Monday, December 29, 2014


I'm really looking forward to 2015. Not that 2014 wasn't great -- it was fantastic.

But I have so much optimism for this year, so much enthusiasm.

I've talked before about "making no small plans" -- this year I'm going to be embracing change. I'm keeping my options open, career-wise. Whether I stay where I'm currently working or move along to a new job, I'll look to do something new, maybe get slightly out of my comfort zone.

I'd like to also focus on collaboration. I know so many talented and intelligent people. They inspire me creatively and they motivate me. I want to work more with those people. I want to surround myself with them.

I'm hoping to do some collaborative writing or other projects. I want to work with the people I know and trust and respect.

Maybe it's just the 5th day of vacation talking, but I sense so much potential headed my way, it's hard to not be excited.

What about you? Looking forward to this year? Got a project you want help with? Feeling inspired? What do you hope to accomplish or get out of this year?

Writing Updates

I've been working on Tin here and there over the last few weeks, but I haven't made a ton of progress yet. I feel I know what the story needs; now I just have to sit down and make it happen. Will have to order a new keyboard for home as this little one hurts my wrists too much to do sustained writing.

For the Jute series, I put the first book up for free on Amazon kindle and thanks to the kind folks at BookSends, about 1400 people downloaded a copy.

I put the other two books in the series on sale as well, and have sold a handful of copies as a result. That's fantastic, as the sales had all but dried up. No, still not making any actual money, but I like knowing that I wrote something that people out there actually read, even if it didn't make me rich.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Project Tin: New Tool

As I mentioned before, I'll be using a new toolset this time around. For the Jute books, I used a combination of:

  • TextPad (wrote in textpad for nanowrimo)
  • MS Word (for the CreateSpace template)
  • Calibre (ebook conversion)
  • Hired out the cover art
This time, I'm replacing MS Word and Calibre with Scrivner. Or at least, that's the plan.

The chapters and scenes entered into Scrivner
Nanowrimo is a fairly large event and various companies offering software and services try to capitalize on its popularity by offering discounts and trials. I used the trial version of Scrivner and then decided to buy it via the 40% discount code "awarded" to nanowrimo entrants. (and probably everyone else on the planet).

I'm still going to need to hire out the cover work, but I'm hoping to just use one tool for creating the print and ebook formats. I wrote the original 50k word draft in TextPad for nanowrimo again, but I immediately put it into Scrivner.

I've only just begun with Scrivner. I've gone through the onboard tutorial and got my story in the tool (though I'm sure I'm already doing things wrong!). I'm not bothering with "character" sheets at the moment, but I might later on. This version of the novel is rough --there's a lot to do and fix.

And I'll outline some of those next time!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Project Kickoff: New Book

My last foray into self-publishing went okay for a first time author. I sold a few hundred copies, the book was generally well-liked and well-reviewed, and I learned a LOT.

Which is good because I've got a list of things that I will change or do differently this time around.

First, and most importantly, I'm going to aim for a broader audience. My first three books were aimed at the "Middle Grade" age range.

This time around I'll aim for a more general audience. I'm still writing fiction, science fiction to be exact. It will likely be a larger book, broken into three smaller pieces. I will likely publish them separately at first, and maybe together as one unit if/when I get all three finished. I'm aiming for 50k - 65k words per part.

The first book is called:

Tin: a World of Dust and Glass Story

(well, that's the working title anyway)

Next time: new tools!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Catching Up and Moving Forward

First, catching up...

The leghorn is 9 months old and still hasn't laid a single egg...

The old kitchen cabinet -> bar project stalled out while we waited for a relative to do the sheetmetal work. That just proved we should do it ourselves if we ever get in a hurry.

The final tallies from the garden were interesting. We had green beans, bell peppers, and cucumbers by the armload. Tomatoes and tomatillos and pumpkins were a complete bust.

