2016 is here…

Hello Gentle Readers. I thought in the midst of everyone’s New Year Resolution posts I would just add my own commentary.

2015 was a rollercoaster mixed with a hurricane. It came and left in a hurry. My literary and blogging goals stalled out for much of the year. I did manage to put a novella into the hands of a new friend for editing. She also took a look at my first novel and found some much needed grammatical and word usage problems that have made my work better. I failed to participate in NaNoWriMo, but that’s alright. The pressure would probably make me give up anyway.

On the fatherhood front I assisted my son’s baseball team and coached football. Coaching sports when I am clearly not a sports person was an experience in learning. The kids all seemed to have fun and we made it through the season without too many problems. My family will also be welcoming a new addition sometime in late April (if all goes according to plan). The prep work on the nursery has been tiring, but in a good way. My wife and I have decided to not find out the gender until the birth. This appears to be a growing trend according to our doctor. This new chapter in my journey as a parent is overwhelming at times. As of December 31st, we had “crossed the finish line” as our doctor says. Now if there is any premature labor, the baby is viable to survive. That means my family is definitely going to have an 11year old, and a newborn. The greatest part of these doctor visits has been hearing the heartbeat of a little person I helped create. We are also far enough along that I can feel the baby move and kick.

I have become obsessed with the Mackelmore and Lewis song, Growing Up (Sloane’s Song). I usually start my drive to work with it on and it is the last song I play before I pull into the drive at night. It has been my motivation to become a better person for the sake of both of my children. This means working on my temper and getting myself in better shape. I know, everyone makes resolutions to be healthier in the new year. However, I have managed to lose just over 30 pounds in the last 6 months. My goal is another 20-30 the first 6 months of this year. This will put me lighter than I have been since junior high. I have been quite pleased with my self control because I was warned that husbands typically put on some “sympathy weight” when their wives are pregnant. I have managed to stay constant the last two months.

I am also ecstatic over the new home office I am setting up in a spare bedroom in my home. I just have a carpet remnant to put down, and a corner shelving unit to buy or build (pending approval from my wife on design) and then I can really get to work on my literary endeavors. The space will be conducive to working on any project requiring some privacy and space to spread out notes/reference materials. There is even a section where my son (and future children) can work on homework or arts/crafts, without interfering with my work.

I suppose it is time for a few goals and resolutions for the year.
1 – I want to finish the rewrite/editing of my first book so that the improved second edition can be released.
2 – I want to self pub my novella (still in the editing phase).
3 – I want to finish, edit, and self pub my the second book in my Family Heritage series this year.
4 – I would like to make some major progress on my high fantasy (think Tolkien) series. I have the skeleton of a realm, deities, antagonists/protagonists. Just have to finish plotting and then get to work fleshing out the stories. I haven’t quite figured out if it will be a series of short stories/novellas, or if each set of characters will end up in their own full blown novel. Since they will also overlap I have to make sure my outlines are complete for consistency.
5 – I plan to get myself down in weight before summer. I have at least the 20-30 to lose that I want to, so from there I will evaluate what I still can lose healthily.
6 – I want to blog at least once a week, if not more often. I will be looking for topics to discuss. As part of this I want to do at least 2 book reviews a month. I need to get a submission page setup for anyone interested in having me review their work.
7 – It would be nice to put together a book of poetry as well. I have a notebook almost full and a thumb drive with a few dozen from when I was younger. Just not sure if I have enough that would be of interest to others. The ones I have blogged here have received favorable reviews so perhaps there is potential in others as well.
8 – I want to bring down and gain a better handle on my temper. I am not a homicidal maniac, but there are times where a cooler head would be a better face to present. I have noticed my son picking up some of my habits and I hope that if I can break my cycle, I can help him to not struggle like I have.

I wish everyone else luck with their goals for 2016. This year has an extra day in it (Leap year and all). I think I am going to need it. HA HA! Until next time Gentle Readers.

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It’s been awhile… (6/7/15)

It has been some time since I wrote anything. The book reviews and author interview of the past week were scheduled several weeks earlier as part of a blog tour I participated in. I swear I have not been completely idle. I managed to catch up on several weeks of posts by the lovely people I follow, leaving comments/likes and reblogging a few that I found particularly useful to share.

I have managed to finish the first draft and first revision run through of my novella based on a freaky dream I had over a month ago. Now is the time to put it away and come back to it in a few weeks. Some elements nag at me a little but I need to wait and see if it is just jitters over sharing my work with anyone else. It took me YEARS to share my novel I published last year.

I have engaged in collecting pictures/quotes and links from writer groups I joined on Facebook. I wonder if my phone is going to fill up on pictures or books I have downloaded to it. I have collected at least 8 books for my To Be Read pile that I hope to get to over a campfire some evening this summer.

I have been highly active with my son’s 10U (aged 10 and under) baseball league team. I have been acting as assistant coach during practices and third base coach during games. It has been a wonderful experience. The kids have taught me a lot about myself and how to interact with my son. This Fatherhood gig never ceases to amaze me or teach me new lessons.

I have completed several Fiverr gigs, but thinking that freelancing editing is not going to make me money to supplement my writing or my day job. All it is doing is taking precious time away from my own creative pursuits with not enough return on investment. Elance, and its new name Upwork, have both proven to be a bust and a waste of time. It seems the people posting jobs have no idea the time investment to provide what they are asking for. Seriously, who accepts $50 to ghostwrite 30K words you are never able to claim any credit for? Especially when it needs to be published/polished and ready for publication to get paid. If I put that kind of time into it, I am going to publish it under my own name and collect all the royalties for myself. I don’t care if it is erotica/romance, which doesn’t normally appeal to me as something to write. I am more of a Science Fiction/Fantasy kind of guy. Even so, $50 or even some of the $80 ones are not worth submitting ove 30K published and polished words. More power to the ones that are willing to take those jobs.

