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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

People Are Hard

Why did God tell us to love our fellow humans? It's too hard.

I suppose He did it because only He can do it. It's one of those things we can't do on our own. It reminds us that we can only love others through Him.

People are hard. Even the people I love dearly disappoint me on occasion. The people I barely know irritate me constantly. I read blog posts or FB comments and inevitably someone says something that makes me want to walk away from all humanity, sometimes in disgust, sometimes just from exhaustion.

It's hard to remember I'm annoying, too. That my existence or beliefs may irritate the snot out of someone else. That God made us both and instead of being irritated by our differences, I should study them and consider what that says about our Creator, and be grateful I'm not alone in the room.

Except I often prefer to be alone in the room. One of the reasons I'm single.

Christians don't have the luxury of being alone. Jesus actually commands us to meet together often, for fellowship and building up. I know I'm ignoring God when I don't do that, and I know it's dangerous to ignore God. I'm His slave. He can use whatever means He wants to bring about my obedience.

Oh, but my Lord, people are hard. Way harder than cats, even though they're often similar.

Keep the faith.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pre-Publishing Checklist

I must first say the search bar on this blog is the worst I've ever used. As in, I don't think it's even trying to find the words I type into it. Wow. I finally had to use Google to get the link to the original article. Fail, blogspot, although I still love you for many reasons.

Ok, on to topic.

I posted the meat of this June 6, 2012 after Star of Justice came out. Took me forever to find it again, so I'll print it this time and put it in my publishing notebook. Yeah, I have a publishing notebook. If it took you four years between books, you'd want better notes, too.

1) Run spell check on the entire document. Especially important for made-up names. Just be sure to spell them correctly the first time. This brings me to the addendum to 1): pay attention to spell check while running it.

2) Run grammar check on the entire document. This one will have you banging your head over every fragment of dialogue, but it will catch some (few) things. Not as many as you might hope. I also never trust its suggestions, but it's a good way to make sure you're saying what you mean to say.

3) Run "find" for everything you can think of, in an orderly fashion, with a checklist. In fact, 1) should probably be "keep a checklist of things to check." Extra spaces, extra punctuation, words that should be italicized or capitalized. Words that shouldn't be italicized or capitalized. If you think of it, write it down and "find" it. Every time.

4) Keep a list of things to check and check them off when you've checked them. I found a couple of things I meant to check or change, yet apparently failed to check or change. Do you know how irritating it is to think of doing something and fail to actually do it? Yeah, you probably do.

5) Read the entire document (yes, I mean that) in a format other than the one you normally use. Really read it, too, not just skimming. I spotted the missing period while reading Star of Justice on my Kindle. Stupid me failed to note the spot, and despite my best efforts, grammar check and "find," that period insists on remaining missing. I figure it's God's way of humbling me.

6) Ask someone else to help. If you haven't abused your friends, someone will be willing to take a look at your final draft and notice the stuff you miss. If you have a brilliant Little Sister like I do, she'll even take a pic of the problem and text it to you.

Well, this checklist ain't gonna check itself off. Got a book edit to finish.

Keep the faith.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I Hate "Worship"

Had an experience at work that crystallized this thought for me. I was asked to help lead in the singing of Christmas carols at work. Not a problem. I have decades of experience not only with singing in front of people but with leading worship. Part of a youth in lay ministry.

It became a problem when I walked into the party room to see the guy who would be playing guitar setting up what looked like a karoke stage with three mics, an electric guitar (silly me. My brain didn't go there), and a teleprompter. We had no song sheets for the folks who would be singing with us, and we weren't going to practice ahead of time. My control issues gland immediately started secreting. As I was not "in charge" of this venture, I did not take over as was my urge, but my brain hopped into overdrive to simultaneously begin planning for every horrible contingency while not appearing to panic, just in case no one was in charge of this venture.

TT: I sadly have a great deal of experience with "group" activities that are just a bunch of people who "want to help but not lead." I consider many of those people utterly useless in such situations. Harsh? Yes. True? Also, yes.

Turned out, the guitarist had canned music to go with the teleprompter words, but it was exactly in my breaking range, so I couldn't sing for the first song. That didn't matter much because the music was so loud, I couldn't hear myself anyway. I didn't know the second song, and neither did anyone else in what had become "the audience" because I watched their lips not moving. By the fourth song, I decided to "bring out the clown" and camped it up as much as I could, hoping to salvage what I frame as a total fiasco. A fiasco I can't forget, because it's bothered me all weekend. I'm sharing it with you in the hopes this will finally put it to bed.

Please don't think I blame the guitarist. He was doing his best in a bad situation. Just like the rest of us.

My whole issue with today's church music slammed into my stomach. The band wanna-be's who sing their weird harmonies on stage with deafening instruments and songs that not only don't include music for those who can read notes but change every week so we can't even learn it by rote. It's not possible to have group singing when the group consists of the five to seven people on stage. It angers me enough I don't go to church anymore to worship.

Join the choir? What choir? I don't want to be part of the band, and I don't want to be a groupie. I want to use the voice, and the brain, and the ears God gave me to tell Him what I think of Him, and I want to hear myself and the people around me as they do the same. Call me old-fashioned. It's like Worship Group has become the Singing Nanny for the Church. Don't worry, little sheep. We'll sing for you. God gifted us with talent, so don't you worry your off-key heads. We've got it handled. And we've made it loud enough we don't have to hear you when you miss those notes you didn't know were coming.

TT: Wow. Didn't know my vitriol had reached those levels. Sorry.

Anyway, should singing at work take place next year, and I be involved, I will exercise my dominance and create a Christmas caroling atmosphere with the words on a projector, and audience requests, and no electric anything other than the computer I use to Google-search lyrics. I'm not a lounge singer, and you're not my audience. We are in this together, and I'm sorry I helped lead you to believe otherwise.

Keep the faith.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ignore Your Feelings

We live in a society of "how do you feel about that?" "Follow your heart." "Do what makes you happy." It's called post-modernism, and it's a rejection of Truth as an absolute.

Problem with that philosophy is feelings are subjective. It may feel great to eat as much cake as you want in (let's be nice) an evening, but keep that up night after night, and you'll ruin your health, even if it makes you happy at the time. The immediacy of the happy feeling doesn't take into account how bad you'll feel later, even a short time later.

While I consider this a profound, life-guiding truth, I'm more complaining about my reaction to weighing myself this weekend. That Maintain Don't Gain challenge I told you about offers an extra credit point for weighing in once a week. I'm not required to record the result, and I don't have to do it, but I had access to a scale so I weighed myself. And discovered I've gained 5 lbs, according to the scale.

I know this is 5 lbs of muscle. It has to be, because I've been exercising 30 minutes nearly every day for 3 weeks while avoiding sugary snacks. It could also be the layers of winter clothing adding weight. Doesn't matter, though, because when I saw that extra 5 lbs, my feelings said, "That's it. You've worked this hard to gain weight? Time to quit. Go eat a dozen of those cookies you're here to bake and screw the challenge. You can find your 5 points some other way."

Because I ignored my feelings, I didn't eat a dozen cookies. I didn't eat one, actually, although I did lick some dough off my fingers at one point. Yes, I washed my hands before going back into the batch. I'm not going to quit working out. I'm not going to stop the challenge. I am going to start measuring my waist instead of stepping on the scale. I don't need that extra point, and I certainly don't need such an emotional downer in the middle of the challenge.

In case you haven't figured it out, scales are liars. If you are trying to be healthy, don't trust your scale to measure success. Trust your clothes, your breathing when taking steps or walking to your car, and the encouraging remarks of friends and family. A measuring tape is pretty accurate, too, if you're not obsessive about it.

Keep the faith. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I'm Getting There

I make a bunch of big promises and then stop blogging.

As Murphy would agree, once you have a plan, life makes other plans for you. This is good news for once, as the other plans life has seem to be actually finishing Daughter of Anasca.

Yes, while contemplating something completely different, I figured out how to solve my unhappiness with the current ending of my I-want-to-be-soon-published WIP (as opposed to my still-in-first-draft-stage WIP that waits until I'm done with DoA). The blog will take a back seat until the rewrite and final edits on the last 100 pages are done and that sucker is uploaded to Amazon whatever it is I'm using to self-publish. CreateSpace, maybe? Can't remember at the moment.

My deadline for publication is Dec 20, the last day of Autumn 2014. Best get to it.

Keep the faith.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Mustache Dream

Tired of me yet? My biggest fear is not that you will tire of me, but that I'll make this revelation so complicated and enormous it will become burdensome instead of freeing. I'd be tempted to stop, except for the mustache dream.

Two days after the election, and two posts later, I dreamed I had a Sam Elliott-Tom Selleck sized walrus mustache. For some reason, it was blonde, but I don't believe that has anything to do with anything. I shaved that sucker off as fast as I could, and it took a ridiculously long time and left a pile of luscious blonde locks on the floor.

While I don't ascribe to Freud (or Jung) or their theories about dream interpretation (I'm was a Minuchin gal myself in practice), I do believe the brain is complicated and occasionally expresses things in ways we don't immediately recognize. This is all rationalization-speak for why I went to Dream Moods dream dictionary to see what they say the mustache was all about. 