Moving Forward

I got re-energized about writing fiction while participating in this year's nanowrimo. This year was my tenth, and it was the easiest. Which is surprising only because as recently as mid-October I had no idea what I would write this year.

Then the idea just poured out of me and I wrote about 3k words a day until I finished early on the 24th.

I like the story I wrote enough that I'm going to publish it. And I think that's what I'll spend the rest of the winter blogging about. (you have been warned! ;) )

I am trying a completely different approach this time around, and even the audience for the book will be different. I'll talk more about that stuff next time.

Monday, September 15, 2014


I need to have more patience with things around the house/yard.

That leghorn is 26-ish weeks old and still hasn't started laying. I'm ready to get rid of it, but from what I've read, it can take up to 28 weeks ("or longer" -- whatever that means!). So I need to be more patient.

That big lawn in the back, the one that I've regretted since about 1 year after we put it in? Still there. But we're getting a plan together to rip it out (we are having a drought you know!) since it's nearly dead anyway. See? Patience.

So easy to say, but hard for me to do. With so much success in the garden this year, I think we're both more interested in expanding the garden size and maybe getting a little creative with the layout.

Now I need to be patient and wait for late winter when we'll try to see about getting started...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The New Project: Update

Things have been progressing quite slowly on the project... But here's an updated picture. Looks much better now. Still need to finish off the bottom rail and then get the base/wheels installed...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Big Harvest...

I've been battling the pomegranate tree for years now. We planted it a long time ago and never really got any fruit. We'd get tons of blossoms, but they would drop before forming fruit, or just after.

One year we got a couple of small, super tart pomegranates but the following year... Nothing.

Well, this year, we had seven large fruits and while squirrels got 4 of them, I have three left. I picked two today because they began to split. Look at how huge these are! You may not be able to tell from the photo, bu that strawberry basket looks so small next to them.

And speaking of huge... Look at this egg (the one on the right)! It's from our comet/sex-link (I'm starting to think she might be part Emu!). The pinkish ones are from the gold-laced wyandote and we also have a few from the olive egger -- she just started laying too.

Now we're just waiting for the leghorn to lay and we'll have 4 different colors (which really helps us tell who laid which egg).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The New Project

We've definitely bitten off more than we can chew with this project, but that's not going to stop us.

Here's hint/before picture:

Ah, but don't answer yet; there's more to it...

... next time...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Maker Journey, Father and Daughter: Critter Cam Part 2

We had a motivated kid and a willing parent. We had a project picked out. Now all we needed was to get some parts and follow the easy set of 5 or 6 steps in the ad in the magazine. What could possibly go wrong?


We went to the local Radio Shack and the kind person at the counter wrote down all the part numbers, checked the inventory, and then informed us that they had all but two pieces in stock and that no store within 30 miles had both of the remaining parts. So we would have to visit three stores or order the parts online. We wanted to do the project that weekend (Memorial Day) so we opted to do some extra driving.

(Note to Radio Shack employees - when you hand someone a list of part numbers and you know that several of them are "locked" items that require you to unlock the display in order to retrieve them, why not help out the customer instead of making them come and get you for each of the parts?)

Mistake 1: Not getting the parts ahead of time.

By the time we got the parts home, it was time to head to the neighborhood block party, so we shelved the project for the night. We would start fresh the next day.

We began by laying out all the parts and we just jumped right in with step 1. Soon, however, it was clear that there was a certain base level of knowledge assumed and that I was not at that level.

Mistake 2: Not reading ahead and preparing the software side of things.

We powered through step 1, eventually, though it took a while. We had to download and install the arduino IDE, the SD Fat library, and then get it all working together. I didn't know that you had to install the library in a specific place. I figured out enough to get by, thanks to some google searches and trial and error.

My daughter showed some great determination, but eventually she got bored while I fiddled with the computer.

NOW, finally, we were ready to start putting the thing together. My daughter was once again interested and we stared to work.

