More highlights from my past year as told in a few of my favorite photos.


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Tucker wishes one of his bovine buddies a happy 2014. (January)


+15 more! )
I started writing a "Year In Summary" post for 2014, but after a couple or three paragraphs I decided I'd rather just post some of my favorite pictures from the year. This isn't all of them - they only cover up to October - so I'll likely post more when I get the chance.


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One of the first pictures, if not the first, I took of the New House, three months before the sale went through. (January)


+13 More! )

Friday might have been a watershed day for the 2014 As Holding Pattern part of my life, but it fizzled out with a whimper.

The bank approved my loan for The House over a week ago; now I'm waiting for the USDA underwriters to process the paperwork, and they estimated it might be done by the end of this past week, but I heard nothing from them or the bank by Friday afternoon. Likewise, the new engine for my poor car was estimated to arrive by Friday as well, but I heard nothing from the mechanic. After all the shenanigans the non-local branch of the bank I'm dealing with were doing with my loan until I caught them out - nearly delaying it long enough for them to raise my interest rate a second time, which might still happen if this process extends into May despite my ultimatim to get the closing moving by this week - and hitting the one-month anniversary of my car being towed to the mechanic, it's safe to say I was a bundle of nerves.

So when Saturday came with me still stuck in the same Holding Patterns, I decided to try easing my nerves with a bit of writing. (This is a time-proven remedy.) In this case I tried out one of the scenes for the Still-Unnamed For-Fun Fantasy Novel, and wound up knocking out 2100 words. I haven't looked at it since I wrote it so I don't have much of an idea if it's any good at all yet, but those are 2100 more words than I had on Saturday morning. I'm pleased just to have gotten it done at all, and it did help soothe me a bit. It seems like good Chapter 2 material, if I can decide what I want to write as Chapter 1.

It would also be a full chapter. After writing three novels where each chapter was an era covering years or sometimes decades, a 2100-word chapter feels pretty good.

So anyway, some amelioration accomplished. It was warm out too, and I also capped the day with a butter popcorn-filled movie night (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) with my friends Sam, Leah, and Sam's daughter Heavenly-ann, along with some snuggly cats and puppies. All of the above helped calm my nervous wreckness as well.

But now that I'm mostly calmed down, I've got to gear up for a reading I'm giving tomorrow - an excerpt from Lest Camelot Fall, which I'll be presenting as part of National Library Week (alongside two other campus authors) at the campus library. And that's nerve-wracking not just from the whole reading in public thing, but even at this late date I still haven't decided yet what I'm going to read. (I have several possibilities, but I'm fussing back and forth through each one over and over, deciding on one and then discarding it, deciding and discarding, like a manic writer who can't get past that first paragraph until it's perfect.)

I'll probably write some more on For-Fun Fantasy novel tomorrow, then. With the hope that it's warm out. And maybe I'll even get some good news about The House or my car.

In the meantime, Tucker was happily calm today because he got to visit his cow buddies again. He's usually good to go after a short belly rub too.


0413141106



And it doesn't hurt to get a car ride that doesn't end at the vet, either.

0413141122


Maybe I should find my Tucker Zen.

As those of you who read this journal know, I have a dog named Tucker, also known by his extended nickname of Tucker the Big Dog. (He's not that large, actually, but this distinguishes him from our other pooch, Weezie the Little Dog.) In his younger years...and he might still try this now at the age of 12...he would stand at our front door, look outside, look at me, look back outside, look back at me, and promise that if I let him outside without leash or line he would be good, he really really would behave himself, no really.

But if he did manage to get outside he would burst away like he'd been blasted off the surface of the Earth by a meteor strike. He would run and run and run and there was no stopping him. He could be a mile away in five minutes. He would run up and down the streets, through the woods, all over campus, all over the mountain we lived on. Sometimes he would come close by us, maybe less than ten feet away, but with a big grin on his face that told us he was playing and had no intention of being caught.

Usually the only times we would catch him were when someone else tricked him into coming to them by offering pettings or treats, if he got stuck in something like a fence, or when he was finally done hours later and would show up on the porch as if he had not instigated a five square-mile dog hunt.


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Tucker pretending to be oh so yes-daddy-I'm-just-a-poor-innocent-dog! Rub my belly please?