To dream that you have a mustache when you don't really have one signifies that you are hiding an aspect of yourself. You are putting on a disguise or showing a different aspect of your personality. If you are a woman and dream that you have a mustache, then it indicates that you are expressing your power through your words and your verbal expression.
To dream that you shave off your mustache denotes that you are revealing your true self. You no longer have to hide under some disguise or some shield. 
Interesting. Days after deciding to consciously express my Biblical worldview and conservative values on my blog, I dream this. I don't know how they draw their conclusions, but I'm a little impressed. 

With my subconscious' full approval, then, I continue this self-imposed quest of cultural influence on an infinitesimal scale. It may only be to cement those beliefs in my own mind. That's OK. 

And because my curiosity got the better of me again, I looked up the blonde thing. 
To dream that you dye your hair blonde indicates that you literally need to lighten up and quit being so serious all the time. Try  to be more upbeat.

There you have it. I'm also supposed to keep it light and funny. I'll do my best.

Keep the faith. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Maintain, Don't Gain

My insurance plan offers a substantial reduction in premiums if I "earn" points the previous year through health "challenges." I have no problem with employers or insurance companies offering incentives to encourage healthy lifestyles, thus reducing the need for preventable health-related expenses and keeping overall health care costs down for every customer. Bribes work. Even Proverbs agrees with that (Prov 17:8). Earning these points has never been an issue for me because, by their definitions, I'm a healthy person.

The point requirements were changed this year (as is their right). I have to do a little more to qualify than usual. In theory, this is not a problem because, again, I'm a healthy person. However, I'm also a person who doesn't like anyone "in my business," including my health insurance company. I resent checking in with my daily healthy choices.

Being a mature adult who wants that discounted premium, I am adapting and participating in one of their challenges to get the extra points I need. It was a personal goal I made months ago when I got my pants altered after losing all the weight during the spring, so it isn't out of my way to participate in the "Maintain, Don't Gain" during the holidays. I get daily points for each of the following:
  • Exercising 30 minutes or more 
  • Eating a healthy breakfast
  • Eating a healthy lunch
  • Limiting treat foods to 1 serving or less
  • Limiting alcoholic or sugary beverages to 1 serving or less
Except for the exercise (unless it's Swamp Season), I generally do all this anyway, but having to tell them I do all this is galling. I fear that accepting the reporting requirements will train me to accept worse down the road. At what point does voluntary involvement become indentured servitude?

I'm thinking about it way too much, you say. You think about it for a while, and tell me if I'm wrong. This is the "freedom above all" leaning of my conservative mind, the part I categorize as "Libertarian" because it's inclined to be contrary in the name of freedom, and prefer stubborn resistance to reasonable cooperation because cooperation leads to dependence and that must be avoided at all costs.

Anyway, I'm watching what I eat and using that 30 minutes of exercise to burn off my irritation at having to report it, and, I expect, I'll lose weight over the next 6 weeks. Which will irritate me, too, because that's not the goal. Welcome to my OCD hell.

Keep the faith.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Point of View

Point of View is a daily talk show whose motto is "Defending Family, Faith and Freedom." The show is over 20 years old and used to air on a radio station here in Topeka until that station changed hands and formatting. I wasn't willing to give up the show, so I started listening to the broadcast on the internet.

The best day of my life was the day I met host Kerby Anderson in person, and got to hear him interview Kris Kobach, then running for Kansas' Secretary of State. Click the link to read about that. It seems tame now when I think of how pumped I still am about that day.

I listened to Point of View for years until I changed to a job where I can't listen at work.

The show is available for download, and they have a way to listen with your phone, but I'm the Turtle, and I don't use tech well. I stopped listening for nearly three years, although I continued to support the show monthly. They were the first ministry I ever donated to, and I had no qualms the quality would change just because I wasn't listening.

I was right. As part of my new year's resolutions (which for me started when my boss Kris Kobach was reelected for a second term as Secretary of State - Go, Kris!), I decided to give up the useless hour and a half of TV sitcom reruns I'd been watching after work, and replace it with a Point of View episode from the website pointofview.net.

And there they are. All my old friends, mentors, brothers and sisters on the front line of the culture war, examining current events under the lens of a Biblical worldview. Highlighting ways to spread God's love and light in the darkness. Modeling how to disagree without being disagreeable. Daily illustrating, time and again, my own views of what it means to be a Christian, to be a conservative, and to be compassionate without compromise.

I strongly encourage you to make Point of View part of your life. I have no doubt they will bless and challenge you.

Keep the faith.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Second Punch

Punch number two came about after watching, of all things, Babylon 5. Yes, I watch Babylon 5. I consider it the soap opera version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Minbari are my favorite race. They do everything in threes, including their caste system: warrior, worker and religious. The main character on the show, Delenn, is of the religious caste, so we see a lot of how those folks live.

The purpose of the religious caste is to express the religion of the Minbari, which is, in typical sci-fi fashion (if the goal isn't mocking religion in general, that is), an androgynous mismash of one-with-the-universe, reincarnation, karma kind of stuff.

Delenn is a kind of priestess, being high up the religious hierarchy, and everything she does expresses religious significance. This really comes home during her courtship with John Sheridan, but it's visible in most episodes. She's like a woman monk who can marry.

It got me thinking that if this fictional character could live her entire life with an active awareness and implementation of her religion, why don't I?

Yes, I know she's fictional, but I watch these shows because they make me think about my own life, so bear with me.

I have a real religion, and relationship, with Christ. Why is that not a deliberate part of my day? Praying, study of my holy book, applying what I study, seeking a oneness with Christ instead of the universe. Why couldn't I be as open and nonchalant about that as the Minbari are? No one looks twice at Delenn when she does her religious stuff. Yeah, yeah, she's Minbari, but the concept isn't that far off. The only downside I could see was starting. I might get some odd looks at first, but people would get used to it.   

I started. I started practicing my faith openly, with references to God and Jesus, with prayers, with attributing my actions to One above me. Yeah, I got a few looks at first, but practice makes easier, and nowadays people don't blink twice when I bring Him up. In fact, I've had more opportunities to witness than ever before, and in far more natural circumstances than meeting that stranger on the bus.

The hard part is the accountability. When I screw up, God gets the blame. I figure He's a big boy. He can handle it.

Keep the faith.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One of A One-Two Punch

I used to be a quiet Christian. I behaved myself and acted like a "good" person (I can't think that word anymore without hearing Jesus ask, "Why do you call me 'good?' Is anyone good but God?"), and figured people would know I did it because I'm a Christian.

I failed to reason how people would know that if I never mentioned Christ.

Then I read a primer on Islam from something like the Islamic Center for Muslim Outreach. I have it around here somewhere, but I'm too lazy to go find it. A totally legitimate, slightly more than a pamphlet about the seven pillars of Islam, and why I'd want to be a Muslim. I'd never seen a brochure for another religion, so I read it. And got a little convicted in my own religion.

Islam has some things going for it. Daily charity, for one. Respect for their holy book (According to the brochure, the Koran should be kept in a special place higher than anything else in the house and read through entirely every month. It's a bit smaller than the Bible, so this isn't as scary as it sounds). Sharing of their faith. Muslims are encouraged to proselytize.

Christians are encouraged to share our faith, too, by Jesus Himself in the Great Commission, if you want only one example, but we have so much else in the Bible to study and emulate some of us overlook that one.

So I'm pondering this book on Islam, and wondering, if they willingly, openly speak about a god that I believe is false, why am I hesitant to speak about the One I believe is true? That is the difference as I see it. My God actually exists. That's why I serve Him. If I didn't believe that, I'd do something easier with my life. Or I'd be a Muslim. Or a Wiccan. I have an affinity for the Wiccan worldview. It's very peaceful.

But I chose (and still choose) Christianity. Why was I silent about it?

I'm out of space, so I'll give you the second punch tomorrow.

Keep the faith.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Organizing My Thoughts

Last week I started a post on a very specific thought prompted by something on FB. In the course of writing, I realized a few things.

One, worldview is almost impossible to quantify. Every sentence I wrote led to another brick in the foundation of my worldview, and it felt like all of them needed explaining. For those who have a similar worldview, the explanations don't have to be lengthy, but for those on the 180 from my worldview, I'm talking utter nonsense. 

Two, it's a bit harder than I thought it would be to focus on why I consider myself a conservative without slinging a few snarky arrows at the other side. I am determined to do it, however. Kerby Anderson regularly says we can disagree without being disagreeable, and the fastest way to shut down communication is to fail to show respect to the humanity of the opponent.

Three, I need to organize my thoughts. I don't want to explore every issue in excruciating detail, but I don't want to cause more confusion, either. I am a creature of order. I'd like a little order in my presentation.

So, I made notes, and I hope to present a brief and somewhat ordered account of why I believe and behave the way I do. Much like Luke did when writing his Gospel. Except I don't claim this is divinely inspired. I'm crazy, but there are levels of craziness. Mine is mostly related to cats. 

For those worried about my fiction writing being sidelined by this new focus, rejoice. I'm on the last leg of Daughter of Anasca edits (with some help from My Dear Friend as gamma reader), and I've got a plan to finish Dangling Justice, which is a first. It's as though I've been trying so hard to be non-offensive, I'd stopped being able to say anything.