Only to discover that the instructions in the magazine ad were woefully inadequate! They only showed where 5 of the 7 wires/jumpers plugged in! What, oh what, had I gotten us into?

Mistake 3: Duh. You really, really have to read the instructions ahead of time. Sensing a theme here...

We struggled a bit more before my daughter saw the URL for the Radio Shack DIT site and she managed to find the Critter Cam project there ( Wow! The instructions were so much better! We finally started feeling confident as we figured out where the RX and TX wires from the camera card plugged in to the SD card shield.

The rest of the steps seemed manageable and we got the sketch from the github site uploaded with no problems. We plugged the rest of the stuff back in and took off the lens cap. There's no real way to tell if/when pictures are taken, so we just give it a few minutes and then removed the card and took a look. Sure enough, dozens of black photos (from when the cap was on) and then, there! Two blurry shots of our hands! It worked!


We struggled putting the project skeleton together but eventually we managed to get it all in place and secured. We used some zip ties to hold the case together and we took it outside where it sat all evening and night.

Now, we realized after we started that it would not take night photos. That was a bit of a letdown (again, what should I expect when I'm looking at an ad for a project?) but we figured we'd give it a shot and see what happens.

The next day we raced outside and retrieved the SD card. We put it in the reader and... Nothing! It took no pictures!

Long story short, we figured out that the power adapter was the culprit so we drove to RS and asked the guy there to test it. He took one look at it and (somewhat condescendingly) informed me that the I had the adapter tip set to "negative."

I stared at him. 

"Uh, these things have a negative and a positive, right? Polarity?"

"Okay, sure," I said, encouragingly.

"Well, it's set to negative. See that mark there?"

"Uh, now I do... So...?"

"So we'll pull it off, and turn it that way and then put it back on. There you go."

Yes, he tested the adapter too, just in case, and we seemed ready to go. 

Mistake #4 - #n: Really, really, read the instructions!

We took it home, reset everything, tested it via the outlet and were satisfied it would work.

And this time, it really did work!

(except it just took 500+ pictures in a row right when I plugged it in and didn't wait for any motion detection...)

That's something that I'm sure the camera card instructions cover -- something about a jumper setting (which I actually understand!). So, we'll fix that and be good to go...

Next time: Photo Results?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Maker Journey, Father and Daughter: Critter Cam Part 1 (Intro)

It's the middle of the day, Memorial Day 2014, and it's hot in the little room we use for an office. I'm staring at the screen, trying to understand where it all went wrong. I'm a fit frustrated. There's a little sweat.

"It says to upload the sketch, dad," says my 12-year-old daughter. "Is there an upload button?"

We're trying to figure out how to use the arduino IDE. But I've never even seen an arduino out of its box before this weekend and while I can find my way around a few different programming languages, I'm unprepared for this part of the exercise.

Actually, let me rephrase that: I'm not prepared for any of the parts of the build.

It all started at Maker Faire 2014 in San Mateo. For some reason, I've loved Maker Faire and the make movement for a while, but I don't do any "making" -- at least, not the electronic, or creative, or robotic kinds of making. But the stuff fascinates me and also my daughters. We went to the 2012 Maker Faire and the girls learned to pick locks and solder. They had a blast looking at all of the kinetic art, and they enjoyed the Mentos and soda fountain (I think it was Diet Coke that year).

I hated the crowds, which got so bad around 1pm that I began to try to steer the family to the exits.

In 2013 we returned, despite the huge crowds, and we saw more fire, life-sized mouse trap, and lots of electronic projects. My younger daughter mostly loves the art side of the Maker Faire, but she did linger at the tables where makers showed off their stuff. Meanwhile, everyone at the Maker Faire took their opportunity to bump into me, jostle me, or step on my feet. I was unhappy and vowed to not return in 2014.

Then we returned in 2014.

My daughters found out that Maker Faire was coming and begged me to get tickets. I did, we had fun, and even the crowds seemed nicer this year. I was bruise-free at the end of the 5+ hours we spent there.

