Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Faster You Go

I've had a list of items on my day planner that I've been shifting forward day to day for a month.
I know as well as anyone, that documenting things on your day planner and todo lists is a huge first step, but unfortunately it doesn't actually get them done. You have to get off your fanny and "do them." 
We have a fig tree by the barn that should have been moved years ago. I kept forgetting. It's in the shade and it struggles to survive each summer. 
Earlier this year while walking, I noticed the fig tree and said to myself, "I need to move that tree while the weather's cold. This time, I whipped out my iPhone and put a task on my todo list to move the tree.
When I got back to the house, I captured the item on my day planner which sits beside me on my desk. That was on Valentines Day.
Moving the tree migrated from day to day on my list until this afternoon when I realized I had caught up with my work and no deadlines were zipping toward me. So I spent quality time working with my hands, fertilizing all my fruit trees, planting a new pecan tree, and transplanting the fig. 
Tonight I feel as though I've been beaten with a garden rake, but it feels good to finally strike a few things off my list.
Here's the thing:  you keep a day planner and todo lists to keep you on task. As the old saying goes, the road to hades is paved with good intentions. To get ahead, there are things you must do. If you're a musician, you must practice. If you are an artist, you must paint, take pictures or whatever your medium is. If you're a writer, you must write. If you don't do the things you need to do, your life gets backed up and it starts to wear on your outlook. The faster you go, the behinder you get. 
Well tomorrow I start out with a clean todo list. My day planner tomorrow will have all NEW items, and I am happy about that..

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thinking About My Dad

We had to run up to Berkeley Bob's Coffee House today to discuss scheduling a performance in the summer. Since we were there, and today is Red Beans & Rice day, it would have been impolite to talk business and run off. We've been accused of many things, but being impolite is not one of them.
I've never really thought I looked that much like my dad because he kept most of his hair until he died, and mine went south years ago. Jilda snapped this photo today while I was eating. There was something in his eyes that found its way into mine.
It occurred to me that I am now the age my dad was when he died. He had gotten sick and withered away the last several months of his life. At the end, he looked very old.
A melancholy mood drifted over me tonight as I looked at this picture. He
wanted to see the world more than anything. He worked as a welder for most of his life. Soon after he retired he fell ill, and never really got to travel.
When I went to visit toward then end, he had a deep sadness in his eyes. I know that part of it was his battle with cancer, but I think a lot of it was a feeling that he'd been cheated.
He worked hard, provided for his family, and did all he could do to make sure we all turned out right. He thought he'd get a chance to see some of the places he'd always dreamed of, but that didn't happen. I think I would have felt cheated too.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Road That Lies Ahead

A few months ago I joined a Google + Community. The community was created by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch who wrote the book APE ~ How To Publish a Book. 
It's a fairly small community of about 2000 people but the information being shared about how to edit, format, and market  your book is incredible. 
I made a suggestion to Guy, who is a social medial guru, and has millions of followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +, that his team do a makeover on some of the community members so that everyone could get a feel for how to write bio, and how to improve their brand online.
Guy, Shawn, and Peg Fitzpatrick who manage the Google + Community thought that was a good idea and they've had two sessions where they gave authors advice on how to improve their image.
I found out today they are doing another session and I will be one of the authors getting the makeover. The online event is this Friday at 5 p.m. Central time on Google +. I am excited and a little apprehensive.
In the "old days" agents and publishers held the writer's hand and helped them navigate the rocky waters of publishing. These days, writers have to not only know how to write, but they also must know a little about distribution, marketing, sales, accounting, and law. I can tell you, it's not for wusses.
My hope is that I learn ways in which to connect with a broader audience and lay the foundation for the road that lies ahead.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February blues

The last few weeks, I’ve had the February blues. There are several reasons for it, not the least of which is that I lost my oldest brother Neil the day before Valentine’s Day in 1995 and lost my mom a year ago this week. But my bouts with February blues date back long before it became a month of loss.

I enjoy all the seasons, but I like winter in late December when bare trees are a novelty and weather forecasters hint at the promise of snow every time a cloud comes out of the west.

By February, the sight of bare trees is about as welcome as my monthly light bill. I get a terminal case of cabin fever, and I long to fire up my ancient Ford tractor and plow something.

