Close up of Egg Shell with coffee grounds inside, which have colored the shell with swirled watercolor-like shades of green and brown

reddish brown sky with red-orange sun

 

Strange Nature


I was cleaning up after breakfast recently and happened to look into my countertop compost bin, where I saw this interesting color effect on an egg shell which had caught some coffee grounds. I found it so interesting that I went and grabbed my cell phone to take the picture here at the top of the left column.

I know that to most people this is just a photo of my garbage, but I was struck by the interesting colors, especially since I knew there’s nothing else in that bin other than coffee grounds, egg shells, and a green tea bag. Nature creates some amazing colors—even in the trash.

By contrast, the lower photo is also the colors of nature, but in a less-friendly mode. This is the sky above Silverdale Washington, at 14:30 hours on September 12, 2020.

Due to windborne ash in the air from wildfires in Oregon and California, the sky was a reddish brown and the sun a mere orange spot that could be stared at without any eye protection.  I’ve started calling this effect “Apocalypse Sky.” I think that would make a nifty title for a book, or an anthology of short stories, though what it would be about I don’t yet know.

I’m Pleased


I have signed a publishing contract. First in 4 years. I’m not able to give details yet—and it’s not something major by most standards—but it’s still forward progress and something I’ve been trying to get done for a while. So, yes, I’m pleased.

 

Done-ish


I have finished the revision: 91,000 words of Paranormal Crime Noir set in 1934 Los Angeles. Now to read though it and send it on to my agent and Beta readers. Usually I feel relieved, tired, sad, and a little dissatisfied with my work at this stage. But I really like this one.

Now I worry that I have no taste, and it sucks. Writers…

 

Just Photos of My Dogs


We got the dogs some new Jolly Balls on July 4 and they’ve been playing with them in the yard until they’re both exhausted. Good thing too: our neighbors set off very loud, colorful fireworks for two and a half hours starting about 21:30 that night. Normally Jack and Banjo dislike loud noiseds and bark like mad, but they were too tired to get wound-up about the noise this year.

Remind me to buy “The Best Toys EVAR!” (according to Jack and Banjo) again next year.

And below is Banjo playing with “his” Jolly Ball while Jack looks on. Jack doesn’t like to be recorded, so he sat this one out.

 

Jack Puppikins

Labradork

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banjo Wigglebotham

Brown Hound

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday has been Monday all Day


This has been one of those days that seems destined to end in a barrage of gunfire and bad language that have no actual impact on anyone or anything. Some days, I wish I’d stayed in bed. Since last year.

 

Pulling Change Through


I’m at the half-way point in the revision of the 1930s Paranormal Noir and there have been a lot of changes. Things have moved, been added, been deleted, emphasized, softened, and generally wrangled to the point that older parts often have information that’s no longer correct. So, I’m now in the bitey jaws of Continuity, and it can be a right bastard.

Here’s the new version of the section I’m working on right now. (Just to be clear “Phil” is short for Ophelia):

 

“So, who was this woman?”

“I didn’t get her name before she tried to kill me, and she wasn’t around to ask afterward.”

Phil stared at me. Then she put a cup of coffee down in front of me very slowly and set the pot back on the stove. “Oh, my God… what happened? You didn’t—?”

“Kill her?” I snorted and went with the truth, bracing for Phil’s reaction. “She was already dead. I sent her on. Like the captain.”

Phil shook her head and blinked. “Wait, wait. She was a ghost? You— She—”

“C’mon Phil… I think you know about me and ghosts. That day Captain Davies showed up wasn’t the first time something spooky’s happened around me at the office, and I’ve stopped buying that you never noticed before. You just didn’t want to say anything, did you?”

“Well what was I supposed to say? ‘Heya, boss, how’re the ghosts today’?”

And here is the previous version:

 

Phil didn’t see ghosts—not like I did—but she had a kind of feel for their presence that I’d taken full advantage of. We’d never said a word to Pete.

 

“So, who was this woman?”

“I didn’t get her name before she tried to kill me and she wasn’t around to ask afterward.”

Phil stared at me. Then she put a cup of coffee down in front of me very slowly and set the pot back down on the stove. “Did you—?”

“Kill her?” I snorted. “She was already dead. I sent her on.”

Phil shook her head. “Wait, wait. A ghost? How can a ghost write a letter or… or kill someone?”

“There’s more than one type of ghost, Phil. She was more… self-aware, powerful, motivated by something beyond simple revenge, grief, or hope. That kind can seem as alive as you or me and they’re dangerous as hell. She had me fooled up until she shoved her hand into my chest and tried to rip my heart out.”

The big difference here is that in the old version, Phil knows about her boss’s ability to see and destroy ghosts, and in the new one,  Phil isn’t in the loop, but she’s seen evidence of it. The emphasis shifts from talking about a specific incident, to revealing a secret about Phil and what she knows, while also dealing with other implications of that knowledge. It’s a small thing here, but it’s a major change for the book and has to be consistent throughout the book for character and plot integrity, information continuity, as well as character arcs that effect other parts of the plot and series arc (if there is a series.)

Little changes can have huge consequences and they have to managed as rigorously as the big ones. The best writing includes nothing that can be done without, no matter how small it seems. In the end, no detail is actually “small.”

Macky, We Hardly Knew ye


On the morning of May 21, 2019, my trusty 13-year-old MacBook Pro 17″ laptop refused to wake from its slumber. I can’t really blame it: I’d dragged it all over the US, parts of Canada, and across the Atlantic to England and Denmark, banging it around in backpacks and bags on planes, boats, trucks, motorcycles, and miles and miles on foot. It had been upgraded to maximum RAM back in May of 2014 and had finally reached the “I just can’t do this any more” point.

Poor Macky. I loved that machine. Its timing wasn’t the best, though; I’ve been out of contract for a while, so there’s not a lot of money coming in, and I was in the middle of rather-delayed taxes, as well as a revision and a bunch of organizational stuff for the Northwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (of which I am the current chapter President.) When Macky went comatose, it took my work with it to Limbo.

It’s remarkably trick to buy a new computer when all the stores are locked down or doing business only via online ordering when one has only a cranky, aging cell phone and an even crankier, older tablet. But I persevered, did the research, put in an order, and received a refurbished Mac Mini on the Tuesday after Labor Day. I’ve been getting it up to speed ever since.

Being me, I forgot that a tiny desktop computer doesn’t have all the peripherals that a laptop has, so I didn’t order a monitor or a camera, or a mouse, or a keyboard, or a backup drive…. The latter 3 I have, but I had to go out and wander around my small, rural county in search of a monitor for about 3 hours until I found what I believe to be the last sub-32″ flat computer monitor in the county.

Good thing some government person sent me a check. Too bad it’s all gone so soon. But at least I’ve been doing my bit to stimulate the economy… of computer and peripheral vendors.

Now I just have to get a new web cam, because I think Mr. Kat has noticed I stole his…