The girls did the "Learn to Solder" thing again and then we started looking at fun projects to try. There was no real discussion or deliberate decision made, we just kept saying "Maybe we could do that one?" as we walked through.

Eventually my younger daughter and I decided we would look through the Make magazines at home to look for a simple first time project.

She saw the Radio Shack ad inside the front cover of Make 38 for the Critter Cam and we decided it looked possible. We live in the suburbs, but there's a creek nearby and we get raccoons, possums, owls, squirrels, and tons of neighborhood cats roaming through the yard. It might be interesting to see if we could capture any of them in pictures.

Next time: "It's a simple list of parts, I'm sure they'll have them all..." "Why oh why did we pick this one?" "Rivets???"

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Around the Yard

The pomegranate must have heard me threatening to chop it down as it currently has three “fruits” that have survived the mass bloom drop that occurs every year. Maybe it’s due to the drought year we’re having?

Anyway, the garden is doing well. The kids made this cement stepping stone, which they put in the ground at the foot of the ladder to their fort:

Speaking of which, here’s a shot of that corner of the yard:

From left to right:

-          The fort
-          The lime tree (finally recovering from a series of harsh frosts we had)
-          Telephone pole…
-     Portable cage/triage/broody pen
-          Pumpkin/bean/bush zucchini box
       -          Coop/run

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Flock Consolidation and Run Cleanup

This weekend we moved the pullets into the big run/coop with the 1 year old. But first, we had to do some maintenance.

We’ve fenced off part of the yard and used it as an extension of the run that is built in with the coop. That way, during the day, we can open the pop door and the chickens can roam in the larger run. We used a light netting and bamboo poles to construct the pen and it worked flawlessly with the old barred rocks we had. Over time, the netting has been fiddled with countless times and lately we’ve been a bit lazy and the netting is only about 2 or 3 feet high in some places. Our current hen (Cinnamon) easily flies over this and roams the yard for about 5 minutes before returning to the door to the run where she squawks asking to be let back in to where her food, water, and nesting box are.

So we started by taking everything down, giving the run a good cleaning/sweeping/raking/etc., and then rebuilding from scratch. The new fence is 5 feet high all the way across.

UPDATE: Cinnamon easily cleared the 5 foot height, so we clipped a wing and now she’s grumpy but confined…

Also during this time I did some minor maintenance on the coop/run structure itself (pop door hinges got loose, etc., etc.) and then once the netting was back up we put all the birds in everyone got along perfectly. What a relief!

We went to a neighborhood block party and came home after dark. We went out to check on the birds and realized that we had forgotten to close the pop door so I was a bit anxious. We could only find two of the pullets and so a yard-wide search party began. Soon it evident that the leghorn was nowhere to be seen. We thought that maybe some predator had swooped down and grabbed her and we were feeling fairly sad.

Then I looked up in the top of the run and realized that she had managed to fly 6 feet up to roost on a crossbeam up where we didn’t bother to look! Phew. Of course, if she can fly 6 feet, we’ll have problems with her escaping as well. She did the same thing on Monday and managed to dislodge the ramp to the coop in the process. Both of the other two pullets were a mess, running around trying to find/get to their buddy the leghorn. Looks like we will have our hands full teaching them “the proper” place to roost at night!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Birds Update

Our 3 chicks are doing incredibly well. We haven't had any issues at all, which leads me to think that two of them be roosters! ;)

We've been slowly acclimatizing them with/to the 1 year old wyandotte. And again, that process is going so well. We started out just having them in a small cage next to the run, and after a few weeks we've started putting them all together in the run (supervised, of course!). Everyone gets along famously, and in fact, the older bird spends all of her time as close to the pullets as possible.

I hope to get some pictures of everyone together as we have a huge list of chores to do in and around the yard this weekend.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The New Birds

Ok, here they are, an olive egger in the center, to the left is a comet, and to the right of center is the leghorn:

Kids named them (left to right): Firefly, Sage, Foghorn (of course).

