Aging Squared

My dad was 26 when I was born. I was 26 when he died in a traffic accident.

My mom was 18 when I was born. As I approach 60 this year, she just turned 78.

When Dad died at 52 he was riding his bike 20 miles each way to work every day.

Mom has never been quite so active. These days, she’s bedridden and uses a wheelchair to get around—except when she doesn’t.

She’s started falling down. A lot. We’ve reached that point where we’re having the difficult conversations about her care and her living conditions. She’s mentally competent, so it’s her decision, but we worry about her living in a regular apartment instead of somewhere there’s onsite help when she falls.

I’m too old for this. Also too old to have a 15-year-old daughter excited about learning to drive later this year.

Maybe I’m just too old, period.

(Nah. Saw a short video about a wonderful lady who’s 108 and still chugging along, happy as Moses and loved by so many people. Here’s to my next 49 years!)


Massive Mustard Mess

Transcript (but it’s better if you listen)

When the Texas economy crashed in 89 I loaded my pregnant wife and 3 small children into our tiny little Isuzu and drove cross country to San Diego California where I knew people, had family and friends and hoped I could find work in construction.

We had no money of course so we packed food in the trunk and in coolers and planned on driving straight through and fixing food along the way.

Late afternoon somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona we stopped to make some sandwiches. As I got the mustard out I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the bottle was swollen to twice its normal size, having been in the trunk, in the summer, driving from Texas through the great southwestern desert.

When I opened the mustard about half of the bottle came out, part fine vinegar mist and part messy mustard spray. All over the roof of the car, the windshield, the driver’s window, and every part of the front of my body from my waist up including my glasses and my hair.

It took a while to clean everything up. I chose not to have mustard on my sandwiches after that. When I sold the car years later there were still mustard stains on the headliner.

And the happy ending? Sorry. When I got to California construction crashed but it boomed in Texas. And we’d already moved. Eventually I found work in information technology, working with computers, so maybe there is a happy ending after all because that’s the work I really love.

See you next week.


Not the Longest Joke in the World

You’ll find that elsewhere by Googling that phrase, ‘the longest joke in the world.’ That version, though an interesting story, is nearly 11,000 words long, most of it unrelated build up, not joke setup. Mine is 203 words, or about 2% of the original length. For this punchline, it’s still too long.

Coming down the dune in his SUV he sees something strange at the bottom: a huge snake coiled around a long pole.

He slides to a stop and looks through the window at the snake, which looks back, then, to his surprise, asks him to lower his window.

“I won’t bite,” it says.

Must be the heat. He puts the window down. “What’s the deal? Why are you out here?”

“My name is Nate. I’m the guardian of this switch. Move it, all mankind dies.”

“That seems dumb.”

“True. I know some not dumb things. Stick around and I’ll teach you the secrets of immortality, unending wealth, and how to put a USB stick in the right way the first time.”

Curiosity gets the better of him. But hunger gets the best of him.

“How about I run to town and get snacks first?”

“Thataway,” pointing with its tail.

He races off, gets his stuff, comes back. Barreling down the dune, his brakes fail. He’s headed for the switch of doom. As he fights the steering wheel he realizes that he can pass the switch on the left.

The snake is sunning itself right there.

He keeps going, figuring, better Nate than lever.


Binge In, Binge Out

In the past 75 days I’ve read 50 books. I’m up to a book a day during the past week.

For the first 6 weeks I was waiting for minor surgery on my right foot, and the past month, healing from it. Reading is a great way to pass the time when you can’t be on your feet, walking, biking, digging in the yard, all that. Better than watching soaps.

I’ve also been writing like mad. Finished the first draft of Love Runs Out. Outlined (and today, started) the second Jake Calcutta story.

More words in has always equaled more words out, for me.


Too Old to Travel But Jake is Jake

I begged Best Beloved to add an extra week to this trip north.

If I hadn’t done that, we’d have left for home this morning.

I’m having a hard time finding the joy. I made a bunch of changes to my online life the weeks before we left home and I’ve found myself more than bored.

I haven’t been bored in 15 years.

Things are complicated by an injury to my right foot that makes walking excruciating. Otherwise I’d take long walks every day, enjoying the beauty.

There’s always going for a drive. In my socks.


Jake Calcutta’s first story is going well. Fully outlined. I’ve written 1,500 words so far, and that’s just quickdraft. I’m pleased with how it’s coming out, though it’s not the Edgar Rice Burroughs clone I was hoping for. Maybe I’m not Edgar Rice Burroughs. Maybe I’m me.



A Message from Amazon

A month ago I tried to leave a 5-star review for a cool guitar accessory I’d bought on Amazon. I got an error message. When I followed up with Amazon this was their response:

Yes, in fact, I know people who’ve bought the same items as me on Amazon.

I know some of the authors whose books I’ve bought, read, and reviewed.

And I have been given books in the hopes I would review them.

Never, once, have I intentionally attempted to deceive or mislead anyone about my own books or my opinion of any other item at Amazon. Hey, I’m that guy ahead of you making you crazy by driving the speed limit instead of going as fast as everyone else. I’m the guy who reports cash earnings and pays taxes on them.

In short, I’m honest, in everything, in every way. I’m genetically incapable of lying or cheating.

When I know that there are folks who are gaming Amazon left right and center and making money at it, folks who are cheating every way possible and getting away with it, but whatever mistake I made leads to, with no warning whatsoever, a full permanent ban from ever leaving a review of anything, ever again, on Amazon, it feels unfair.

I’m no longer raging, but I’m still sad. Maybe even a little hurt.

I was planning on asking for your book reviews in my next newsletter. I won’t be bothering. In fact, you might want to avoid reviewing any of my books, in case Amazon decides we know each other.


I’m Not Supposed to Look at Reviews

People were saying such nice things about the new book that I kept popping in to Amazon to see what else they were saying.

Oops.

I’m not allowed to look at reviews. I’ll never learn to really ignore them, so Best Beloved keeps up with them, and shares the ones I need to see. No, I don’t need to see the negative feedback. It’s not helpful, not constructive, serves no purpose to me.

Perhaps the only 2-star review of any of my books, ever (though I did get a 1-star review once that still makes me chuckle.)

Ah, well. Note to self: don’t do that.


Quickdraft of the Next Book is Done

My new writing process includes some initial brainstorming to feel my way through the idea, some vague outlining which is essentially a list of sequences (groups of related scenes) in a spreadsheet, and then a process I call quickdraft.

In essence, I go through the story like a 12-year-old describing a book they read:

“First she does this, and then this happens, and she goes there an, um, some stuff happens I don’t know what but because of that she has to do this other thing.”

Gaping holes, bad writing, no description. It’s just a way to get the story told, the whole thing out there, so I can turn it around and flip it over and poke and prod to see if it holds up.

Today I finished the quickdraft of Love Runs Out, my first novel with a female protagonist.

I hope it’ll be published before year end, but no promises for the moment.

I think I’ll go play with cover ideas.

It used to be called anacrusis before I figured out what I was really doing.