In years past, I bided my time by flipping through seed catalogs, drinking hot coffee, and reading Poor Richard’s Almanac. I’m always amazed at how smart old Ben Franklin was back then, and to think, he didn’t have Oprah, Duck Dynasty or the Internet.

I found a cure for the February blues this year by signing up for the Master Gardner Class at the Walker County Extension Center.

Apparently there were a lot of folks on the same tractor as me because the room was packed for the 13-week class. 

I’ve always been kind of a hack when it comes to gardening. Some years I would have a bumper crop, and then other years my garden was just sad. 

I’ve attended two classes and already I can see what I was doing wrong all those years. 

I had a gut feeling those numbers on fertilizer bags actually meant something and not simply there for decoration. But I was from the school that believed “the higher the number, the better the fertilizer.” As it turns out, those numbers are important, and when I learned their significance, a lightbulb went off in my head.

The first week we studied soils and learned why the soil in Alabama is so different from the soil in Kansas.

Farming in Alabama clay can be more challenging than it is in other parts of the country. The structure of soil here is different and having good gardens year after year requires thought, care and a lot of organic material put back into the earth.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll learn about plant botany, insect management, weeds, greenhouses, plant propagation, as well as tending fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. 

Many of the things about gardening that’s remained a mystery for me through the years should come into sharper focus during the coming weeks.

I could kick myself for not taking the class years ago, but taking the class while working full-time would have eaten up two weeks of vacation, which was more than I wanted to sacrifice at that time.

But I’m at a perfect place in my life, and the skills I learn will pay dividends for many years.

One immediate benefit is that my Master Gardener’s class has helped to beat the February blues.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Essence of the Story

I do the website for a non-profit organization that does mission work in Honduras. We had a meeting today to discuss the future direction of the website and how we could all make it better.

I listened to their input and captured action items that will indeed make the site easier to navigate and more meaningful. 

One of the leaders said "We need more stories about what we're doing in Honduras." I told him that when it came to stories, quantity was not nearly as important as quality. He asked for clarification and I asked one of the team members what they did. 

She said we're a medical mission. 
I asked her to explain what they did, again, she used broad terms to tell what her team does in Honduras.

When I asked her if they'd ever helped anyone, she brightened up and told me a story about a 33 year old gentleman who has a severe cleft palet that has caused him problems all his life. 

Later this year, an American doctor will to do surgery on this man. As a result of their efforts, this man will have a chance to lead a normal life without complications from his birth defect.  "He'd given up hope," she said. "He thought he'd spend the rest of his life with that condition, but the work of my team will change his life," she beamed.

 I looked at their faces, and without me saying a word, I knew that they knew - THAT's the kind of story they should be telling.

I ended with: people don't want to hear what your team is doing, they want an example of how your work there is changing lives. You do that by getting at the essence of why you do what you do.

The purpose of most websites is to get people to act. Web owners want people to become activists, to buy their products, to donate, or to volunteer.  The only way to get people to act is to compel them with words, photographs, videos, deals or some other means. Successful websites, tell their stories effectively.

Only time will tell if what I said actually helps their organization to spread their message.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dinner With Friends

Our friend Asa Faith helped edit the re-release of my book Remembering Big last month. When she does work for me, it's on the barter system. For her work on this project, I paid her with a stash of Heineken beer and a meal at the Cyprus Inn in Tuscaloosa. 
This afternoon Jilda and I, along with her sister Pat, headed south to Tuscaloosa. We stopped on the way to pick up Asa Faith. On the hour-ride down, we had a large time telling jokes, funny stories, and we did book and movie reviews.
The Cyprus Inn is one of those special places that has it all. They server remarkable food, they have great service, and the ambiance is incredible.
It's situated on the banks of the Warrior River and every table has a view.
The older I get, the more important celebrations have become. Not only were we celebrating a milestone (completion of the editing phase) of a project, but we were also celebrating friendship and all that implies.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rainy Night

I feared the rain would keep people at home tonight instead of coming to hear us play, but several of our friends pulled out umbrellas, and came on down.
We just rolled in the driveway and I'm like the cowboy's horse that's been "rode hard, spurred deep, and put up wet."
Y'all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Good Night For Sleeping