Three weeks old this weekend.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Own March Madness

My day job just got incredibly busy and chaotic and as a result the entire month of March sped by in a blur. 31 days, gone in the blink of an eye!

I failed to make any time to promote my books so the montly sales was a whopping 3 copies (all on the Kindle) and no new reviews.

The last of our original flock of three Barred Rocks died. She was 6 years old and was still laying.

We brought home three new 14 day old chicks, an olive egger, a leghorn, and a sexlink/comet, their names (respectively) are: Sage, Fog(horn), and Firefly. They're in the cage with a heatlamp in the garage providing hours of entertainment.

With our drought here in California, we weren't sure if we were going to plant a garden this year. Just in case, early in the month, I tore into the task of preparing the big raised bed we have. I turned the now somewhat compacted soil and we pulled out all of the soaker hoses. Then I added many bucketfuls of compost from our finished pile and we re-ran the hoses to give us a new "drier" zone too. On Sunday, we planted a few onion starts a neighbor gave us.

All of the volunteer arugula has bolted.

I regret not having spent more time (or been more successful at) promoting the books. There are many tasks and jobs that I'm naturally good at, but book promotion is not one of them. It requires me to go far out beyond my introverts' comfort zone and so I find it very easy to neglect in the best of times. Throw in my extra busy life and it's no surprise that Jute has suffered as a result. I need to reassess the whole project and decide whether or not I'm going to devote time to it. If I am, I need to be serious about tackling the stuff I've been avoiding (Facebook page? Ugh.).

One other change in the day job is that I no longer have internet access to things like blogs or most other sites. I used to do much of my reading/writing during lunch, but now it has to wait until night, after dinner, when I'm tired of the computer. More changes to get used to I suppose!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fountain Head

Just about every day at work, I take a walk around a nearby park. It helps me so much to have a 15 - 20 min break, both mentally and physically (stretch those legs, relax those eyes, etc.).

Over the last few weeks I've been watching a crew of workers repair a broken fountain in the park. There are four guys and they've been at this project for several weeks.

Whenever I walk by, three of the guys are clustered together talking and pointing at stuff, and one guy is in the dried up fountain doing the work: scraping, digging, lifting. I admit that I have no idea what they're doing (looks like the pump was broken), but I do know that the one guy in the fountain doing all the work probably isn't doing his best job.

I'm not saying he isn't a good worker. In fact, I'm sure he is. And I bet he was motivated and worked hard the first few days or weeks on the project.

But the manager/leader/foreman/crew chief will beat that kind of work ethic right out of him.

Late last week as I walked by the foreman called the lone worker over and started pointing a pile of miscellaneous pump parts.

"What is this?" he demanded.

The worker started to reply, only to be cut off by a rough shout from the foreman.

"I said to get three blahblahblahs. What's this?"

Again the worker tried to reply, only to be shouted down again.

"What is this? What is this?"

And then I was past the fountain and the yelling faded into the background.

The other two guys, the ones that usually stand next to the foreman and help point at stuff were snickering.

I'm not a perfect manager, and it's always easier to be on the outside and point out possible errors. But I never treat people like that. What good could possibly come from publicly humiliating someone like that? At best, the worker will feel terrible about the mistake (we did not get to hear his response to his manager) and go back to work a timid, unmotivated cog in the fountain repair wheel.

At worse, the worker will quit or do an intentionally poor job.

I'm amazed when I come across people in leadership roles who don't include teaching and mentoring in their definition of leader.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

California Drought: Gardening Impact

I'm well aware that California has little to complain about. We have fantastic weather, to be sure, and easy access to sun, surf, ski, swim, fish, and just about every other outdoor activity. From where I live, it's 20 minutes to the beach, less than 1 hour to San Francisco, 4 hours to Lake Tahoe, and the list goes on.

