Coffee Break

A

wesome! This message is for coffee lovers, coffee likers, and those who say they don’t need coffee, but drink it anyway. If you just have tea, substitute the t word wherever you see the c word.

The most recent study confirms that coffee is not going to kill us. Awesome, I say again! Scientific studies (not the ones that said the opposite) give evidence that the teeny-weeny little parts of coffee that are harmful are so insignificant that we are more apt to die from breathing than from consumption of them.

I cannot remember reading the study that confirmed that cranberries would not kill us. Well, I sort of remember something about one would have to consume a quart a day every day for about 20 or so years for whatever was in the cranberries to do the deed. Oh no! I’ve had about four or more cups (mugs) of coffee nearly every day for far more than 20 years. Four cups is a quart, so… But wait, I drank coffee not cranberry juice.

Then there’s water. A few years ago, a study indicated that mercury (the shiny stuff no longer allowed in thermometers, not the car) in Columbia River water was at a level that death could occur in some users. There is irrefutable evidence that in sufficient quantity, mercury is known to be toxic to humans.

However, I and many others over 80 are survivors of mercury in our mouths because it is found in dental amalgam fillings. Even so, scientific evidence, accumulated over decades, supports the view that there is no clinical evidence of mercury poisoning in people who have amalgam fillings in their mouths. (Well, some say so.) Mercury like nearly everything not manmade is a naturally occurring substance, found in air, water, and soil (Isn’t that everything?).

W

ell, I need to quit before I get into a great controversy I can’t talk my way out of of which I cannot talk my way out. Don’t want to end in a preposition!

And more important, it’s coffee break time.

Keeping Track

T

here was a time when I jotted when and what about my writing on a calendar. When I submitted something, I noted it, but it was easy to flip past submitted dates and due dates with other notes the pages. When I did college papers, I was encouraged (demanded in some classes) to use the alleged tried and true 3×5 index cards for notes. Blah, ba, ba, bid, blah… [I lost too many to make the system work for me and when I taught junior high and high school classes, I didn’t require a specific system of note taking.]

My first serious attempt at a novel was a story based on research I did for a historical geography class. I had pounds of notes (none on 3×5 cards) and copies of book pages from the university library. Internet search was as available as voice radio in the 1800s. It was fun developing a teenage boy who could read and write his native Russian and had listening knowledge of Spanish in an era when only the rich or politically connected were exposed to education. Why I dropped the project is another story.

My first published novel An Odyssey of Illusions had three major characters and over 70 minor characters. Several of my readers had trouble knowing who each was, their relationship to the main character, as well as when and where they fit into the story. I’d spent several months drafting when I discovered I’d given two characters the same name. I went page by page and entered each name and relationship to my primary guy into an Excel spreadsheet. A simple sort gave me a list of names and relationships up that point in the manuscript. As a new character came into play, I simply entered and sorted and had no more duplicates, but I found a few variations in the spelling of some names not caught by spellcheck.

When I picked a name for the first character name I would use in Echoes of Nam, the second thing I did was set up a spreadsheet. I added a historical event and location sheet also. When I decided to make a name change, I made the change on the spreadsheet, then made a find and replace in the manuscript.

Consistent time and place is important too. History buffs would know immediately that the TET wasn’t in 1967 etc. Neither would a citizen of Portland, OR, question having a character in the story with a Goose Hollow apartment.

Is it important to keep track? Absolutely! Did Dennis Rodman go to Korea before or after President Trump’s trip to the Middle East and Europe? The events are in correct order in Nescient Decoy.

When I worked with church finances, I used QuickBooks. Benson Tech Write is my business, so I bought my own copy and started making entries to match my writing. My version of QB was eventually no longer completely supported by my upgraded equipment. I wasn’t bringing in a best seller income from writing, so a new version seemed impractical.

I use a simple Excel spreadsheet for in/out money related to writing. It’s easy to tell that it’s cost more than gain to write. [But remember IRS does not allow more deductions than income.]

Because I’ve started to do more flash fiction and that type of writing, I added a spreadsheet for when submitted, accepted, and rejected for each. That seems to be working, so I’m adding a due date for projects by name and publisher.

And, I only have to open one file to keep track of all of the above, so at the end of a day or session, I open it note my time spent on a project and add 15 minutes to my admin column and if asked, I can tell how much time I’ve spent on what.

If anyone can explain where I was going with “Thursday Report,” please let me know. Yes! I left that line here on purpose!

Thursday Report

W

hy is this titled Thursday Report? It’s Thursday Silly! Well OK! I started this yesterday!

To show a little continuity with “Nothing to Do” (a random thought), the sprinkler head has not been repaired. Well, I did buy the part. I know I’ll get to it, but it’s rained enough so the lawn isn’t in danger of browning up in that area.

Speaking of browning up – why is not having that event so important? It might just fall into the category of why is keeping the lawn between 2.5 and 2.75 inches (give or take .5 inches) high during the spring, summer and autumn months.

That brings to my mind what one of my favorite authors allegedly said about his yard/lawn. I don’t know if there is any truth to a story I heard about Mickey Spillane, whose Mike Hammer novels made him one of the best-selling and best-paid novelists of the 1950s.

Supposedly, Spillane was on his porch drinking a beer and watching his neighbor mow. The neighbor said that he (Spillane) should do something about his unkempt front yard. As the story goes, Spillane said (I paraphrase), “Next November, both our yards will be covered with snow and I would have enjoyed a beer while you were sweating your _____ (chose a word that gives you the most meaning) off.”

