’ve listened to this song several times with Lana and apparently I always say I like it. However, I never seem to remember it next time Lana mentions it, as she did yesterday. So I went and listened to it with my new thoughts on the subject. It’s a good illustration of my point. First let me say, I really like the singer’s voice modulation in this song. However, “Rolling in the Deep” is about the singing, not the music. In fact, to me, the music is virtually non-existent, and is not really important to the effect of the song. It’s all about the voice. 

In contrast, after watching the Adele video, I felt a need for some heavier stuff. I called up “Albatross” by Corrosion of Conformity. Instantly, a surge of energy swept through me. I became aware of my heartbeat, of the taste in my mouth, of the way my eyes moved in their sockets. My fingers started to drum. Other than the word “albatross,” I scarcely know what the singer is saying in this song. Nor do I care. This song is about the music. The voice is a compliment at best. 

I decided to give another work a listen, and chose “Angel” by Sepultura, which is a remake of a Massive Attack song. The music here starts out very slow. It’s almost non-existent, much like in the Adele song. First there are just the words of the singer. But then the music starts to build, it starts to hammer, it starts to scream. My scalp tingles. My body flushes hot and cold. I didn’t see them but I know my pupils dilated. The voice of the singer is mostly just a shriek now. There’s no Adele level modulation of the voice. In fact, half the time he isn’t singing real words. I don’t care. This is what I listen to music for—the power and the glory.