We also have earthquakes, a very, very high cost of living, and now/yet again a very serious drought.

That graph really doesn't do it justice.

As a child of the 70's I've lived through a few droughts here already, but this one feels worse, somehow. More serious...

And with this drought comes a few lifestyle changes. We never really had enough water for everyone in the state and to keep the native/local species of wildlife intact. But things are bad now and the population keeps rising. Soon we'll have to decide/debate extremely stringent water conservation and how that is further exacerbated by the amount of water we're sending to the Delta and Bay and other places for the wildlife concerns.

And then, there's our gardens. Our lawns are the first to go, though the suburbs do love their lawns. But after that, what else can we cut? Shorter showers, sure. But many homes are not set up to catch rainwater (which we aren't getting much/any of this year) or graywater. 

I may have mentioned this before, but a few years ago a new neighbor bought the house three doors down from us and immediately installed a huge underground water storage tank. Many folks raised their eyebrows. I was very jealous, and even more so now.

I'm glad that more people will move to xeriscaping and native, drought tolerant plants for their yards, but what of the garden?

Here's what I've found so far:

Vegetable gardens usually need about one inch of water (630 gallons per 1000 square feet) per week in the form of rain (ha! it doesn't rain in CA in the summer) or irrigation during the growing season.

Interestingly, the typical lawn needs about the same!

Of course, our garden isn't very big (at least not yet), but I was surprised to hear that they both required a similar amount of water.

I'm sure driplines and mulch and smart watering can reduce the amount of water we need for our garden, but I realize now that we won't be expanding during this drought, and we'll need to look at more ways to save water.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Self-Publishing Lessons Learned Part 2 (or, What I'll Do Differently with eBooks Next Time...)

Things I want to remember for the next time I self-publish a book...

Really learn to create a full featured ebook. From the TOC to footnotes to title pages, I've got a lot to learn and master. Part of the issue is that I'm using a basic MS Word template provided by CreateSpace. Converting .doc (or .docx) to .mobi (Amazon ebook format) is NOT straightforward. There are just too many variables. For example, the Table of Contents (TOC) has been a thorn in my side. Word has a facility built in for creating the TOC, but today, many authors create theirs by hand. Which works better for ebooks depends on which tools and processes you're using to convert your book, and which formats you're converting to. My automatic TOC in Word doesn't look good at all on the Kindle.

Let's just say that I have yet to stumble upon a reasonable, repeatable, quality method for taking a regular MS Word doc with auto TOC and generate a .mobi file. Some processes require that you save the Word file as an HTML file and then do some conversion processing. I'd like to think that there will com a time when we just get to the point where you simply press a button in Word.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'll need to remember to test my book out on multiple devices. Turns out that there are several Kindle models and there can be a difference in how the book looks on different ones.

I felt that my ebook was sub par. It worked, and contained all of the words, in the right order even, but the thing kind of felt like an afterthought. I want to do better next time, since over 75% of my "sales" went to ebook users.

Another interesting thing was how the kindle and print versions of the book live and play together on the Amazon site. Specifically, the titles of the two versions have to match EXACTLY in order for Amazon to list them together on the same page. Which should be easy. Except that one of the submission tools seems to append the volume number to the title. This got me every time, since I was publishing a trilogy. At least I know where to go to get it fixed: The team that handles these things has always responded with lightning speed and a cheerful attitude.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jute's Charmed Life Trilogy -- Finished!

Yes, I'm finally done publishing the Jute's Charmed Life middle grade trilogy. I just put the last book up on Amazon and CreateSpace.

 To celebrate, I'm giving away the first book for free (Kindle version only) on Amazon through the end of the month.

My kids have been begging for more Jute to read, but I'm not sure when or even if I'll revisit the Jute story again.