I had an interview with an author in Birmingham this afternoon and when I headed out, the sky was blue as a swimming pool. Even though we woke up to a frost this morning, the sun burned it off and I wore a short-sleeve shirt on our mid-morning walk, so on the way into town, I rolled the windows down in my truck to get an analog weather report.
When I left the interview at 3 p.m., the sky had become overcast and rain speckled my windshield. The further west I drove, the darker the clouds became. 
I stopped to pick up a few things for dinner. As I stepped back to the truck and clicked the door locks open, I could hear thunder in the distance.
When I rolled into the driveway, the rain was torrential, and I could hear the dogs howling as if the house were on fire. They hate bad clouds.
Tonight as I write, rain is rattling our tin roof. Tonight will be a good night for sleeping.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Miss My Mom

I've been a little down today. I couldn't put my finger on it until I glanced at my calendar this afternoon and realized that today is the one-year anniversary of my mother's death.
Most psychologist say that losing a parent is a "Life Event." Given my experience with losing both parents, I'd venture to say that's an understatement. 
My column is due tomorrow and this afternoon I tried to write about losing her, but the scar is too fresh, and everything I wrote came out sentimental and thin. I smiled as I remembered something she used to say when I was a kid and messed up: "I'll slap you naked and hide your clothes."
As I read over my lame attempt at a tribute to her, I decided to toss what I'd written and do something totally unrelated.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about my mom today. I owe a great deal to her for the person I've become. She didn't have a lot of education, and didn't have the luxury of spending a lot of time reading books, but raised five kids who knew the value of hard work and knew right from wrong.
Toward the end of her life, most of the material things she'd worked for were taken by the system to pay for her healthcare. 
But I can tell you the most valuable things she left me, weren't listed on her will. I miss my mom.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Color us Happy

I've been looking for some white pines to plant. We currently have only one white pine in our yard. It was the Christmas tree from the year we moved in to our house in December of 1983. It was about four feet tall then but now it's pushing 50 feet tall. It's a low maintenance tree that's beautiful year round. 
Today during my break from writing, I decided to see what I could find on the Internet. I found several sources in Ohio and Pennsylvania with decent prices, but shipping from both places was expensive.
I scanned on down the list until I came upon a link for Arbor Day. I smiled as I read because when you join the Arbor Day Foundation, they send you 10 seedings. 
That was a no brainer for me, so I joined an organization that I love. In return, they're sending me a Tree Guide to help me identify trees, and 10 white pines.
We have a gig Friday night so when Jilda got home we practiced before dinner.
When she asked if anything interesting happened today, I told her we were now proud members of the Arbor Day Foundation and that white pines were in the mail. You can color us both happy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dinosaurs in the front yard ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

Brian Kennedy was the managing editor at the Daily Mountain Eagle who gave me my first shot at writing a weekly column. 

I was ecstatic, but he tempered my enthusiasm when he said, “Deadlines come at you fast, and we need a writer who doesn’t miss them.” What he failed to say was that they come at you like white lines on the highway when you’re driving 80 miles an hour.

When I have ideas, approaching deadlines don’t bug me, but when I draw a blank, I hear them approaching like a runaway train.

The weeks when Jilda and I go somewhere or do something interesting, story ideas spring at me like bread from a good toaster, but some weeks that just doesn’t happen. This week, for example, ideas have been as scarce as Democrats in the Old South.

I don't want to use the dreaded term "writer's block," but I've used all the normal "Block Busters" without success. 

Of course it might have had something to do with the fact that I haven’t felt good this week. I’ve had a raging upper respiratory infection and doctors shot Decadron in my rump with a needle as big as a kindergarten pencil.

Next they pumped me full of antibiotics and cough medicine. I think it’s the latter that made me do funny. 

My lovely spouse says that I act funny all the time and that most folks wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But I know.

For example, last night just before I sat down to write, I had what my mother would have called a “coughing fit.” I thought I was about to cough up a lung so I took some of the cough stuff my doctor prescribed, and a few minutes later I was drooling on the keyboard, and typing things like “I wush thiz dur !w934 4$$%8(.”  

Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a Stegosaurus munching on our water oak and drinking water from the birdbath, but when I snapped my head around to get a better look at the beast, he’d scurried out of sight. 

All I got from my effort was a crick in my neck. I've been unable to verify the sighting.

I've been a little groggy all day. I decided to look up the side effects of the medications I’m taking. 

Common adverse effects of the cough medicine according to Wikipedia includes drowsiness, constipation, euphoria, itching, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, orthostatic hypotension, urinary retention and paradoxically coughing. 

Some of the more rare side effects included: boils, pimples, flatulence, growing a third ear out of the center of your forehead, pestilence, and in some rare cases, spontaneous combustion. 

Nowhere did I find references to anyone seeing giant prehistoric animals munching on the flora and fauna.

At any rate, I'm laying off the sauce. 

It’s like the old saying, the cure is worse than the ailment.

I’m glad the editor who hired me has since moved on to do other things because I’d hate to hear him say, “I told you about those deadlines.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

An Apple for the Teacher

It's been a while since I've had to study for a test, but that's what I've done this afternoon. Last week when the instructor dismissed us on the first day of our Master Gardener class, he mentioned that there would be a test at our next class.
Unlike high school none of the students whined, though I get the feeling there were a few who thought about it.
I'd taken good notes so I felt comfortable with the material we covered. As we passed out of the class, he gave us a study guide for tomorrow.
After lunch this afternoon we took a nap, because any Sunday without a nap is a wasted Sunday. When I got up, I rounded up my manual and headed to the office to refresh my memory. Hitting the books actually felt good. It was almost like I was sweeping some of the dust from cracks and crevices of my brain.
I'll be studying Basic Botany tomorrow. I had Biology in school, but I never took Botany so I'm excited to learn things I never knew.
Our avocado and lemon trees are dropping more leaves than they usually do so I' love to discover why.
It's off to bed tonight. I've got to get up early and shine an apple for the teacher.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

If I Were a Color

One of the challenges I've run up on is trying to describe what my books are about. I could tell people that I write a daily blog and that my newspaper columns come from my blog posts. The books come from my columns. But before I can tell people where the book came from, most of the people are bored to tears and kicking themselves for asking.

Each time I place my books on eBook content providers, I'm forced to place it into a pigeon hole.
OK, I made that up, but none of the categories seems to fit. I'd like to say it's humorous, but that's not always the case. I could say that it's poignant, but again, sometimes it's thought provoking.

While in a sense it's auto biographical, that's not entirely true. Sometimes I take creative license and stretch the truth to make the story better.

If someone asked me to "prove it," I'd be hard pressed to document some of the stuff I say. "There were mosquitos as big as bats," for example. It's true the mosquitoes seemed big and vicious, but if asked if I'd ever captured one of the Culicidaes and weighted it, I'd have to concede and say no.

So (this is where you come in) if you could describe the essence of my blog in 10 words of less, what would you say.

No pressure, but my success in the literary world depends on the answers I get. It's no problem if you don't feel like commenting.

The price of aluminum is going up and I actually I enjoy picking up cans on the side of the road. The local soup kitchen is not that crowded on Wednesdays and Fridays. Jilda and I should be able to get a couple hot meals each week.
It's probably not a bad thing. We could get back to the weight we were when we first married.

