The Bullet Journal

No, this is not a discussion on firearms. In my never-ending quest to find better ways to do things, I recently came across the Bullet Journal.

The basic idea is to help you keep track of your information, tasks, appointments, etc. using a good old-fashioned notebook and a pen. You set up the notebook using the Bullet Journal system and create various parts like an Index, a Future Log, a Month Log, a Day Log, Collections and more. You are encouraged to use the parts of the system that work for you, delete or modify the parts that don't, and add in new parts that suit your individual needs.

After you have it set up, you add your information using various symbols and short sentences to the appropriate parts of the journal. A dot indicates a task, a circle indicates an event and a dash indicates a note. This lets you know what category of information you are dealing with at a glance. You can also add signifiers, like an asterisk to indicate something is important. (There are, of course, 'hacks' out there for different symbol systems.)

There are a lot of moving parts to getting a book to market beyond putting words together in a coherent format. You need to run it past beta readers and editors, incorporate any feedback into revisions, produce the book (designing the cover or having it done for you, generating the eBook files, generating the print book files, getting proof copies of the print book and making corrections if necessary, create a good title and cover blurb, make audio recordings, etc.) and finally get it on to the market through distributors like Amazon, etc.

I'm hoping that the Bullet Journal will help me keep better track of all this. My current system is what you might call 'organized chaos.' But that is not a good long-term strategy. I generally know where things are in my environment and as long as people don't come in and move anything, I'm usually pretty good about retrieving things. I generally know where I am in the above process with any given work, but I'm just starting out. I'm sure as time goes on, being more organized will be of great benefit.

There is a whole community that has sprung up around this technique. Many participants recommend fancy notebooks, but to start off I'm using a plain spiral-bound notebook. There are many YouTube videos created by the community showing off different 'hacks' to the system. Many of the participants are also quite creative in 'decorating' their pages with art and stickers, truly making the system their own.

I started today and I'll try it out for a month or so, then evaluate whether or not it is helping me. Here's hoping it proves useful.

My dee-oh-gee is oh-cee-dee

Every month or so for the last year, my dog has found one of the many neighborhood wandering cats in one of the many drainage ditch pipes along our street.

He is very cat aggressive and gets in that 'stalking pose' that dogs do when they hunt - standing still, head raised, nose sniffing in the air, one paw off the ground, intense focus on something that no one else can see.

Usually the cat can escape by running out the other side of the pipe and away into a neighboring yard. Most of the time I see them beforehand and can drag Durango away before anything happens.

Well, about a month ago, there was a cat in one of the pipes and it didn't run away when we came by. Durango started pulling on his leash and managed to stick his nose in the pipe. The cat promptly swatted him, which made him want to get at it even more. When I finally pulled him out he had blood on his nose and was still trying to get the cat.

The next day we came up to the same spot but this time the cat was ready for us. As we got closer, it jumped out of the pipe, hissing at us, with the hair up on its arched back. I pulled Durango away and kept going with the walk. This happened twice more until finally he bolted after the cat, who wisely went through the pipe, out the other end, and off into the neighbor's yard.

Fast forward to last week. We were just ending our walk when Durango bolted after something in the drainage pipe by the house. This particular one doesn't go anywhere, just the grating in the street to drain the water, and the outlet of the pipe into the drainage ditch. Whatever he cornered in there was trapped with no place to go. He was barking up a storm and I had to put all my weight into dragging him out. Again he had a bloody nose but more so than the first time. As we left I turned and watched the cat run out of the pipe and back home. (Just glad it wasn't a skunk, or a rabid racoon.)

I finally got him back to the house and as I was going to get the hydrogen peroxide he went and jumped on my bed, then proceeded to wipe his bloody nose all over my sheets. I cornered him, cleaned the wound, and pushed him off the bed so I could change them.

This morning we were out walking and there was a cat hiding in the tall grass of one house (they really need to mow their lawn). The cat was doing such a good job that neither Durango nor I knew it was there until we were within three feet of it. Then the cat jumped up, Durango leapt at the cat, and the cat swatted him. Again I had to drag him away.