As I once told her, and My Dear Friend reminded me, "You can be my friend, or you can not be offended, but you can't be both." True dat.

Keep the faith.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Load Off

You know, that little bit of writing yesterday morning about current events really helped my attitude. It's like I've been holding this huge burp inside, and I just couldn't move right until I got it out.

Yeah, that's disgusting. I'm the Turtle. Hear me revolt.

Has the depression lurking around the corners of my soul been because of my silence? Have I kept my opinions so quiet for fear of offending that I've stifled my own joy in life? Turned my anger inward, as the therapist in me would say?

I took a few minutes after yesterday's post and jotted about a dozen potential post topics relating to my conservative worldview. I haven't had a dozen post topic ideas in years. Literally.

Because this started as my writing blog, I've steered away from divisive topics that might attract trolls and alienate readers. But the fact is, I don't have much to say about writing at the moment. Plus, my worldview will spill out in my books. Not as obviously as in this blog, but I will always be conservative. I will always believe in God - an impossibly intelligent, powerful being able to create everything from nothing with a word. I will always believe in the sanctity of human life, even when I personally want to smack most humans within minutes - occasionally seconds - of meeting them. These beliefs will permeate my writing. They have to, because I write therapy books.

Anyway, I'm going to continue with the "thoughts on conservatism" theme for a while because at least I'm writing something, and it may help me write other things. If you don't care about conservatism, sorry. I will try to keep the posts brief and personal to me, sans ranting.

Keep the faith.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Radio Silence

I've had a lot to say over the past few months, but none of it seemed suitable for publication.

Writing well takes time and energy, and, while it could be argued I've had the former, the latter is sadly lacking. Again. I'm starting to think I have a low-iron issue. I guess that means I should return to the spinach ingestion. blech.

You might think the recent election (Republicans taking control of both national Houses, and keeping control in Kansas) would make me happy, since I am a registered Republican. It does not. Nothing in the political realm makes me happy nowadays.

Our representative republic (that's what America is, folks, not a democracy) is working. The people we've put on Capitol Hill do represent us. They are moderates with no plan, no concept of history or the future, no ability to work out differences, an entitlement mindset that believes it is not only OK to take from those who have and give to those who have not but mandated by God, when they espouse a belief in God (and many do. Americans in general still want a "religious" person in office, even if Americans in general don't know or care what religion it is).

The problem is not with the politicians. The problem is with us - the people being represented. We are divided, almost straight down the middle at this point. Multiple opposing worldviews attempting to express themselves in two parties. The only reason we still have two parties is because 50% of people vote along straight party lines because they don't care enough to pay attention. I used to be one of those.

E. Stephen Burnett got me thinking with one of his FB posts pre-election. It was along the lines of "conservatives worry about elections; liberals worry about changing culture." That's why liberals are winning, even if this election seems to disprove that (All this election proved is people are mad and don't know what to do about it).

So conservatives like myself need to take the time and energy to explain why we are conservatives, and demonstrate the implementation of those conservative values in our own lives. We must put our actions where our beliefs are, and hope to rub off on the 50% who've just never thought about it. I intend to break my radio silence with a few posts about why I am a conservative (forget Republican for now. That brand means less every day, just like "Democrat" means less every day). It may be too late, but maybe not.

Stop looking for a leader, folks. You're the leader. 

Keep the faith.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Spinach Smoothie

The quest for tooth improvement continues. I ate my bag of spinach like potato chips and learned an important lesson.

Spinach tastes funny.

Perhaps this is the aging of my taste buds, but the bag I ate was reminiscent of floral soap. Not the detergent taste I experience with cilantro. This was a persistent, pervasive floral scent that I couldn't wash away that made it difficult to remember I was eating food, not cleansing supplies.

I'd never thought of spinach tasting anything other than "green," so this is a bit off-putting. Until I get used to it, I'll ingest the majority of my spinach in juice form. I am using store-bought organic spinach. Maybe it will taste different from The Swamp.

I added a little water, lots of spinach, pineapple chunks and juice, vanilla Greek yogurt, one Fuji apple, and a dollop of honey because - can you believe it? - it wasn't sweet enough. Mostly, the honey and the yogurt seemed to smooth out the taste. That made a glass and a half of green frothy stuff.

I'm not giving portions because you'll have to see what makes you happy. The yogurt has so far been one portion/cup of Oikos because I didn't want to buy a whole tub if this went south as some of my experiments do. I liked it better with the yogurt than without, even though it didn't make much difference in consistency. I have a cheap blender, too, so my apple chunks retain some of their chunkiness.

Now I'll have to do a cost analysis, because Bolthouse Farms makes a drink called Green Goodness that has way more "stuff" in it (like seaweed and wheat grass) that I can ingest for $1 per serving. It's tempting to snap a cap and pour for $1 instead of assemble, make a mess, disassemble, clean the mess and start over with the blender every day. I probably get more fiber the old-fashioned way. I certainly get more exercise.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Eat your greens.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

DIY Deodorant, part 2

Mrs. Iguana asks if I could store the stuff I made in a used deodorant tube. Last night, I would have said, "not without altering the ratio of powder to oil" because coconut oil turns soluble rather fast in my limited experience.

This morning, I would say, "yeah, you probably could if you store it in the fridge." When I took my tub out of the fridge pre-shower for after-shower use, it required fingernails.

A Friend posted a recipe with pics similar to mine on my Wall yesterday. The last pic gave me an idea, although it actually wasn't what the pic demonstrating at all. I believe if you wrap the deodorant in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and then cool it, it would retain that shape, provided you stored it in the fridge between uses. Maybe a muffin tin? This is the next thing I will try, since two days after starting the DIY deodorant, I remain pleased with the results.

Now I'm looking for a natural way to remove pit stains from clothes. *evil grin*

Happy Thursday, dear readers. May it not bite you.

P.S. Sept 29, 2014

It's still warm in Kansas, so I am storing the deodorant in a plastic bag in the fridge. Solidified nicely into a "stick" and far less messy. After five days, I'm also less stinky at the end of the day than I am with the Tom's brand. I'll be using this through the Winter. We'll see how well it performs in Kansas Summer. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DIY Deodorant

Several months ago (maybe four?), I stopped using antiperspirants. I had a lot of reasons, but the final nail was a study suggesting preventing perspiration might create a link with breast cancer. Thus began the search for a smell-cancelling deodorant without antiperspirant, something currently impossible to find at Walmart.

The best I've found so far is Tom's brand deodorant from a health food store. My hippie descendant co-worker, who has never used antiperspirant, agreed this is the best she's found. It's still not enough to block the stink of the Turtle with unblocked armpit pores.

I turned my eyes to natural ingredient websites. You know, those hemp-growing, conspiracy theorists who run their computers from either solar panels or the nearest Starbucks that I both mock and respect for their refusal to care about either my mocking or my respect. I found an expensive recipe that supposedly works like magic, but I can't bring myself to spend $50 on GMO free arrowroot baking powder, even if it is the only time I'll ever have to buy it. Especially when the recipe only calls for 2 tbsp.

WGR showed me a recipe from her latest issue of Mother Earth that was cheap and easy, and therefore couldn't possibly work. Being the Turtle, I modified (pronounced BUHNgled) the recipe and kept going. Here is my modified version:

1/3 c baking soda
1/3 c corn starch
7 tbsp coconut oil
6 drops citrus oil (or any other scent, if you want scent)
I used it yesterday with good results. It wasn't a heavy sweat day, but there was no detectable odor until well after 4 PM, which beat out Tom's and could have been leftover from the clothes (I do what I can, but the Turtle sweats like a racehorse).
The biggest issue I had yesterday was the mess. Coconut oil and powder don't stay mixed, so the lotion must be shaken before applied. Then there's the lotion on the hands, which is slightly gritty and very oily, and almost required Dawn to wash off. This isn't too high a price for a non-stinky Turtle, but it's important to warn the reader.
I discovered the second problem this morning when the temp in the house dropped to 74 and the coconut oil partly solidified. I had to stir the lotion with a finger to liquefy the oil and mix the ingredients. So I guess I'll mix and store in the fridge until the temp around here drops to winter's consistent 69 degrees. That will be an unhappy few minutes every morning, but, again, not likely a deal-breaker.
Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Keep it clean.

P.S. March 27, 2015

I initially posted this with tea tree oil as an ingredient. Turns out tea tree oil has some estrogen-like properties, so applying it daily in the same area where I stopped using antiperspirants because of breast cancer concerns seems dumb. I initially added it for the antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil already has those. So does soap.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

Jill Domschot tagged me to take part in this weeks ago. I completely spaced out/ dropped the ball/ moved on with my life/ dissed the honor. It wasn't quite my fault because since getting my blog URL issues solved, I created the unintended issue of "losing" all my Blogs I Follow. I would normally be reminded of such a tagging when Jill's blog changed places on my blog, but that didn't happen. Hopefully, I've fixed that, too, as of tonight.

The only reason I'm remembering to do this tonight is because I seriously don't want to edit the next chapter in my soon-to-be published book Daughter of Anasca. I wrote it years ago, it needs some tweaking, but I wove the whole thing so tight I'm afraid if I pull on any bits, it will unravel into a complete mess, and I just don't have the mental energy to deal with that this evening. 