Rick 110 pounds, Jilda 84 pounds

Friday, February 15, 2013

Getting Me Some Style

I had a childhood friend that took piano lessons. One afternoon, we had baseball practice after his lesson, so he asked me to come with him. His teacher met us at the door and sat me in I in an ancient wooden chair that creaked when I sat down.
The teacher was a prim woman in her early sixties. She had grey hair to her waist, but she rolled it up in a bun, the size of a softball, on the back of her head. Although she was the same age that I am now, she looked ancient at the time.
I thought I wanted to take piano lessons, until I realized that whenever he missed a note, the piano teacher would lean over and whack him on the fingers with a conductor's baton which looked like a long chopstick. She wasn't a mean woman, but she was serious about her teaching and thought the whacking improved focus and maintained concentration while he played.
For some reason I thought of that teacher tonight. My story gets a little convoluted, but bear with me. I'm still in the process of refining the format of my first book Remembering Big to make it available for the eBook content providers other than Amazon. Each, it seems, have different requirements. 
I picked up some tips this week when I watched an APE ~ How To Write a Book presentation. The panelists were critiquing other self-published authors. They evaluated Google + profiles, the author blogs, their website, their social media presence, their book covers and content.
The panelists pointed out, time and again, stylistic faux pas the authors made in their books. So I broke down and bought a Chicago Manual of Style tonight.
As I read through you should do this, and you shouldn't do that, I could almost feel my friends piano teacher looking over my shoulder, standing ready to whack my fingers if I used indentation, or italics incorrectly. "No, No, No mister Watson," I could hear her chide. "You must ALWAYS put the period INSIDE the quotation marks."
I must say that little lady couldn't have left a more lasting image on my brain if she'd scratched it out with a rusty nail.
My friend still has a deep fear of pianos and twitches involuntarily whenever he hears chopsticks playing on a piano.
But if I want the best book I can get, I'm going to have put on my big-boy boxers and get me some style.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Both Jilda and I worked a while today. We both could have "called in sick" but I'd made some commitments that couldn't be rescheduled and Jilda decided to go in too.
I stopped on the way home and picked up a baked chicken and salad.
Jilda had bought a bottle of Processo wine a few weeks ago. I think it must be a cousin to champagne, but it was tasty with the chicken.
I bought Jilda some time with the hair stylist, a pair of fuzzy-wuzzy britches, and some Godiva Chocolates. She bought me some great shirts and she hand-painted me a Valentine's Day card.
We watched When Harry Met Sally, with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The scene in the move where she fakes the......well, let's just say the scene was a hoot.
We've had some great Valentine Days through the years, but this year, with us both under the weather, this evening seemed to suit us both.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Twitter Lesson

I've finally got on the program and I'm now using Twitter. It would be closer to the truth to say that I'm fooling around with Twitter trying figure out how it works and how it can help me build an audience and ultimately share useful information and maybe sell a book or two.
One thing I discovered a while back is that for those who have Twitter accounts, you can look at your home page and see what's trending.
I wasn't sure what "What's Trending" meant for a long time but i simply means what people are talking about.
For example people, will post a tweet and somewhere in the note put #writer, #self publishing, # Happy  Valentines Day, etc. The # followed by a phrase is called a hashtag.
When people search on #writer, everything that someone posts with that hashtag comes up on your screen.
So when I looked today, #CandyHeartRejects is trending. The idea is what people would say in rejecting candy hearts. Some of the things I read was funny some were off color, and some were lost out in the tall weeds. But if you wanted to comment to millions of people in real time, you could compose your tweet and put #CandyHeartRejects and a lot of people on Twitter who follow what's trending, would see it.
While I was sitting there, my great nephew Jordan crawled up in my lap, launched the photo booth program and snapped this photo of us before I knew what he was doing.
Dang youngun's.

by Rick Watson

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Writer's Block

I don't want to use the dreaded "writer's block" but topics for my blog and column have been as scarce as Democrats in the Old South.
I've used all the normal "Block Busters" today without success. I think it has something to do with the fact that I had a raging upper respiratory infection last week and doctors shot me up with a rump full of Decadron, and pumped me full of antibiotics and cough medicine that makes me do funny.
Last night just before I sat down to do an update, I had, what my mother used to call, a coughing fit. I took some of the cough stuff and a few minutes later I was drooling on the keyboard and typing things like !w9344$$%8(.  

Just for the record, I thought I saw a Stegosaurus out of the corner of my eye, but when I snapped my head around to get a better look at the beast, he disappeared. I've been unable to verify the sighting.
I've been a little groggy all day. I decided to look up the side effects of the medications. Common adverse effects of the cough medicine according to Wikipedia includes drowsiness, constipation, euphoria, itching, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, orthostatic hypotension, urinary retention and paradoxically coughing. 
Some of the more rare side effects included: boils, pimples, growing a third ear out of the center of your forehead, pestilence, and spontaneous combustion. But nowhere did I find any documentation of anyone seeing a giant prehistoric animal in their offices. 
I'm laying off the sauce tonight hoping that I can come up with a decent topic tomorrow. 
But tonight, this is the best I can do.