So, now, he thinks that cats live in every drainage pipe in our neighborhood. We have to stop at them all so he can sniff to make sure the world is free of those horrid felines.

Anyone have Caesar Milan's phone number?

31 Days of Flash Fiction - The Aftermath

I set a goal for myself to write a flash fiction story (a complete story told in 500 words, or less - usually) every day in July. And as of July 31 I completed that challenge, having completed all 31 stories.

So, what comes next?

Ideally, I'd put them altogether in an anthology and sell it. My main concern with doing that is that the stories are all over the place with regards to tone, theme, and genre. Literary readers would not want a book that has sci-fi mixed in, thriller readers wouldn't like a book with fantasy mixed in, etc. Very much a case of people not wanting a chocolate bar in their peanut butter.

I could break them up roughly by theme or genre. My problem with that is I don't like all the stories I wrote. I don't feel like I have enough of any one type to put them together in a collection for sale. I will need to revisit some of these so I can make them better.

Note: If you follow Robert Heinlein's rules for writing, this goes against Rule #3 - You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order. The idea behind the rule is to keep writers from constantly re-writing their stories until they have ruined it or never put it out on the market.

There are five related stories that I might be able to put out. I'm waiting for some feedback from beta readers to see if they find any problems.

That's where things stand currently. When I get things worked out enough that I put out a collection I'll be sure to let everyone know right here.

New release - Tale of the Forest: The Woodlands Writers Guild Anthology 2016

Today is the release day for an anthology from the Woodlands Writers Guild and I've got a story in it!

The book is Tales of the Forest: The Woodlands Writers' Guild Anthology 2016 and my story is 'Old Authors Never Die....', part of a four story storyline.

Funny thing - this storyline came about from a conversation we had after one of our meetings on how to dispose of a body. We writers - we're such cut-ups!

All proceeds from the book go to the WWG to help continue its mission of helping aspiring authors to attain their literary goals.

If you are so inclined you can pick up a copy at

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JHOFBJ4/

And if you're interested you can find out more about WWG you can do so at

http://thewoodlandswritersguild.org/

Happy reading!

July 20, 1969 - The Day Man Walked on the Moon

On this day in 1969, mankind did the most significant thing EVER in the entire history of Mankind. On July 20, 1969 man walked on the moon. Everything else pales in comparison to this - the petty politics, the hate and violence, the bickering, the chasing after Hollywood icons, playing games on your phone, ALL OF IT.

Damn it people, you did this once! You can aspire to be better, to do it again. You can aspire to do - be - so much more. Or you can let it all go to Hell in a handbasket. Your choice. Choose wisely.

Flash fiction challenge two weeks in

So, at the beginning of the month I set a challenge for myself to write a flash fiction story (a complete story in 500 words) every day. I got the idea from Dean Wesley Smith, who is doing the same thing except he is writing a full short story every day.

I've managed to do a story each day except once. It's a bit annoying to have missed one but I've still got some time to catch up.

I'm also usually going over the 500 word limit. I'm not too concerned about it since I've seen flash fiction defined as being all the way up to 1500 words. Still, I'm trying to stay within the spirit of the challenge and keep my stories as close to the limit as possible. I think the closest I've gotten is 512 words.

Right. Enough chit-chat. I've got a story to go write.

31 days of stories

Last year, Dean Wesley Smith announced on his blog that he was going to write a short story every day in July. And he did it. Not surprising as he has been writing professionally for over thirty years and is quite prolific. He collected the stories into an anthology, called appropriately enough Stories From July.

He announced this year that he is going to do it again. A new short story every day in July. But that is only the beginning. He plans to write 200 short stories over the next year, right up until 11:59 PM on June 30, 2017. This is in addition to writing several more novels and putting out editions of his own monthly magazine. Like I said, the guy is prolific.