I’d like to have that attitude, and I’d like to have written more than 50 books and dozens of published short stories. And his characters in movies…

F

riday morning: This being my 226th blog in this URL/domain name, I’m reasonably sure it’s not accomplished what an earlier guru said it would. I had an earlier blog with aa different domain when I needed a place to practice HTML for a job requirement. After leaving that life, I used it to post assignments for students, but that was before nearly universal access to the internet. Allegedly those who had those tools sold more books.

Whoops – as usual I’m off track. I was following a recommended process for building a platform: build a web site – social media account – professional media account – professional E-mail account – follow and like other sites, etc. It wasn’t long before my email box was nearly full every day – nothing to the advancement of my writing, but mostly promotion of devices or software to increase nearly everything writing related and persons promoting their own work. I found that I could pay for almost anything. OK, that’s my gripe for this Thursday Friday.

Early on I posted a number of stories about when I was young that had been told to my grandchildren. One of them suggested I publish them so others could see how it was then. I’ve been working on that, some of my old ideas, some flash fiction, and a new idea based on a good response to a flash fiction piece.

I responded to Turning the Page on a New Generation of Publishers. The writer is an instructor in the Portland State University’s graduate program in Book Publishing which has had a manuscript of mine in review since last December. It was confirmed by Ooligan Press Acquisitions to still be in review the first of April, but It might be time to seek another publisher since the academic quarter ends in a few weeks.

If anyone can explain where I was going with this “Thursday Report,” please let me know.

Nothing to Do

T

wo years ago, next week, I was sitting on a lawn chair on my deck reading Mark Vonnegut’s Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So and had an observation of myself from afar. I had the thought that someone peering over the fence could think I was mentally ill. Mark Vonnegut is a highly educated (BA, Swarthmore College – MD Harvard Medical School) and accomplished man who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

The sun was bearing down making the deck surface temperature in the low or middle 80s, and I was dressed in jeans, sweatshirt, wool socks, and a wide-brim hat. My thought was that one would more likely expect to see someone catching the post rainy season rays bear-chested in swimming shorts. Who wears layers of clothing on the deck on one of the first sunny, over 70°, days of the year?

Well, I was in my 8th day of recovery from very invasive intestinal surgery. I’d purposely and progressively reduced my Norco (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) intake from 2 tablets every 4 hours to ½ tablet every five hours. But, I still didn’t want to fall asleep and get overexposed to the sun. Can you imagine sunburn on and around of a row of ten staples on your abdomen?

Back to what I gleaned from the book. Mental illness has nothing to do with intelligence, and intelligence has nothing to do with morality. Thus (or perhaps not thus), morality has nothing to do with mental illness, etc., etc.

So, after reading the book, and re-reading some parts, I have a somewhat different perspective when I see someone by outward appearance homeless or acting strangely (harmful and illegal behavior excluded). I now wonder if the poorly dressed man in a city portico has an engineering degree or if bag lady was a pediatrician.

Now two years after that day, I contemplate sitting on the deck in shorts. Yikes! Who’d want to look over the fence and see my 82-year-old sagging ______ (fill in the blank). These two years post cancer, I’ve been dressing to keep the sun from contributing to another round even if my tests have shown zero markers since the surgery.

As I check the sprinklers in preparation for the predicted hot, dry summer, I try to remember my thoughts (or at least some of them) from that time. Perhaps the Norco had control at the time and my thoughts were just one of its side effects mixed with another – delusions paired with drowsiness.
Did I really read Vonnegut’s book? I did, but it probably took me twice as long as it would under a normal state of being.

I do remember thinking about my garden which the year before produced what you see here.
There will be no garden this year because (need to think of an excuse to put here). Last year the garden was as if I’d made an attempt to grow something in dust bowl impacted North Dakota soil. The weather wasn’t bad the year of my surgery, but I’d not been able to put down every other year steer manure compost my clay dominant soil requires.

As many of you probably suspect, my having gone through the cancer sequence, but without radiation or chemo, gave me a sense of urgency to finish Nescient Decoy and Echoes of Nam. It’s time to admit that I did.

By my randomness, would you suspect I had nothing to do today? Well, there was the repairing of a broken sprinkler head.

Catching Up

S

pring is in the air (well for those of us in the Pacific Northwest). Our sixth annual and by consensus our last Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoe Box program supporting garage sale is over. The oldest of the workers for our sale is 91 and the youngest is 68 and we all have the stamina of our average age – >79. We were blessed with ‘for sale’ items contributed for the program that brought in just over $2,000 over six sales. My garage is clean and both vehicles are again spending their nights out of the rain. Did I mention spring in the PNW?

Since the sale on April 12 and 13, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek long short story or short novella birthday present for a son-in-law who enjoys the 1930s/1940s detective genre. Until he reads it, I’ll not provide a spoiler. I also sent a short to The First Line. It is a quarterly that gives “an exercise in creativity for writers and a chance for readers to see how many different directions we can take when we start from the same place.” Now I’m exploring another publication The Last Line published by Blue Cubicle Press. My short stories may not be published with BCP, but I’m having fun doing them.
In my last blog, I said, “How would I feel if I walked into a G-sale and found Nescient Decoy, Echoes of Nam, or An Odyssey of Illusions for a quarter?” I had some clever, inspirational, and positive responses, but all but one was through the contact page. Three comments on the page were part of a troubleshooting experience with WP involving a frequent reader whose comments were not accepted by this forum. {I have been able to comment on her blog https://www.janpierce.net/blog.} The only thing determined was that this site was not actively (or covertly) rejecting that friend’s comments. I’d like any comments on this page, even if it’s, “I read your page,” so I can continue the troubleshooting process.