I'm telling this story because this is what my brain is doing to me now. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you; I just have to remember to chase it.

My historical novels over the last few years, including my historical fantasy To Murder an Empire, have been like taking Tucker out on his leash. Sometimes we go around the neighborhood or campus, or sometimes we go hiking in the mountain woods. They're pretty orderly and methodical. Hiking can lead to a lot of uncharted territory, but there's no wild running off hither and yon to follow every scent or chasing after every little noise just beyond the trees ahead.

But then along comes the for-fun fantasy novel I wrote about a couple of days ago. It's just like Tucker. It stood at the door saying "Please just let me out, I'll be good..." And I fell for it, and it took off. And now I'm chasing it all over the neighborhood and the forest and the mountains, frenetically writing down every snatch and scrap of idea that it comes across and shoots after.

Of course, this time I'm enjoying it. I don't have to worry about the book getting hit by a car, or shot by a grumpy reclusive neighbor, or bitten by a sick animal, or whatever. I've decided just to let it bolt whichever way it wants while I run after it breathlessly, filling pages and scrap paper full of names and places, bits of world-building, and even a plot point or storyline here and there. So far I've been able to keep up with it just so long as I keep a sharp eye out.

Eventually I'll catch up with it and put it on a leash (i.e., an outline)...for a little while. Then once it's rested I'll probably let it take off again. Just to see where it goes. I need the exercise and to whip myself into a bit better shape.

It's been three weeks now since I've done any writing, at least beyond this blog, and this is not a state I'm happy with either physically or mentally. It seems to be one of the holding patterns that have characterized 2014 thus far - in this case, I didn't want to start writing the next Arizona Book yet, I've only just begun researching the Mississippi River Book, and I'm still waiting for a yea or nay on the Secret Project. So I was wondering what I might write next in the meantime, at least when I snatch time away from packing and the other house buying-related rigamarole.

An odd answer came unbidden to me last night: Write something for fun.

This is almost a foreign concept to me. I mean, sure, I have fun with everything I write. If I didn't, I wouldn't write it. But this wicked notion was to write something only for fun. Not with an eye to publishing, with absolutely no self-editor, but just writing whatever I felt like writing and however I felt like writing it and with a minimum (or no) research involved. Like an extended NaNoWriMo.

It wouldn't be the first time I've done this, though it has been a long time. The last time I wrote a novel solely for the pleasure of it was back in 2005, with my so-far one-and-only young adult fantasy novel The Dark Horse. This was also an experiment to see if I could write YA fantasy. I'm not that great at objectively judging my own work so I still don't know whether or not I can write YA fantasy, as I've never submitted the book anywhere in all that time. (Maybe I should now. But that's another post.)

I say the idea popped into my head last night. But I think it's been boiling for awhile.

I've had various bits and pieces of a fantasy novel drifting into my head over the past few months. Characters, scenes, and locales with a bit of world-building. It seems very loosely based on the ex-Roman Imperial world of the 7th-9th centuries A.D., though not so close as to require huge chunks of historical research. I'm particularly fascinated by an assassin with an extremely unusual specialty. I'm also fond of some various ancient locales built underneath modern locales. But none of those started coalescing until last night's idea...and then further solidified when I happened to wake up with the idea of swiping some characters and countries from a couple of fantasy novels I wrote in the early 90s for it too. Not the old storylines, just the populations. (And coincidentally I found my notes for those books - though not the books themselves - today while looking for something else.)

This would be, to say the least, an interesting experiment. I would write a general outline, a file of characters and places, and my standard "Here's What Happens In The Book" pages of notes, added to randomly as I thought of things. But it wouldn't be intended as a primary project; it would be written around other things, most likely. It would be written in fits and starts as I snatch bits of time for it. It would be written with no expectations - except that it was being done for fun.

I wonder if that's even possible for me at this point. No expectations, I mean, and only for fun, and not with an eye to publishing (though reserving the right to try after the book is done). Just free-flowing, no angst, no headaches or heartaches writing.

And something that would keep me from going three weeks or longer without writing again. That's just untenable for me, and it's gotta go.

And really, I kind of like the idea of completely writing a book off the top of my head, rather than one partly driven by research or another author's notes and outline. The Dark Horse was the last time I did that. This may be the most appealing part of all.