In the mean time, I'm happy to have finished, to have crossed all the t's and dotted the i's. I'm not sure how much marketing I will do for these. Marketing is a time sink, and something I've discovered I don't have much patience for. That said, without more marketing, I'll  lose money on the project. I'm not too worried about recouping my costs: cover art (I'd recommend Heidi Sutherlin as she did a wonderful job), shipping, one round of editing, etc. It's been a labor of love and so I'm happy.

I know that one way to get more sales would be to run ads on the various sites and networks that cater to ebook readers. I have yet to look into the costs, but I suppose this is where the money math begins. Is it worth spending more on ads to generate more sales?

I've sold over 100 copies of the books, and over 700 over 1000 people(!) have downloaded the free copy of the first book. I'm assuming there's a market for middle grade books written with advanced/smart readers in mind. Book 1 has received a lot of great, positive reviews. I've also gotten some confusing 3 star ratings.

For me, the next milestone with the books would be to actually receive a "royalty payment" check from Amazon. Because I did not elect to use electronic banking with Amazon, I need to meet the payout threshold ($100) before I get a check. I'm hoping that happens early this year. Fingers crossed!

Next Up: Lessons Learned Part 2

Thursday, January 23, 2014

So Close...

Aaaand here it is! The cover for the third and final book in my Jute's Charmed Life series:


Again, thanks to Heidi Sutherlin (!contact/c1a9w)!

Should have the book finished in the next couple of days, just need to go through the CreateSpace process now that I have all the parts together!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Nudge...

It seems so much of my slice of the world is in stasis right now.

Garden plans and expansion are on hold while California suffers yet another drought.

Our two chickens are still recovering from the winter molt and the short days. We're looking forward to their return to laying.

And speaking of our hens, we still only have the two. We are handcuffed here, in a holding pattern. We want a third bird; the flock would be better for it. But where to start? We have a 5+ year old hen, and one that is < 1 year old. I suppose the best plan would be to look to adopt a hen around 1 year old. But what we really want to do is to start over with three peeps. The 5 year old barred rock is our favorite, but her two former buddies each died last year and we wonder if she'll be around long. It took a long time for these two birds to get along, and so adding a third would likely mean an extended period where we're having to deal with integration issues.

And the gridlock extends beyond the yard.

I feel the same sense of... frustration? at work, too.

It seems we're letting minor doubts and small inconveniences stop us from moving forward on many projects and decisions, from upgrading our internet service (we work a lot from home and our ancient DSL line is just not keeping up) and doing will/trust/estate planning. We continue to find perfectly valid excuses and roadblocks and reasons why we need to wait or reconsider.

What we need is a catalyst of some kind. Somehow I know that these decisions and projects and plans are all lined up like dominoes and that all it will take to get the whole thing moving is one nudge...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Blank Canvas That is 2014

I'm about to publish the third book in my middle grade series, The Charming Life of Jute. This the triumphant conclusion, the finishing piece, the end. The cover art is in progress and I've quadruple checked the text. Soon I'll post a wrap up of my experiences and the results of the grand experiment.

And as happy as I am to have actually finished something this big, to have seen it through to the end, I can't help but feel a little uncertain now.

I have no idea what I will do next. I may never publish another book. Sure, I'll still write -- I have such fun each year participating in Nanowrimo. But what next? Should I try to write another story for middle grade kids? Maybe a second Jute trilogy?

Or maybe I should try my luck at something aimed a more general audience.

I believe I need some kind of a creative outlet. I like to create things even though the process is the rewarding part for me. My daughter loves to draw and I find myself picking up her "how to draw" books and thumbing through them. I've never been any good at drawing. But I'm fascinated by the process.

I think I've about hit the limit of my crocheting. I enjoy doing it, still, so I might make a few things. But I don't think I'll ever be prolific.

Mostly, though, I'm looking at the wide open future, the upcoming calendar for 2014 is blank. I have no big plans, filled with magic to stir the soul. I have an urge. Not even an inkling, just a notion that I want to be doing something.