Where was I?

Right. Four questions.

1) What am I working on?

Daughter of Anasca. A YA fantasy coming of age story of two sisters. Idea conceived 20+ years ago, written five or six years ago, and finally about to see the light of day. My non-writing beta readers liked it better than Star of Justice. I worked really hard to keep it at a PG rating so homeschoolers would have a chance to read it before their parents picked it up and freaked out at the first chapter. I promise, it gets better and worse if you keep going, but I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised at the end.

2) How does it differ from others in its genre?

It's a little more complicated than the YA I've read, which isn't much, let me tell ya. I like "coming of age" stories, but I hate stories about tweens and teens grappling with hormone issues. My girls are growing up fast, and it has nothing to do with who takes whom to the prom, although, being me, I had to throw some romance in there. It's fairly brutal, but The Flash's favorite series at 12 was about a girl with a meth head boyfriend, so... Is it worse? You be the judge. The adults aren't idiots. Coming of age is about entrance into the adult world. You wouldn't want that if everybody there is a drooling moron.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write what I want to read. I like good vs. evil stories, but I'm old enough to know "good" and "evil" aren't always easy to recognize. I like "princess and bodyguard" stories, and, boy, will it show the more I produce. I like in-your-face fight scenes, both physical and emotional, and those are easier to justify in fantasy. I like consistency in world creation, and stretching "reality" without breaking it. I like knowing a book will end well, and I only really know that when I've written it.

4) How does my writing process work?

I wish I knew. It used to be obsessive. Then it was passive-aggressive. Currently, it's thwarted by cats. I'm going to have to train myself to write in the hour between putting them to bed and myself to bed, like I did with this post. For once, the dog left me alone, too.

I might have just enough brain power to go stare at that chapter some more, so I'll end here.

Look for Daughter of Anasca, coming soon. If the cats cooperate. 

Monday, August 18, 2014


I was recently asked how a fiction author avoids bias. The simple answer: she doesn't.

The questioner, who reads political spy thrillers, was irritated with a certain author because the author appeared to have an agenda in some books.

We all know authors write from their own worldviews. We all know authors write about topics that interest them (unless they have a specific reason that they can't, like "need money now so must accept boring freelance work"). Unless the author is a journalist devoted to giving just the facts (and how many journalists are encouraged to do that, nowadays?), bias will be present. I would argue bias is present even for the journalist, based on what facts are presented and in what order.

For the reader, it's not a question of avoiding bias. It's a question of which biases agree with your worldview, or, which biases stretch your worldview. I suspect a reader's favorite authors will demonstrate a close approximation of how the reader views the world, and, contrarywise, his least favorite authors will clash with his worldview in a manner too disconcerting to accept. 

For the author, the question could be "will this presentation of the universe as I understand it enthrall or disgust a reader?" Or, in Christian fiction, "will the CBA/ God/ secular worldview" be OK with my story? You know. The old "who's my audience" question.

Biases will present themselves on paper. A variety of good beta readers will help illuminate them. One or two reviews will illustrate them immediately, if you can stomach reading reviews. The best advice I can give to an author who wants to consistently sell her writing is "know your audience," write to their biases and don't worry about the rest of the world.

Happy Monday, dear readers. New week, fresh start. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Turtle in GIMPland

Grace has been and gone a week now, and the Turtle household has settled back into its regularly scheduled programming. With one difference. GIMP has joined the family.

Part of the Turtle's plan for this visit was instruction in GIMP, a free photoshop-like design program. Grace and Iguana use this program with great success on a regular basis. I should be able to do the same, correct?

I used to think so, but the program has other ideas.

GIMP is like a four story house with a basement, attic and wraparound porch, planned by a dozen culturally diverse architects and one alien who never spoke to each other, built by blind hermit crabs. All the cupboards, closets and drawers are mislabeled, upside down or actually dimensional portals to another universe. I do not exaggerate.

Grace says she thinks the GIMP designers went out of their way to avoid imitating Photoshop to avoid lawsuits. I don't know Photoshop, but I guess they succeeded. I don't know what the heck is going on half the time, and the other half I'm sitting there, paralyzed like Alice, thinking "It should be able to do this. Do I drink the potion or eat the mushroom to make it work?"

Grace also says sometimes the program really does go a little insane for whatever reason and refuses to do things it normally does. Good to know.

I have made some progress. This is the current cover, and perfectly OK to be the final cover, but I want to try to add some glowing eyes to the hoard in the back.

This is the current imprint and publishing name. I googled a lot of names I liked, but they were all taken. I'm still partial to "Grave Snapper Books," but I got voted down.

GIMP and I will continue to circle each other like feral cats, but we've found an uneasy truce for the moment that may blossom into consensual apathy.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Watch your step. Never know where the next GIMP portal will open.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grace Is Coming

Doesn't have quite the auditory impact as "Dawn is coming" from the season four finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the potential is there.

A few things came home to me this week. I wrote Daughter of Anasca six years ago. That's when Caleb walked into my life, and became a character in that book. Six years. I've had a completed book (for the most part) sitting on my hard drive for six years. That's the time it takes a human to be born and start school.

That is waaaaay too long to do nothing with a finished manuscript.

If I remember correctly, and that's a big if considering six years have passed between then and now, I planned to produce a book every two years. I'm OK with slow and steady, but I've passed into imperceptible as far as movement goes. Part of me knew this, but seeing it there in black and white on the vet appt. reminder card put it all in perspective.

Time to get moving. Past time.

Grace knows things I want to learn. She seems amenable to teaching me. I have seven days to absorb how to format print and ebooks, the basics of GIMP and cover design, where and how to choose fonts, and how to make a book through CreateSpace. Oh, and how to hook my url to this blog so www.robynntolbert.com starts working again.

I doubt I can learn everything in that amount of time and still get some fun things in, like visiting cemeteries and hellmouths -mwahahahahahahaha!- but I intend to try.

Once Daughter of Anasca is out of the way, according to Orson Scott Card, I will have removed the primary block to writing my next book, Dangling Participles. We'll see.

Yes, I talk big. I've talked big in the past. But I've hit that "fish or cut bait" moment where I really do have to write...or stop. I don't believe I want to stop. That means I have to write.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Take a moment to review. Grace is coming.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Covers, Fonts and Pen Names

I've flailed around for a cover idea for Daughter of Anasca for years. I have only one experience with cover creation, but it had me in tears and nearly puking on a regular basis. Praise God it lasted no longer than a typical bout of flu, or I would have died of dehydration.

No offense, Grace and Iguana. I blame myself for overreacting. I'm sure I couldn't plan a wedding, either.

As of yesterday, I have a solid cover idea to pursue. I may need to snap some pics of my own to make it work, but I'll do it.

Rick Copple shared an interesting (to me) post about how indie authors shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to cover design. I don't know who Dean Wesley Smith is, but he makes some sense, so I'm taking his advice seriously, including the part about using a different name.

Daughter of Anasca is YA. I deliberately kept it at a PG rating. I had no such restraints in Star of Justice because I wrote it for adults. Younger people read it at their own risk (not that I wrote anything you couldn't see on basic cable after 5 PM). The blog author, Dean Wesley Smith, points out that folks who like one of my books may be startled or turned off by reading something of mine in a different style or genre. Worse, a younger reader may like Daughter of Anasca and pick up Star of Justice or its potentially rougher sequels (once they're written) and freak out the parents.

I don't like the idea of a pen name, but I am thinking of using initials: R.C. Tolbert. That, plus a different cover style, which must happen because I don't have the same skill as Newsome Creative, will help differentiate my YA from my adult. Of course, since I'm thinking of publishing as Graveyard Publications, I don't know why I'm bothering to differentiate anything. You read the Turtle, you get the Turtle, guts and all.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Enjoy the weather. It won't last.

Monday, July 7, 2014

That Money Thing

I recently took a walk on the dreamy side imagining life where money isn't an issue. Came home this weekend.

I took the holiday to build that shelter for my blueberry plants in The Swamp. I had planned, measured, sketched and calculated until I was certain I couldn't fail. On the DIY scale, this was a 1. I bought materials and went at it.

Well, it's done, but in the process I made three trips to the hardware store, failed to anticipate the effect of the PVC elbows on the overall dimensions, and even though I thought I'd left plenty of overage, underestimated the amount of fabric I needed for the shade. So much so that I will need to make a new one that takes into account the southern exposure. In short, I made mistakes. Lots of them.

Mistakes happen. I'm not going to kill myself because my blueberry shelter isn't perfect. What I have figured out as an adult is that certain mistakes cost money. Sometimes a lot of money. If I'm not willing or able to deal with losing money to mistakes, I won't take the risks.

This is why I stopped drawing. Somewhere in college I subconsciously did the math of supplies + time = massive waste unless I'm selling or gifting the stuff, and I did neither. I can't afford piles of artwork lying around or boxes of pens and brushes that don't pay for themselves. Therefore, I don't create art (It was so simple when the folks paid for everything).