I've been feeling cut off from my creative mojo recently. Yes, I've been slacking on my writing. But I'm trying to revise one of my novels to get it ready for publication. My goal is to have that done before the end of August.

Seeing Dean's challenge for himself I decided I need to get back into the rhythm of a daily writing habit. So, I'm doing my own 'stories from July' challenge. I'm going to write a flash fiction short story every day this month. (Flash fiction is a complete story usually under 500 words.)

I've got my story for today (518 words) but I'm not happy with the ending. I'm going to keep tinkering with it until I go to bed tonight and then put it to rest.

So, one story down, thirty more to go. Let's get to it.

Graduating from the Citizen Police Academy

Tonight I finished the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Citizen's Police Academy. It is a sixteen (16) week long course that discusses many facets of the Sheriff's Office and how they operate. We had lectures on a wide variety of topics like:

  • the gang unit
  • the narcotics enforcement unit
  • how Driving While Intoxicated (D.W.I.s) traffic stops are processed in the field and prosecuted in the courtroom
  • the homicide division
  • the K-9 Unit and demonstrations by the police dogs
  • the crime scene investigation unit, which is not anything like on TV
and a lot more.

I especially liked the K-9 unit and found the demonstrations fascinating. The first dog was cross-trained to sniff for drugs as well as chase criminals. While in 'drug sniffing' mode the dog was as nice and friendly as any dog you've met. He let a two-year-old play with him and was perfectly fine. But when he got into 'chase' mode he was quite a different dog. The other dog was mainly a chase dog and was heavy on the 'non-friendly' side.

We also had some sessions where we did simulations. One evening we worked in an actual simulator, where a situation was projected on the screen. We had a 'pistol' that could 'fire' at the screen, just like a video game. A scenario played out on the screen and we had to react. Sometimes that reaction required 'shooting' someone on the screen. My scenario involved a courtroom. A prisoner and his lawyer were sitting at their table awaiting the judge. They got into an argument, the prisoner picked up a letter opener and moved toward me. I had to use my pistol and fire at him. Even so, given my reaction speed, the prisoner would have had enough time to stab me before my shots killed him.

Another day we used airsoft pellet guns and ran scenarios against live 'perpetrators' played by officers from the department. The three scenarios I was involved in were a traffic stop, a domestic dispute, and a suicidal person. I got shot in each scenario and it would have been fatal if it were a real weapon.

Training in scenarios that officers face every day certainly gives you a new perspective on what they do and how they do it. It is nerve-wracking when you know that there is a very good chance that the person you are dealing with could be armed, but you don't know for certain. The scenarios we played out were certainly 'Kobyashi Maru' style scenarios - no-win situations that we were almost certainly going to get killed. According to the officers, most of the time people are (mostly) reasonable and everything goes smoothly. But there is that wild situation that comes along every so often where things go south. Fast. And never knowing when that will happen is a difficult thing to have to deal with on a daily basis.

In all, it was well worth going through the course. Being a writer I absorbed as much information as I could and took lots of notes. I want to know when I write my stories how far off the rails I'm going. A story needs to be plausible, not accurate.

I strive for accuracy, because it is more likely to be plausible and not throw the readers out of the story if they keep stumbling over parts that they know are wrong. Sort of like 'movie physics' where cars can do amazing things that defy the laws of physics as we know them. We suspend our disbelief so that we can follow the story. If the story bends our disbelief too much we call 'foul' and get pulled out of the story.

As an author, I want to minimize this happening. I realize that for story purposes I may need to bend the rules but I want to know for my own edification how much I'm bending them.

Anyway, tonight was graduation. I have the chance to do a ride-along with an officer, which I think I'm going to take advantage of. Getting to see how officers really operate will be great research. If you have a similar type of program in your area, I recommend that you investigate it. You'll learn a lot about your police department and just what they are facing each day on their rounds.