(Image from Wikipedia with permission.)

By Rick Watson

Monday, February 11, 2013

Back to School

Jilda and I've had gardens forever, or at least it seems that long. Some years we've had bountiful harvests, and some years, our garden looked like the grapes of wrath.
Becoming a better gardner is something that's been on my todo list for years, but I never got around to it.
A few weeks ago, Jilda saw a note in the paper announcing Master Gardener's Classes. The course of study requires a 13-week commitment. Students must attend classes from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
I thought to myself, there's no time like the present. When I looked at my Vision Board, I had a picture of a beautiful garden right there in the middle of my board.
I have a lot going on right now, but I signed up any way, and classes started today. The first class was on soils, and the instructor is a Phd soil specialist. I know it sounds as dry as Brewton Snuff, but the class was fascinating.
I quickly learned why our crops are hit and miss.
I won't bore you with the details, but I'm excited about learning something new. I'll keep you posted as to my progress.
I hope you all have a remarkable week.

by Rick Watson

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Letters ~ My Column from today's newspaper

Recently while studying great authors, it occurred to me that most of these literary icons wrote a lot of letters. One of the best things about the Internet, in my opinion, is that you have access to incredible information.

I found letters to friends, relatives and lovers. Reading the letters was like having a window into the hearts and minds of the writers. I was fascinated.

According to the website for Emily Dickinson “...She distinguished herself as a writer of letters, which she regarded as a ‘joy of Earth’ (L960). Cryptic and allusive in style, dazzling in verbal effects, and sensitively attuned to her recipients, Dickinson was a prolific and gifted epistolary artist.” 

I realized that letter writing is a lost art form these days. I tried to think of the last personal letter I'd written, and I couldn't remember.

One of the not-so-good things about the Internet is that the quality of communication has, for the most part, deteriorated.

These days, most people send emails, texts or a comment on Facebook and think we're communicating. I'm as guilty as anyone in this regard.

The down side to this form of communication is that it rarely takes much thought. In fact, many people do it while driving, eating lunch, and listening to the radio. 

Granted, not all communications require:

My Dearest Friend, I hope this email finds you in good health and lofty spirits; “But C U 2Nite XXXOOO,” is a bit thin, wouldn’t you agree?

I wrote letters daily when I was in the Army and I couldn’t wait for mail call each morning. There’s nothing like going to the mailbox, and pulling out a hand-addressed envelope with a handwritten letter or card from a dear friend.

I have a box in my office where I keep the letters I receive through the years. From time to time, I open up the box, pull out a letter and read it. The words seem richer and come alive with each reading.

When’s the last time you felt like that when reading an email or text? When Jilda and I were working on the things we wanted to accomplish this year, one of the things we both wrote, without conferring before hand, was to write cards and letters to those people that mean a great deal to us.

This morning when we headed out for a doctor’s visit, we both had letters in our hand.

“Bills?” I asked. “No, I’m sending cards to some of our friends,” she said. Mine was a letter to an old Army buddy I haven’t communicated with in 20 years.

A hundred years from now when people look through the artifacts of our lives, I’m not sure they’ll be as impressed with my words as I am with the words of Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and Willa Cather, but still I hope readers get a sense of how much friendship means to me.

Do yourself a favor and writer a letter to a friend today.

by Rick Watson

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Picture Perfect

Today was like a postcard sent by someone visiting from up north. "It's February in Alabama and it's almost warm enough to swim. Wish you were here." Someone from Ohio (say my friend Yaya) would look at the postcard longingly and say, "Dang, I wish I were in Alabama today."
It wasn't warm enough to swim, but I went out with a short-sleeve shirt to buy vegetables at the local produce stand, and I was comfortable.
This evening I collected small limbs blown down by recent winds and stacked them in the fire pit.
Later, as the sun dipped low on the horizon, I started a small fire. Jilda's treatments have her internal thermostat out of whack, so she wears sweaters and jackets even in the summer. But she bundled up and came outside to sit by the fire. After sunset, the night air got cool, but the warmth of the fire felt good on our faces.
I have speakers on our screen porch, but I'd like to have some on the deck, because a little Windham Hill Piano Sampler would have been topping on the cake this evening. NOTE TO SELF, get wireless speakers for the deck.
On the down side, rain is moving in tonight and the skys will be gray for the next four days. I guess it's going to be one of those wet winters.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Tinker, Tinker, Tinker.