It's sad, and kinda pathetic, but there it is. I don't try more things because I can't afford the inevitable mistakes. I want that loft bed with desk, but after this weekend and my 1 that turned -1, I don't know that I can afford it. Back to the calculator.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Take your risks, if you can afford them.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

If Money Weren't An Issue

Would my life be different if money weren't an issue? I wouldn't have to be as rich as the Queen or Col. Sanders, but, you know, wealthy enough to not have that immediate dollar-shaped "stop" sign when an idea pops into my head.

1) I'd still work. I enjoy work, and I'd enjoy it a lot if I didn't have to think about how cheap my special brand of enthusiastic slave labor is. I might not work 40 hours a week, but I probably would. I get oddly upset on extended weekends.

2) I'd have a similarly sized house. Maybe a little bigger (900-1200 square feet) but nothing huge. Even the plot wouldn't be outrageous. Maybe an acre or three. Enough that my nearest neighbor can't hear my toilet flushing. I would have a different house, though, an Earthship with a cistern and solar power. Maybe some of those solar freakin' roadway panels. I could pay workmen to do stuff, so I'd have lots of built-ins, catwalks, a solarium and an atrium. Skylights would be nice. And rounded edges instead of square. Oooh, and one of those endless pool things. Those look neat.

3) I'd buy used cars. I might splurge on a work truck as a second vehicle, but it would be used. Through a dealer. I learned that lesson.

4) I'd have more cats. OK, maybe not more, but the current ones would have the best of everything. I could afford the exploratory surgery I suspect Skuttle needs because I have back-seat diagnosed her with some kind of colon issue after reading a Catnip article. I could leave food out for everybody instead of the current four feedings a day because I could afford every cat eating the same prescription cat food all the time.

5) I'd help more friends. I have so many people I wish I could slip a $100 or $500 just because they could use it. Or a $20,000 investment in a good idea (like solar freakin' roadways). They're trying so hard, but life doesn't always respect effort. It would be nice to be the generous friend. I mean, I buy a coffee now and then, but it's not the same.

6) I could support more causes. I give currently (more than 99% of Americans, apparently), but I wish I could give more to more. I have three charities I regularly support, but I wish it were five or six. I bet I could find a few more if money weren't an issue.

7) I would never get upset over money again. I hate worrying about money. It's a family habit, but when I think I won't have enough to cover whatever needs covering, I get very upset. More upset than need be, considering I'm a person who learned this year (through testimony, not experience) that utility bills come in different colors depending on how late your payment is. I didn't even know a utility payment could be late (Hate me if you must. I'm a Princess Turtle, but I do pay my own way).

8) I'd go back to school. Not for a degree. I don't ever want to do that again. But I'd love to take some vo-tech classes on electrical wiring, or woodworking, or oil painting. Or Photoshop. Maybe welding. To have money to learn something just because I want to learn it? That would be awesome.

I find these musings following me around this year. They distract me while I'm driving. They follow me into my dreams. Is this a mid-life crisis? It's a little early.

Anyhoo, now that I've written it down, I should stop thinking about it. I bet you won't. How would your life be different?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Best Advice

This is another post I should save for NAF, but I hate finding pics to go with topics.

Finish what you start writing. It's that simple.

I should have taken the time and energy 23 years ago to finish the stories I am trying to write today. I didn't have the discipline back then, but that would have been an excellent thing to practice, too.

When you're 19 years old, and you come up with a story idea, odds are it's going to be fairly simple. Doesn't mean it's bad. Just means it's not going to have the same kind of complexity that a writer with more life experiences can add (nothing like a job, a mortgage, and 8 mouths to feed to teach you about layers of conflict). Fewer characters. More direct, obvious plot ideas. A thick, black Sharpie line of a story. That's fine when you're 19 years old. You earn your million words of practice, so you may as well earn it finishing such ideas as jumping from idea to idea and only writing the "interesting" parts, which is what I did. That's why I have a bunch of story "fragments" I used to consider book-worthy.

Problem is, when a writer tries to take those 23 year old ideas and mold them into what she now considers "book-worthy," more often than not, they don't fit. There are some good ideas, and a dollop of passion or conflict, but she's learned that's not all that goes into a good book. They might make novellas. They might make fine short stories or chapters, but they aren't going to carry 100K words into the hearts of her fans. "A closet nerd takes an unexpected trip through time with a robot assassin" is a good elevator pitch, but if you don't have more than that to back it up, you're humped.

But what if you want your older self experience to make something great out of those old ideas? Well, good luck. I suspect if you finish them when you're young, you'll clear the way for bigger, better, more complex ideas that grow with you. Like Aslan. 

I have a lot of 23 year old story ideas, but those may not a book make. Dangling Justice is about that closet nerd, but my 19 year old self didn't know about Ah'rahk, or Caissa, or Rhami when she thought of that idea with the robot assassin. Now my 42 year old self has the job of turning a simple idea into something worth writing, and hopefully, worth reading.

Happy Thursday, dear readers.  Finish what you start writing. Words to live by.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Embrace the Angst

I should type this up for NAF, but I'm just too lazy.

I've railed for a while (two years?) about how hard writing is, how I don't know where the plot is going, how I have too many choices, blah, blah. "It's not like Star of Justice!" I whine. "Even with Elementals, I had a final scene." Boo hoo.

I want my writing process to be all clinical and rational and easily contained in my current schedule. I don't want to get obsessive, like with Star of Justice, or painful, like Elementals. I just want to sit down and write a nice, complicated, thought-provoking, rollicking ride of hilarity and bittersweet depth in an hour a day without any hitches or interruption of regularly scheduled programming.

That isn't too much to ask.

Except I don't think that's how it works for me. I think all my books will be therapy books. They will emerge from chaos, frustration and inconvenience. Creation is hard. Ask a mom in labor, if you can get that close without bodily harm.

It's like trying to garden without breaking a sweat. Rarely happens. Most times I come in looking like Sasquatch.

So I'm not going to fight it anymore. I will embrace the self-loathing, the false starts, the wrong turns and rewrites. I will stomp around and snarl at the cats. I will even stay up past 9 (gasp!) if the words start flowing at 8:30. Yeah, I might be snappy at work, but I'm back in the corner, so who cares? 

Have I resolved this before? I don't think so. This feels like a moment of clarity. Which is good, 'cause it may be the last I have for a while.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. May your day be as easy as you make it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not Much On Stamina

Endurance is not my thing. I'm great with quick projects I can start and finish in an hour, or a night. Occasionally a week. I don't have the patience for long-term investments of time and energy (which is a real problem where writing is concerned).

This is a devolution of character. I used to blame Farmville, but I suspect it's more a factor of age and environment. I rarely need to keep going, so I don't. I tend so many cats just so I have a reason to get up most days.

The garage sale pile grows, but it should have grown even more last night. Problem was, I got home, I sat down, and I didn't want to get up again. I know the laws of thermodynamics. If I want to stay in motion, I need to be in motion.

Or, I need to break it down into tasks I can finish in one night. Clear this closet. Go through that bin of bedding. I have 10 ten days. Surely I can force myself to clean house for 20 hours over 10 days. I'm already liking the more open feel of the basement, and seeing the bottom of the guest closet. Isn't that enough reason?

We'll see.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. What's in your closet?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Back to Faith

This was one of those "anxious" weekends, where the little issues of life log-jammed against a wall of "what will I do now?" I don't know about you, but I can carry a bit of that before I identify the nausea as "worry."

I'm buying new glasses. I want a new mattress. I want to renovate the Guest Room before the next guest gets here. All that costs money, and we know the Turtle doesn't like being reminded of her limited resources.

I have a book to publish. I have a rose bed to transplant from one suburb to another. I have Summer in The Swamp to contend with. I have no zucchini sprouts. I have a front room full of garage sale stuff that, God willing, will leave in two weeks, but what if it doesn't? I'm stepping over a houseguest for the next 9 days, who isn't really a problem, but he's a pea-sized difference in schedule that this Princess does notice, especially when he gets underfoot as I'm carrying boxes.

My dreams this weekend (when I was able to sleep) were endless pruning of rose bushes and searching for lumber and losing cats in warehouse-sized mazes. That's not good. 

It's time to pray. Some people love to quote that "God helps those that help themselves" maxim, but it's a load of compost and, as far as I can tell, completely unBiblical. God helps those who cannot help themselves. None of us are adequate to any task without Him, except possibly rebellion. I need to bring the Big Guy in on the plan, and then hand it over to Him to solve as He has done time and again for me. All that worry time needs to become prayer and trust time.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Hand God your problems today. He's ready for them.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Procrastination Makes the World Go 'Round

It never ceases to amaze me what I will do in an effort to avoid doing something.

I have a book to prepare. What have I been doing instead? Rearranging the house. The Guest Room, specifically.

Part of it is Grace's advent. Part of it is the rainy weather that prevents me from working off my daily stress outside. But part of it is absolutely procrastination about the next book.

I rationalize this by telling myself the Guest Room will become The Writing Room. The place where my laptop and I go to "get away" from the cats and the TV so I can hunker down and be all productive. It might even be true. That was my intent with the porch.

I just dropped a huge wad of cash on new glasses because I now need bifocals, and I'm starting to seriously notice the fact. I've been having problems with headaches and tired eyes, and I hope the new glasses will help (I also use artificial tears to combat dryness and that helps a bit).