The Tale of the Armadillo

Fair warning: The following contains some descriptions of things I find fairly disgusting. If you don't like disgusting things, feel free to skip this entry. I won't mind. Otherwise, don't complain to me if you keep reading and get grossed out.

Now that the warning is out of the way, let me tell you how my day went.

I went over to my friend Jeanette's house. She has several dogs, including a six foot long Siberian Husky named Sugar Bear. Ray, Jeanette's husband, went out to check the mail and when he did so, Sugar Bear bolted out the door.

Ray doesn't get around too easily so I went chasing after Sugar. He was being a brat and running all over the neighborhood. He would come running toward me but veer away at the last second so I couldn't catch him.

I followed him down to one of the side streets off the main road. It is a dead-end so I figured I'd be able to corral him. Once I accomplished that I'd be able to take him back home.

As I get to the far end of the street I see Sugar Bear sniffing the grass in one front yard. He didn't run so I finally had a shot at catching him. He started walking to the front door of the house. I called to him but he wouldn't listen.

I could tell he was fixated on something but couldn't see what it might be. When I got a good look at the front door I saw a small armadillo standing in the front flower bed. I thought it was a small statue or figurine as it was completely still. Sugar was walking right to it.

'It's just a statue, you stupid dog. Come on!'

He kept moving toward it. When he got to within one foot of it the critter bolted. So, not a statue after all. Sugar was on it in an instant. I ran up to try and stop him eating it but Sugar wouldn't let go.

I was yelling at him to drop it and trying to grab his collar at the same time. He was busy trying to chew on the armadillo, or at least get a better position of his jaws around it.

Just then Sugar gave it a violent shake, probably trying to snap its spine or neck and kill it. When he did so, a piece of intestines flew out and hit the ground. Then something, along with blood and shit (yes, actual fecal matter) hit me in the face.

I grabbed Sugar's collar, shook him until he dropped the armadillo and started dragging him away. The poor armadillo started crawling away through the front yard.

As I pulled Sugar Bear back to the house I called Brandy, who works at the local park down the street. I told her what had happened and that I didn't think the armadillo was quite dead yet. I told her where the incident happened and told her I was taking the dog back home but I could meet her back where things went down to see if we could find the armadillo.

After depositing Sugar in his crate back at the house, I cleaned off my face and washed it with hand soap.

I met Brandy back on the other street. The armadillo had crawled into the grass but wasn't quite dead yet. Brandy put on gloves and took a box with her. She got within a foot or so before the armadillo tried to move. All it could do was roll over. When it did we saw the extent of the damage. It's underside was bloody and the internal organs where hanging out.

Brandy carefully picked it up and put it in the box. She said she could take it back to the park where they would humanely put it out of its misery.

When I got back to Jeanette's house I washed face more thoroughly. I called the doctor's office and told them what happened. I know that armadillos are said to carry leprosy. I seriously doubt that I could contract the disease from this but I didn't know if there were any other problems I needed to worry about. The doctor said as long as I didn't have any open cuts I should be fine.

If my skin starts falling off, I know what caused it. At that point, keep all the white gold away from me.

Brandy called later that evening to tell us that someone had called in about the incident. They said they wanted to say 'thank you' to the 'big, white wolf' that killed the armadillo. It had been digging up their flower beds and they were glad that it was dead.

Somehow, that doesn't make me feel any better.

TV - Going cold turkey

Right. I've mentioned my TV addiction before. I've tried shutting it off and not watching it. I've tried limiting my time in front of it. So far, I've made very little progress in trying to curb my addiction.

Now is the time for drastic measures.

Yes, I cancelled my cable service. I'm going cold turkey. I'm cutting the cord and saying bye-bye to TV.

I mean, Mythbusters has ended. And Walking Dead won't be back until the Fall. Everything else is just not that important.

Now I'm hoping to get more shtuff done. I'm focusing on making my writing a priority (which I've been slacking on over the winter but I'm building up steam again on now.) Along with cleaning up my house I'm finally starting to get my head on straight and focused on my writing, where it should be.

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