As you may have noticed, I've been toying with my blog design some more today. I added a menu and a new header collage. I just started putting the Bio and other stuff behind the menus, but I should have all that over the weekend. I still think the header is a little wide and busy so I'll be refining that this weekend....tinker, tinker, tinker.

Plane headed west
The Google + writing APE ~ How To Write A Book, community is great. The group has not only writers, but people with knowledge, skills, and experience in design, typography, marketing, social media, branding and storytelling. I've learned a great deal these last few weeks.

On another note, Jilda and I let our passports expire last year. We filled out our applications and had photos made, but it seemed she was dragging her feet when it came to finalizing the applications and getting them in the mail.

Well, today she finally told me that she HATED the passport photos we had made. I thought to myself, I can remedy this. On the way to the post office, I took a detour by the local UPS mail store. I had a hunch they did passport photos and I was right.

We went inside and I told the young woman behind the counter that we wanted passport photos and I requested the non-convict shots. The girl howled. She did warn that the State Department wanted really closeup photos against a pasty white background, but she promised to do her best. She snapped a few photos, and we walked out of the store smiling.

I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Running on Empty

I've spent the day trying to navigate the minefield of online  eBook content providers. Apple Connect, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play. By this afternoon, if I had hair, I would have been pulling it out.
By 5:30 I was ready to give up on writing and cut pulpwood for a living. It was then I stepped outside and took the dogs for a walk. 
There's something about flipping a stick as far as a tired arm can toss it, and having a dog run with joy and wild abandon to fetch it for you. After a half hour I felt refreshed and renewed.  
However I am running on empty tonight so I'm going to utilize one of my "GET OUT OF WRITING A SERIOUS BLOG POST" cards tonight. I'll do better tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Don't Try This At Home Folks

Today was treatment day for Jilda, so when she got settled into the infusion room and in her "Green Chair," I took my laptop off to the cafeteria to work on my column for Sunday and a piece I'm writing for 78 Magazine.
Someday I spend more time flipping bagel crumbs off my shirt, and getting refills on my coffee than I do on any productive writing, but some days the words flow like milk and honey.
Now that's an interesting phrase: flows like milk and honey. A quick Internet search showed that it probably came from the Song of Solomon......but I digress.
Today, I got my bagel, a cup of hot coffee, which I'm sure if there were thermometers that could actually measure how hot this coffee was, it would be slightly hotter than the surface of the sun.
I jammed my new JBL headphones knuckle deep in my ears, cranked up my Focus mp3 and my fingers began to dance.
I wrote both pieces in less than an hour which has to be a record for me. I'm a master procrastinator, and I can usually waste more time counting ceiling tiles, or people wearing green shirts, than it took to write both pieces.

My newspaper column this week is about writing letters, and I usually use a Adobe Carlson Pro font because it's clean and pleasing to my eye, but for some reason I dropped the font selector button down and one of the first fonts I found was Zapfino which is a beautiful cursive font.
I selected that font and the column seemed to write itself. I'm not superstitious, but you can bet I'll be using that font again.
After Jilda had her treatment, we stopped by a restaurant that we've never been to before and had greek salads with chicken breast on top. I wish I'd shot a photo, but I didn't.
Afterwards, Jilda said, "You know what sounds good? An ice cream cone." I had to admit that did sound good. So we got a couple to go.
I shot this photo while driving folks, but don't try this at home. "I'm not sure what happened officer, I just took my eye off the road for a few minutes to shoot a couple of ice cream photos and I ran over this mailbox."