I would like to buy a new mattress, but the one I'm considering costs $1200. The salesman called it $1199 to make it more palatable, but I worked retail and I know that trick. With sales tax, I'm looking at $1317, which is steep. Maybe too steep, now that I write it out.

I should look at book production as a way to afford that mattress, and perhaps I should mentally tie the purchase of the mattress to book sales. As in, I won't buy a mattress with anything other than book money.

Yeah, right. 

Anyway, this sudden outpouring of cash has made me reconsider the Guest Room renovations in terms of steps: what I can afford now vs. what can wait, and what I can likely do by myself vs. what I would want help with.

Building requires planning, so I sit in the guest room and plan a pipe dream instead of executing another pipe dream, thus achieving a state of perfect procrastination.

Happy Friday, dear readers. May you be as productive as you wish to be.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I mentioned on FB that I might have to call in the "guilt chip" on The Brothers in regards to my Guest Room plans. That led to the comment from a cousin that brothers are generally willing to help if the guilt chip isn't used too often. That led to counting, which is odd, because I don't like math.

I've lived here 14 years. Big Brother has, in order,
1) built my library stacks in the basement
2) replaced all my kitchen cabinets and counter tops with leftovers from a nursing home contracting job (and it's SO BEAUTIFUL!)
3) built a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit for my bedroom that replaces a chest of drawers and provides sleeping cubbies for the cats.
4) replaced my bathroom vanity and toilet
5) built the front room catwalk

That rounds up to 1 project every three years. Is that excessive?

I have 3 more projects, though:
1) new deck stairs. The current ones are...not good.
2) replacing windowsills, although the foam insulation filler I sprayed in this winter is currently doing a fine job of keeping the birds from nesting.
2) Guest Room plans, which might take a couple of weekends, although he's pretty quick.

That's 3 projects in one year, which means I couldn't ask for another thing from him for 9 years.

He might be amenable to that deal.

Of course, I keep forgetting to mention that while Big Brother is a former contractor, Elder Brother is an excellent hobbiest woodworker, and has built all manner of shelves and desks and whatnot for his home. I could get a two-for-one if I play my cards right and buy enough steak.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Be nice today. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Change of Plan

Over at Virtual Buttercups, I posted about some screened-in porch plans I kicked around. I've changed my mind. I'll tell you why over there (eventually), but since the plans evolved to inside the house and The Swamp is outside, I'll give you the new plan over here.

I've mentioned how small my house is: 823 square feet upstairs, according to the mortgage. While I generally consider this a comfortable size for the Turtle, I see many opportunities for better utilization of space.

One of these opportunities is what I call The Guest Room. It's a 10' x 11' foot "second bedroom." I assume it was intended for a nursery that a normal family would grow out of with the advent of Child Two and move on to another house. The biggest problem with The Guest Room is the set of double wide windows (like 80 x 80 inches, if you're buying curtains) that form the wall facing the street. Hardly evokes a sense of privacy, and causes all manner of heating, decorating and security issues.

TT: If I really had my druthers, I'd remove those windows and replace them with a solid wall and a small bank of windows or acrylic blocks at eye-level. That's a pipe-dream that will only see fulfillment if Mom wins the lottery and shares the wealth.

In the fourteen years I've lived here, The Guest Room has served to house ferrets, a fish tank, a make-shift solarium, all the clothes that don't fit in the master closet, one Kiwi, and currently the upstairs litter box. It tends to be the room all "stuff not currently in use" goes to collect dust. This is a complete waste of 121 square feet (did I do that math right?) out of 823.

I'd love to use it as an office, or an art room, or an upstairs library or a real guest room with an actual bed, but I've never sat down and done the planning. Until last night.

I pulled out my tape measure, graph paper and all the pent-up, not-playing-Farmville-at-night-anymore energy I could muster and started planning.

I'm pretty happy with the results. Not only do I think this can be done for far less money and effort than building a screened-in porch, I believe it will finally allow me to use a space I've avoided for 14 years and give the cats and I an almost-screened-in porch feel.

I'll be posting about this more in the next few weeks, I'm sure, especially if the current rainy weather pattern that is keeping me inside continues.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Enjoy your not-Monday.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Farmville Isn't the Problem

I knew it wasn't anymore. These two weeks proved it. My problem is addiction to mindless activity.

I didn't want to quit FV only to take up another game, but that is what has happened. Instead of watching TV and planting and harvesting, I've been watching TV and playing solitaire or Bubble-spinner. That's no improvement.

I can tell the FV addiction is gone. I'm fine doing something else when the TV isn't on. I'm relieved that I'm not tackling tasks or vulturing feeds or waiting for harvest time. It's liberating.

But as any good therapist (or Jesus) will tell you, you can't just stop doing something. You have to do something else as well. The goal is to make the "something else" worthwhile. Ultimately, we're all exchanging one addiction for another. My addiction used to be writing. During The Depression, it turned to FV. I'm trying to turn it back to writing, but my brain has atrophied.

I've repurposed Virtual Buttercups for recording the ups and downs of life out in The Swamp. That will get me back into writing regular posts about a topic I enjoy in a place I like, and playing with media (videos), as Grace Bridges once recommended. The Turtle is best appreciated in 3D surround-sound, but it's a start. Slow and steady, right? Maybe I'll attract a following of fellow swamp-dwellers.

Happy Friday, dear readers. May you use your brain well today.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Idea of Heaven

A couple months ago, I was musing about eternity. I want to spend it in a small house in the middle of a huge garden (I'm talking Rhode Island-sized), taking care of all the cats, squirrels, rabbits, turtles, frogs, etc. that were abused or destroyed by thoughtless, careless humans on Earth. I see myself alone in this scenario, other than the animals, and Jesus' daily stop-in.

TT: Jesus is incarnate now, so I constantly wrestle with how He can be everywhere at once. It seems clear to me that after the resurrection, He is a "new creation," both fully God and fully man, transfigured. God the Father and the Holy Spirit remain spirits only, but Jesus is something else.  I don't see His return to Heaven means He shed His new body, which the gospels go to great lengths to show was physical, which also means Heaven is a physical place, even if it exists in another dimension. But this is another post.

This realization surprised me. I have a lot of loved on The Other Side, and I'd like to see them again, but it seems I don't want to spend all eternity living in their pockets. Why should I? They don't want to live with me now, why should they share my comfortable hole in the hill forever? Get your own hole. It's Heaven. There's plenty of room.

Now I've read Revelation. I know all about New Jerusalem, but I also know it "comes down out of Heaven," meaning it isn't Heaven. It's a city in Heaven/on Earth, whatever. I'm totally willing to visit, but I don't want to live in a city for all eternity, and I don't care what it's made of. I hate the city. I only live in a city because I'm unwilling to kill my own meat. And because I don't want to star in a horror film about a cabin in the woods.

Jesus knows me. If He's preparing a place, it's going to be someplace I will love. I guess I'm just surprised at what that definition currently is.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Put your galoshes on. Gonna be a wet morning in Kansas.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Elementals To-Do List

If I want Elementals out to "the public" this August, I have a few things to do.

1. Read it. Again. For final edits. This is the hardest part. I don't feel any urge to read this book one more time. I'm a little sick of it. That's why I haven't looked at it for two years. On the other hand, it may as well be out there potentially earning money while I ignore it instead of waiting on my hard drive.

2. Choose a cover image. I have something I like, but it's not my original pic, so I either need to draw/create something close myself or find a similar pic I can buy. Frankly, after the complaints with Star of Justice, my cover concept excellently rendered by Keven and DeAnna Newsome of Newsome Creative and completely trashed by nearly every reviewer, I just don't care as much as I used to.

3. Choose a font. I'm really hoping Grace will latch on to this item. I hate font-choosing.

4. Read up on formatting for ebooks. Caprice Hokstad, Terri Main, R.L. Copple and maybe even Grace have all written on this topic, and I saved every email. I'll need a week, probably, to go through all of them, but it sounds fairly easy once you get the hang of it.

5. Read up on CreateSpace. This seems to be the vehicle of choice for printing books. I like physical books, and I am willing to put up the money to create them.

6. Buy ISBNs. I hear the price has gone up. Not too much, I hope. I want a few, just in case I get back in the habit of this writing thing.
    An ISBN costs $55?! Holy crap! Gonna need to figure that into the break-even cost. Sheesh.

7. Write some cover copy. I'm not nearly as concerned about this as I should be. My goal is simply to maximize searchability while trying to keep it slightly interesting to a potential reader. How hard can that be?

That's all I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure I'll be adding to it. I may even blog about the journey.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Keep an eye to the sky. Today could get rowdy for some of us.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Helping by Shel Silverstein

Although I've sung this song since third grade (when I first saw Free to Be You and Me in music class), I had no idea until this morning that Shel Silverstein wrote this poem.

In honor of all the people in my life...

I love you all, although some of you are more useful than others. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Have I mentioned Grace published a short story of mine in an anthology? I know I said it on FB, but I can't remember if I blogged about it, and, frankly, this morning I'm too lazy to look it up.

If you want to know about Caissa Ocren's Test of Water, get Aquasynthesis...Again. Print version is $4.99; ebook $2.99. I've finally put the link over there to the left. Splashdown Books has all the ways and places the book is available, so the link goes there.