Now, since I seem to be behind on my quota of Internet Animal pictures, here is a picture of Tucker the Big Dog visiting one of his bovine buddies:


0402141130

Don't let the title fool you. I really actually honestly do love snow, quite a lot. I usually complain by the end of each winter that we didn't get enough / any snow, and even after the record-breaking quantities we've gotten this season I'm still not tired of it. (I know, I know. Feel free to throw a virtual snowball-with-rock-inside at my e-head.)

It's just that I feel better and am generally happier in warmer weather. Good things seem better and bad things seem less bad and more manageable. And here in the currently indecisive climate of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I've been teased several times with more characteristic spring-like weather. So I know what I'm missing - and remembering that last year it also snowed in April.

On the other hand, that doesn't stop me from taking lots of pictures (nothing does, except armed guards standing beside signs ordering NO PICTURES watching me watching them). Plus I don't think I've fulfilled my Internet Animal Pictures Quota yet. So here are some dog-and-scenery shots from this morning's walk in the mountain woods, starring Tucker and puffy snow.


0325141103



+7 )

When I posted the other day about truths that Tucker the Big Dog reminds me about, I could've added the personal one of "Don't forget to go hiking every now and then".

That's something else I've let slide since going deep into the Arizona books. But two days ago, with snow on the ground and more coming down, I found I couldn't resist (and I didn't exactly have to twist Tucker's leg to get him behind the idea). I originally only meant to take him for some poking around in the woods behind our house, then we went just a bit farther up into the woods behind the house next door (the one I'm trying to buy), and then a bit farther, and then I thought "It's been a long time since I've taken pictures of Tucker in the snow". So we ended up tromping through another hundred or so snow-filled forest acres.


0128141149
A happy Tucker spots the mostly-forgotten logging road heading up the mountain and realizes what I'm about.


+4 )

Exactly the way many of my elders warned me about in my youth, time seems to go a lot faster for me now than it did even a handful of years ago. Part of this phenomenon manifests in my being surprised at how much time has passed since certain events took place. Really, The Incredibles came out nine years ago? popped into my head the other day when I was re-watching it with my niece and nephews. Next year it'll honestly have been ten years since I started making serious efforts to publish? occurred a few days before that. A few minutes ago it was What do you mean it's been over two weeks since my last blog entry?

But looking forward--as said elders also warned me about--has the opposite problem. The future contracts. Particularly the immediate future. More particularly, deadlines in the immediate future. Today I was working merrily along on the Final final edits of Lest Camelot Fall when it suddenly hit me: They're due on Thursday! That's only three more days! Not that I didn't know this already, and I'll have the work done by then, but three days feels like a lot less time than it used to.

Granted, this has its benefits. When I was a teenager and was awfully certain that I had all the time in the world, stuff simply didn't get done. Like homework and studying. (Though part of that was because I spent much of that homework-study time writing books.) Now I'm slowly, slowly turning this psychological panic to my advantage. All right, if you think you're running out of time, and that so many years are behind you, use that pressured feeling to keep getting work done. While this makes me feel doubly guilty when I don't actually get any writing done, my writing pace overall has been better the last few years than the few previous with what I hope is consistent quality. And it would likely be a good habit to get into if I'm lucky enough to publish more novels, with all the loads of post-writing / pre-publishing work they entail.

So here's where I am today: along with Camelot, I'm knocking out a small bit of pre-writing on the Secret Project that I also need to get out this week, and I wrote 500 words on Copper Heart yesterday. Not a lot or very good, I think, but my first words there in two weeks. If I feel doubly guilty when I don't write, I feel doubly good getting back to writing when I've been away for awhile, even if I'm not all that happy with the words. (That includes this blog.)

And while I also feel this time dilation hitting me in other ways that include thinking my niece and nephews are growing up entirely too fast, it's a good reminder not to just bury myself in writing but also enjoy the small moments as they happen. Whether it's watching cute videos with the childrens . . .

HPIM6146



...or introducing our Little Dog to the neighborhood cows...

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...or acting as a chauffeur for my friends' kittens . . .

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...it's all good. And really, if I can't enjoy the small moments, what would be the point of writing anyway?