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Wimps Need Not Apply

Writing and publishing books is not for wimps. I finished the editing/formatting stage a few days ago and I redesigned the cover.
I uploaded the files to Kindle easily and the books was ready for sale the next day.
I decided to offer this book on multiple platforms so that people who prefer the Kobo, Nook, iTunes, Google Play or Smashwords would have access to it.
I've spent the better part of two days trying to get the book to work correctly with a Nook reader. I tried formatting it with four different kinds of software, none of which know the meaning of usability.
Finally tonight I got it uploaded, but I'm still unsure if the Table of Contents will work as it should. Uggg. I'll tackle the other platforms tomorrow.
It's probably a good thing my doctor is a stickler about narcotics because I fear if I had access to some good drugs, I'd soon be slobbering on my pillow.
Oh well, it's hot tea and off I go.
Anyone with a Kindle (or Kindle app on their phone, iPad, or PC) can download Remembering Big for 99 cents. My mama would have called that a bargain :)
Remembering Big

Monday, February 04, 2013

Blue sky, green pine, and sumac berries.

Most of the color is long gone here, leaving bare trees, and a crunchy carpet of brown leaves.
The recent run of rainy days made the landscape seem even more stark than usual.
This morning when we walked, the wind out of the northwest was cool enough for a sweater, the sky was cloudless and the sun felt warm on my face.
Jilda and I both walk in silence, for the most part, in kind of a kind of walking meditation.
Today we walked down the winding path behind the barn and I spent most of the time looking down.
When we turned around for the walk back up (which always seems much further up than it was going down,) I noticed sky was a shade of azure. The color made even more remarkable by the contrasting green pine, and sumac berries which were a cross between maroon and cinnamon.
Anyhow, it was good to be reminded that there's always color all around us.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

New Look

I looked at the blogs of a few other writers today and I was toying with the idea of updating the look of my blog.

Some of the templates looked interesting and I thought I'd "window shop" for a new design.

I clicked on the design button when I found one that looked interesting. I thought it was in preview mode, but apparently I clicked the wrong button and my old blog template was lost.

I panic'd a little because a lot of the stuff I has on the side, that I really liked, disappeared. Unfortunately the new template had the features, but they were flyouts that remained hidden until you put the cursor over them.

So I spent about an hour finding a template that had a similar look and feel to the old one. I'm not convinced the new design suits me.

I'd hoped to find one that a menu on the top where I could expand my bio, have a page dedicated to my books and other things, but I haven't found one yet that I like.

We had a little birthday party for my great nephew this evening so I taped the Super Bowl so I could watch the commercials. After everyone left, I helped Jilda clean the kitchen and I'd just gotten comfortable when the stadium took a power hit.

I came in the office while officials waited for the power to come back on and wrote most of this entry.
When I went back in, the momentum had swung over to San Francisco. I don't really have a pro team favorite, so I mainly watch for the commercials.

Y'all have a remarkable week, and bear with me until I get the design issues worked out.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Writer's Expo

After the late night last night, you would think that Jilda and I would have slept in this morning and caught up, but you would have been wrong.
I'd signed up several months ago for a writer's expo at the Birmingham Library and it was today. So we'd barely finished our coffee this morning when we had to dress and head into Birmingham which is about 30 miles away.
We arrived about 30 minutes early and busied ourself setting up the table. A lady (I'm guessing she was in her early 70s) walked up and asked if we'd mind if she had the table next to us, which was fine with us.
After we settled in for the morning, we made small talk with the woman while we waited for the event to open for the public.
She mentioned that she'd just bought a new iPhone and knew nothing about it. I showed her a few things and we hit it off. All through the day when the crowd slowed, she's say, "Now how do I do...... and I'd give her a quick lesson.
I kept looking at her name, thinking it sounded familiar. When I picked up her book and began flipping through the pages, I felt like an idiot. Her father was Arthor Shores who was a Civil Rights Attorney during the turbulent times in the south. Their house was bombed twice by white supremacist because of his work fighting for equal rights for black people.
Helen Shores Lee is currently a District Judge in Jefferson County and she is a delightful person. She wrote a book with her sister entitled The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill, which is the story of her  father and their family during those turbulent times. Meeting her was a gift.
We sold some books today, but we also met a ton of other local writers
Tonight, Jilda and I are both nodding out, but we both agree that it's been a good weekend.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Out Late

Jilda and I stayed up way past our bedtime tonight. That's something we rarely do, but we got a chance to play at Local Color, which is a great singer/songwriter venue and to we had a chance to play with a bunch of our friends. I'll miss a little sleep anytime I have a chance to do that.

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