I need to order some for myself. Makes a great deal at speaking engagements. "Get autographed copies of Star of Justice and Aquasynthesis...Again for $20." That comes out to $1 for the autograph, so it's hardly a great deal, but people love the appearance of a bargain.

I've hesitated to tout Star of Justice for the simple reason that I'm currently a one-hit wonder. Yes, I could make money on the one, but then I breed ill-will by not providing a second. Worse, I build unreasonable expectations for the second, which only makes me squirm.

Once Elementals is available, I'll have two books and an anthology. I'm willing to shill for that. The second book barrier is broken by a book that has nothing to do with the world of the first, and a third book should be, God willing, on the way in a year or so. With my new knowledge of self-publishing, I'll be able to make my own anthologies of short stories when and if the mood takes me, and the inventory builds.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Is it really Thursday? Wow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Goodbye, Farmville?

I've played Farmville, on average, three hours a day almost every day for about three and a half years. That's a lot of time, most of it enjoyable for me. So enjoyable, I used to blog daily about the game at Virtual Buttercups.

Farmville fit easily into my daily routine. I played while the cats ate. I played while I did laundry. I played while I watched TV. It provided a satisfying illusion of multi-tasking and mastery. At worst, it passed the time while I waited for something else to happen.

I've tried to be a helpful Neighbor to those who play and a considerate Friend to those who don't (I've always said I'm an addict, not a dealer). Last year, Zynga and I had our final falling out when customer service failed resoundingly to solve a problem to my satisfaction. Knowing that I will never again spend money on the game, that I will never get more farmcash as a result, has taken most of the joy out of playing.

Three hours a day (at least) is a lot of time I could be using for something else (spell that W-R-I-T-I-N-G). I suspect, it's also time that dulls my brain. I don't have to think while playing Farmville, and I don't. But the not thinking seems to extend to other areas, and I can't have that anymore. It is far easier to plant a crop than write a scene, but the scene is more important.

So, I'm quitting. I've limited play this week to half an hour in the morning while the cats eat and I listen to Focus on the Family. I'm emptying my giftbox. I'm putting my fields in order. I'm not feeling any withdrawal yet, but it's early. We'll see.

I have a book to publish this August. I'll need the time to prepare. Then I have a book to finish this year. I'll need brain power for that.

I'm not deleting the app. I'm not going cold turkey. I need the option to resume play to make sure I don't resume play. Call it immaturity. As long as it works.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. May you find the strength to overcome your addictions. When you're ready, of course. No judgment here. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Little Time

Two posts in one week? That hasn't happened for a while. Turns out I have a little time this morning. Not sure why, but I'll take it.

Read some blogs this morning, and the problems of "time" and "focus" are not mine alone. Everyone has trouble with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

Work and The Swamp have been somewhat overwhelming these last two months. I've stood paralyzed in both places wondering what project is the most important in the pile of important projects. It's not easy for the Turtle to change direction, so direction must be carefully chosen at the beginning to avoid biting heads off later.

The new work project is nearly complete (by "nearly," I mean another month should see it done). The Swamp never ends, but it does get delayed due to weather. My mind is freeing up from crisis mode to think again.

I've been thinking about writing. I intend to self-publish Elementals this summer (with Grace's help on the cover). I need a final round of edits, but I'm afraid after not looking at it for two years, I'll start making changes that shouldn't be made. Nit-picking when I should just leave the nits alone. I did that with Star of Justice, and I regret it now. I lost something in the "smoothing," and I couldn't get it back. I wish you'd all seen it one round of edits earlier. Ah, well.

With Elementals "out of the way," there should be nothing preventing me from focusing entirely on Dangling Justice. Nothing but me, anyway, but that's a post I'm saving for New Authors' Fellowship.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Pick one thing, and do it 'til it's done.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Making Progress

The garage is as organized as it's getting this year, and possibly more organized than it has ever been. I'm down to three unsorted boxes. Those are papers about Dad and the family that will require a lot of time and tissues. That's why I haven't done it in 14 years. I'll do it when the temps are higher, and I can spread out on the porch to negate the mildew a little. The papers don't seem damaged. It's more the outside of the boxes. Weird.

I'm currently resetting the concrete blocks bordering the driveway. Those have sunk a bit over 14 years, so it's even more labor-intensive than I thought it would be. I set 5 last night and almost killed myself. I have six to go. I think. Moving these will give me a slightly better angle to get the van in the garage. It also looks a lot nicer.

My Memorial Day weekend project -weather permitting- is the first and possibly second run of a chain link fence. After Neighbor to the North disrupted my life with his mortgage forfeiture and subsequent loss of mind and removal of the privacy fence between our property that's been there since the first week they moved in, I determined no Neighbor would again control my fence. I've wanted chain link for years. This is the year it happens. Part of it, anyway. Only hitch is I need to learn how to install a chain link fence. Several websites seem to indicate it's a simple DIY. After years of watching This Old House, that doesn't comfort me.

I'll need to talk with Neighbors to the South to see if they're OK with me removing the pig wire between us. Since it's crumpled in a couple of spots, falling over in others, and I'm not asking them to pay for any of it, I'm hopeful. If not, I'll wait until new Neighbors move in and put up a privacy fence. That seems to be the norm in this neighborhood.

That's the time I have this morning.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. May your projects come to swift and blessed conclusions.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

'Tis the Season

Seems to happen about this time every year. Spring arrives, and the Turtle vanishes into The Swamp.

I suspect this year will be as cold as last year, so I have no intention of planting anything new until mid-May, at least. However, I have lots of things I can transplant, and since they're already living in the cold, they should do fine. I can't describe how good it feels to grab a shovel and the wheelbarrow and do something that requires no thought at all.

I accidentally got put in charge of a huge project at work that's outside my official expertise, so that has been stressful and exhausting. I've come home with just energy mental energy to make dinner and read a little something before falling into bed. Since it's work-related, it's unprofessional to discuss it here, so Swamp time has been especially useful for coping. 

Without intending to, I took April off from writing. I've been making my way through my TBR pile, unfortunately by "tossing" books one to two paragraphs in. Some day I'll figure out exactly what criteria makes a book acceptable to me in such a short span. It's not genre-related. It might have something to do with writing style. I expect a college vocabulary (you know, from back when going to college actually meant something other than you were stupid enough to sell your eternal soul for a degree you don't even get), and a certain clarity of thought in presenting information. Add a reasonably interesting story, and I'm yours to the end.

Example, I discarded a YA book four pages in because not only were the character names stupid and forgettable, I was bombarded with a convoluted and confusing history of China I apparently had to know before I could sympathize with the protagonist's plight. No, thank you. Buh-bye.

I've also picked up my chronological Bible again and spend my normal blog time reading that each morning. I'm only posting today because I'm taking a fasting blood test in an hour so I don't need to make breakfast. I intend to follow the test up with a Subway steak and bacon melt.

Anyway, the work project should be winding down soon, and The Swamp can only hold my attention until temps are consistently in the mid-80's. Grace will be here in a few months, and it will be time to publish Elementals. My WIP remains in my thoughts, and I'll get back to it.

Happy Wednesday and happy May Day, dear readers. Don't forget to pay your bills. Especially that school loan. It's not going away until you do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In Defense of Rick

I watch The Walking Dead. I think about the zombie apocalypse way too much on way too many levels. Blame the writers.

Season 4b has been completely amazing on just about every level. The writing, the effects, the acting - it's all good. So good, this is the first time I've considering buying a season on DVD. I mean, I like the show, but I'm not completely crazy.

I've started watching Talking Dead because I don't have any real people to talk with about the show (and turtles don't "chat" with strangers on the Internet). I was startled to hear some people have issues with Rick's decision to oust Carol from the prison.

Now, Rick isn't my favorite person on the show. My favorite person is usually the conscience of the group, and usually dies 20 episodes after they assume that role (RIP Dale and Herschel, and I'll be gracious enough to include Andrea because as much as I hated her, I respect her intentions). Rick can't be my favorite because I can't forgive him for the way he holds his revolver. Either build some muscle or get a smaller gun, Rick. You pack like a gangbanger. It's a miracle you hit anything.


Rick has been the official unofficial leader of this group from the moment he stumbled into that cluster of motor homes and tents in season one. Why? Because he was wearing a law enforcement uniform initially, I suspect, but it held because he made good decisions (except about his wife, but that's another post) that benefited the group and individuals.

Rick has the ability to weigh the needs of the many against the needs of the one and come out ahead. Shane (and just about every small group they've encountered) was about survival at any cost. Disagreement with the Governor meant getting your head cut off and stuck in a fish tank. Yes, you can survive that way for a while, but real survival in the zombie apocalypse means finding like-minded people and protecting the snot out of each other. And killing zombies. Nobody seems to understand how many zombies they need to be killing every day, but, again, that's another post.

Carol's crime was murder. Secret murder, but, yes, murder. She killed two people in cold blood. I don't believe she went Hannibal Lector on them, but she made a choice on her own to take two lives.

Her motive was preservation of the group, but she didn't have the right to act on that decision. There was a council in place. She was part of it. She acted alone because the council wouldn't agree with her.