It occurred to me that not only have I not written anything here in a while, it's been ages since I posted a multi-photo entry--years, probably. And that it's probably been ages since I posted an entry that wasn't about writing.

So I'll say one writing-related thing and be done with it for this go-round: I'm doing the heavy edits for The Matter of Camelot (or whatever the final title ends up being--my editor wants to keep that as a subtitle / series title but change the main title for this particular book) and finding that I don't have any problems with rewriting at editorial suggestion / direction / command...I just don't always know how to rewrite it. That is, I see the problem the editor is pointing out, but haven't necessarily thought of what to do to fix it. I've gone through and made 100+ pages' worth of small to medium changes in the amount of time its taken me just to get some work done on a half-dozen larger ones.

So I've been doing what I've often done over the last few years to get the Writing Blood pumping: I go walking. Tucker's normal morning walks used to be about 20-30 minutes, but a few weeks ago I added a couple of streets, and since those streets are lined by woods, barns, and farm animals, and Tucker wants to smell every single smell there is for that extra distance, this has pushed the walking time up to about an hour. When I started editing Camelot I thought at first this might be robbing too much work time, but then I discovered that it was helping me think through problems more effectively than if I were staring at my monitor in quiet panic. Win-win for both boy and dog.

At any rate, we're having our second spring here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, especially temperature-wise. The trees have been mightily confused, changing colors only to grab onto their leaves again when the weather warmed. We'll have heat two days, cold a day or two, warmth again, and so on. Some of the trees have told Nature what it can do with itself and started dropping leaves anyway, but most look like early October. Just as they did in early October.

Also, Tucker got to meet cows today. He's been sniffing at their barn for a couple of weeks but ignored them until yesterday, when he took a sudden interest. Today they took an interest in him, and he wasn't sure he liked that at all.

Here is part of our new walk, which does a pretty good imitation of a country lane:


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Yesterday Tucker really, really wanted to go check those cows out. At one point he tried climbing through the gate.
But he wasn't aware of how big they really are...


+8 )
I don't always throw up hairballs on the bed...
HPIM5730
...But when I do, I only do so on the freshest and cleanest sheets.
Stay fuzzy, my friends!


(Hayes, 8/24/13)


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Friday and Velvet wish everyone a happy--or at least a non-stupid--Feast of St. Valentine!


2012_11_17_Black Friday
Friday, aka Handsome Cat, wishes you all happy holidays!
By the end of the night, Mary declared the trip to be an awesome excursion.


HPIM3760
Mary / [personal profile] viedma checking out Pine Creek Mill in Floyd, VA.

+9 )

Since my birthday falls around the time that the leaves are changing colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I always like to do a hike or some sort of photographic excursion close at hand to the date. My original plan was to grab Laurie this past Saturday and head up to the mountains via the Blue Ridge Parkway--including Floyd County, which is built entirely across mountaintops.

Saturday morning, though, we got a surprise call from our out-of-state friend Mary / [personal profile] viedma, letting us know she was in town!, and could she come with us? Aside from the fact that we've been close friends for half my life, Mary has the twin distinctions that she introduced Laurie and me, and is one of a handful of people who talked me into getting on Live Journal. So what would have been a good day became an awesome day as ranged across the peaks looking for gorgeous pictures and tasty country food (succeeding in finding both).


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Mary meeting me at the campus library before we head out.


+7 )

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Self-portrait of Daniel Douglas Adams on his 42nd Birthday.


(Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, VA,
1/7/12)



Size comparison, then more ice )

...when I try taking a picture of myself on top of a mountain in the teeth of a cold gale.



(On the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, VA,
1/7/12)



Laurie thinks I don't look like myself here; I think I just look mean!


NO ONE SHALL RECOGNIZE ME ONCE I PUT ON MY MASK! )
Three shots snapped today right before I started writing.

Vegas left shortly after I took these pictures instead of staying the whole time I was writing, as per his usual. I suspect it's because I took away the arrowhead. I didn't take it away because I was finished with the pictures, but because he kept snuggling it right off the top of the box and down to the floor four feet below.




+2 )
Who wants candy?




Greg does! Greg does!



(Photo snapped on 7/25/10 between Princeton and Athens, WV.)

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