Rick was right to banish her because you can't have a member of the group willing to kill other members of the group whenever they think it benefits the majority. How do you define "benefits"? How do you define "majority"? A year ago Carol would never have gone so far. What will she be like in another year (should she survive that long)?

I understand Carol's reasoning. I sympathize, but she went too far. Rick's solution was just and merciful. He could have killed her himself (which would have been wrong on the same scale as what Carol did in the first place). He could have brought her back to the group for sentencing, which would have created another giant mess and further shattered group cohesion. Instead, he gave Carol a chance to find another group and start over. Again, his choice was for the group and for the individual. And Carol recognized that. Even in that moment, she acknowledged his leadership and accepted the sentence, even if she doesn't appear to accept that she made the wrong choice.

I love Carol, but sometimes love has to be tough. Rick understands that (and it unfortunately makes him a bit crazy now and again). It's why he's a good father and a good leader in the zombie apocalypse. If only he would figure out how to hold a gun.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. May our zombies be so easy to kill.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I've heard about it from Lioness (who has the Mac version) and Ralene (who has the PC version). It's supposed to be incredibly helpful for organizing any kind of writing in the first draft stage, whether you plot or pants. It has "index cards," split screens, calendar features for monitoring story timelines: you know, a real miracle for the modern writer.

There was a sale. I had some money. I took the plunge.

I hate learning new software. More than almost anything. Forging neural pathways is excruciating to me, no matter how useful they might become. Over the last three days, I'm halfway through the tutorial, and I've taken innumerable tea and nacho Dorito breaks (I don't have biscuits at the moment) while my brain tries to ooze out my nose.

I've also started converting Justice for All into a Scrivener version as practice (the tutorial practice file was boring).

Why not convert Dangling Justice, my current WIP, you ask? Multiple reasons, not the least of which is I'm a dumbass. I have to start with the hardest thing first, remember? I'm the idiot who would make a queen-sized quilt for my first project instead of the placemat. And let's be fair. Justice For All is the queen-sized quilt of my literary career.

I had forgotten 1) just how much I've already written on that story, and 2) just how massive it may end up being. I mean, I seem to have about 350 pages already, and I don't know that I'm half done. No wonder I gave up.

By the end of the week, I should not only know the basics of Scrivener, I should have Justice For All ready for later. 'Cause I'm still going to finish Dangling Justice first.

I wanted to include a link to Scrivener, but the page isn't loading. I guess you'll have to look up Literature and Lattes on your own.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. May your neural pathway forging be pleasant. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Long Term Goals

Preparing tax paperwork is not my favorite activity. I keep excellent records, and I am generally able to put hands on anything I need, but anytime I analyze my money, I get...a little weird.

Taxes are a forced annual review of my financial life. "Where your treasure is, there is your heart." I wish this review put me in a better mood, but I have nature and nurture working against me in the financial realm. Nothing could foul my dad's mood like an evening balancing the checkbook. Shopping is mom's usual method for ditching the blues. Not the best template.

So when I see in black and red that my writing expenses outweigh my writing income for 2013, I must allow that, according to Dave Ramsey, writing remains my hobby, not my business. I could be upset by this, but I am not, for several reasons.

1. Writing is not my day job. 
Statistically, it takes at least two years to turn a profit on a new business, and that's when you go all out, whole hog, throw yourself into making money mode. I haven't, because I don't need to. I have a day job. I write because I want to (at least, I think I do). Any income at this point is icing.

2. Time is part of the plan.
I need writing to keep my brain active and supplement my income years from now (cause my day job does that at the moment). My current writing goal is to build inventory, one quality book at a time, so that I may reap a harvest later. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Turtles don't sprint.

3. I must have fun.
God meant for man to work, even in Eden. That tells me God expects us to enjoy what we do. I used to enjoy writing, and I have varying degrees of faith that I will enjoy it again. Doing something I enjoy and getting paid anything for it is gravy on the icing.

Finally, most of last year's expenses were Realm Makers' related, and something of an anomaly for my writing education budget. Take that out of the equation, and I made a profit on writing last year. 

I've put the checkbook away for the moment (until April 15, anyway), so my general mood is improved. My writing mood is even keel. Slow and steady wins this race. I've got the slow. I'm looking for the steady.

Happy Hump Day, dear readers. Enjoy whatever weather you're facing today. It will change in a few hours anyway.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


What do I mean by "depth?"

Allow me to date myself. Remember that scene in Wayne's World 2 when Wayne needs directions and asks for a better actor to deliver them? No? Here's a refresher:

Not every character in a book needs to be Charleton Heston, but if a character is important enough to have lines, I kinda want to know they existed before those lines were delivered. I'd also like to know they'll go on existing after they exit stage left.

I recently saw a high school performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a Shakespearean wannabe about two minor characters in Hamlet and their existential wrestling while off-stage waiting to deliver lines. It's billed as a comedy, but, you'll forgive me, no play where the main characters dies is a comedy. At best, it's a dark comedy, but I digress. The play highlights that these two characters exist only to serve Hamlet. They have no other purpose or life outside of that reality.

One of the things I love about Anne McCaffrey's stories is the interconnectedness. Minor characters in one book become main characters in another, and have cameos or off-hand mentions in yet other books. People know each other. She wrote fanfic for her own worlds. Everybody could be somebody in an Anne McCaffrey universe, and you never knew who would get the spotlight next.

When I read a fantasy novel, I expect every character to have a story and a reason for existing other than just moving the plot forward. I don't expect to read everybody's story in the same book. Most times that back story can't be part of the main plot. But...I'm OK with glimpses. A mention of a former relationship. A token with obvious emotional value. A scar indicating an interesting tale if only you had a chance to stop and hear it. 

A fantasy novel walks a fine line. The author must not only make you care about the main characters, but must introduce you to a brand new world without confusing or overloading the reader with history, description or back story. It can be done. McCaffrey did it. Robert Jordan did it. George MacDonald did it in short stories, for goodness' sake. 

Advice for today's author seems to include streamlining. Paring down your wordcount. Writing to a shorter attention span. Not bad advice, but I fear we go too far in paring out any word that doesn't "advance" the plot. Some words advance the reality of the world in which the plot happens. I find those words valuable. 

Happy Thursday, dear readers. "If you gotta spew, spew into this." 

Oops. Wrong movie.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Biggest Gripe

My biggest gripe with most fantasy books (and the occasional sci-fi if it involves alien worlds) is lack of depth.

The first series that ever impressed me with diversity was Dave Duncan's Magic Casement. Can't remember if that's book one or just one of the four. Doesn't matter. Duncan's world encompassed "races" that were all variations of human but with distinct physical and cultural characteristics, and those differences played into the story. Loved it (Duncan had a varied background himself in both education and employment).

TT: Anne McCaffrey actually did the same thing, but with so much subtlety I didn't realize what she'd done until years later. She remains a master of the craft, and one of my "mentors."

Another thing Duncan did to impress me was muddy up his stereotypes. He added gray to a world of black and white. Good guys could do bad things and vice versa. I couldn't tell at first glance who would play what part. Depth.

Katherine Coble recently said books written by those under 35 tend to lack flavour. While there are people half my age who've lived twice my life, she's not wrong. Experiencing life should translate to depth in writing.

I'm not saying longer books are better. Fred Warren is a master of conveying powerful emotion with few words. I am saying I wish more well-written books had a feeling of history to them. A sense that this world existed before you opened the book and will continue after the last page is turned.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. May your world have only as much depth as you can handle with God's help.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Hobbyist Writer

I read an article earlier this week about why writers procrastinate. Ralene Burke over at NAF posted about unexpected writer's block. Check out the comments, especially the one about Pixar. I'll give you a minute.

*Sherlock theme song plays*

Back? Good.

My living doesn't depend on my writing. If I don't sell a book, I still eat tonight. I have a day job. The last three years have proven to me I'm not a natural born writer (I took a test about that, too, but I don't care enough to go find it on FB). I think up stories. Sometimes I write them down. Sometimes people publish them. Sometimes other people read them. It's all good.

That article about things coming too easy is spot on. Most of my life has been spent easily doing what I'm good at and avoiding what I'm bad at. Only in the last year have I really begun tackling things that don't come naturally and finding some measure of success. It's an odd feeling. I want to be resentful about the need but I'm rather pleased with the results.

The Pixar strategy is one for people whose lives depend on their work. Pixar must create movies (good ones, hopefully, but high-grossing is acceptable), so Pixar must force ideas when no ideas present themselves.

The elitist in me balks at the thought of writing a story that didn't materialize from thin air fully-formed and insistent to be written, but that's what working writers do, and they do it quite well. I love most Pixar movies. I don't feel like they were rushed or written to formula. That system works, and my elitist snobbery should sit down and shut up. It hasn't produced anything lately.

These last few years have been a lesson in doing what doesn't come naturally. Sometimes I learn I really do hate it, and I'll stop, but that's not nearly as often as I expect. Most of the time, it's just a question of learning the steps and practicing them until mastery is achieved. I can do that.

So on days when writing doesn't come easily, I should push at it. Struggle with it. Try something that might not work and abandon it without guilt or annoyance if I'm wrong. That's what normal people do, and it seems to work.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Try something new today, and then try it again, just to be sure.