To that end, I have the beginnings of 2 more manuscripts that I need to research, outline and start writing. Going to be a busy summer as hopefully I will have my second book back from the editors in the next few weeks. Then it will be time for a round of beta readers to polish it off and get some feedback before launching it. I still need to get a cover designed and write a blurb.

The last few weeks have also seen my wife’s baby brother graduate High School. To have watched him grow over the past 5 years has been a wonderful experience. He is hilarious and very talented. He leaves in about 3 weeks for an acting school in Los Angeles. One day he is going to star in major movies.

This past Thursday contained a new first for me. I saw my first professional baseball game live and in person. Remember, I am not a sports person so while baseball is America’s pastime, this should not come as a shock to any of my readers. My son earned a ticket for meeting his reading goals this year at school. The team is a Class A affiliate so it wasn’t true major league baseball. However, the smaller stadium and more family friendly atmosphere made for some entertaining hi-jinks in between innings. We had a lot of fun and got home much later than I would have preferred since I had to be at my day job early Friday morning. It was worth it to spend the time with my son.

This weekend began our summer of camping and last night I had my first beer around the campfire at the lake lot we spend our summers on. What a great way to reconnect with some of my extended family. Laughs were shared by all.

I suppose it is time to wrap up my day at the office. Thanks for sticking around through my absence folks. I will try to have something more for you to read in the near future. In the meantime, keep fighting the fight, whatever your personal battles may be.

A three year itch…

I have come to a realization in the last couple days. I am approaching a milestone in my professional life where I have held the EXACT same position/job title for the longest in my life. I started my professional career as an Internet Tech Support at the tender age of 17. While my role expanded to include server admin, webmaster, sales, and hardware repair/installation, I was only with the small company 2.5 years before I was laid off. 8 months later the company went under. My next job was a temp at a cold rolled steel plant performing quality auditing and maintaining records for ISO standards. I was there a year before I moved from Ohio to Wisconsin. I enjoyed the job, but I could not spend my entire life as a temp. They would not hire me on as a real employee and give me proper benefits, so I had to move on. I did some customer service at one of those big office complexes before landing a job with a national trucking company. I went from being the one that the drivers called for assistance, to dispatching the trucks during my 4 year tenure there. Again, a lay off ended that job. I have been with my current employer almost 6 years now. The first few years though, I bounced around a lot. I started on night shift, went into a pseudo leadership role on night shift, before coming to day shift in one region. I have been a lead dispatch in my current region since August of 2011. This marks the longest I have been settled anywhere in my entire life.

I don’t know exactly why I am writing this, but I am hoping that by putting it down it will stop swirling in my head so I can get back to my novella and novels I am working on. Or some poetry. I might have a few lines of verse hiding in the dark corners, waiting to come out and play. I do know that I am finding annoyance with many things in my current role. Doesn’t mean I am going to be changing jobs or anything, just that little things are starting to bother me a little and I am speaking out more about these items. Change is good, and my region that I cover needs some changes, needs to grow and become better. We have been mired in a rut for years before I came to the area and those mentalities need to change. I have been trying to influence where I can, but when you are not the sole person in charge, it takes longer than it should to modify the attitude and climate.

Anyway, I don’t think this is a post anyone will really care about, but I had to put it down to get it out of my head. Almost like the therapy of writing a journal. Keep fighting the fight friends.

Poem – Moving on…

Through bloodshot eyes
And heavy sighs
Struggle to fight
Against the light
Shining so bright
This day just might
End all the lies
And the failed tries

Nothing stays perfect forever
What was is no longer together
Time came and stole the joy
you once felt in your heart

The pieces of your heart you gather
Moving on to those who matter
No more a broken toy
A new life you can start

Water splashing face
Your heart starts to race
Staring into your own eyes
Granting the final good byes
To their failed attempts and lies
Moving on to bluer skies
Where there is no trace
The pain can’t keep pace

As you chase your dreams

Stress (Commentary and Poetic verse)

Stress. Funny how that word conjures up images of anxiety ridden individuals breaking down. Some lash out violently, raging against the ethereal force, or actual forces bringing out the stressful condition. Others lose all will and lie broken upon their beds. Others thrive on it, drink it in like nectar from some unmerciful god. Regardless of how you feel about Stress, it is certainly a topic often discussed the world over.

My day job as a logistical wizard at a fuel hauling company (aka Dispatcher for those that don’t get my joke), can alternate from stressful to almost boring to the point of tears. When equipment breaks down, drivers come up with attitudes about the smallest of things, or customers with unreasonable demands because they simply do not understand how to order fuel for a station they probably shouldn’t own in the first place; things can get tense. The blood starts to course faster in your veins as adrenaline pumps into the stream. Nerves start firing faster in your brain, snap decisions come to you as you solve the problems of the day.

Once the momentary crisis is over however, there is a noticeable drop in energy levels as everything slows down. This let down can lead to feelings of relief, or feelings of self doubt. “Did I make the right call? That seemed to go very smoothly, maybe I should double check my math.” This can lead to a spiraling back up. Those are the moments when you have to take a breath and trust in your knowledge and skills. Sometimes the jolt of adrenaline brought on by stress will last for hours, leading to a state of extreme mental tiredness at the end of the day. Those are the days I want to just go home, kiss my wife, hug my son, and crack open something with alcohol to drink before going to sleep.

Stress
A simple five letter word
Silly as three are the same
Chaos bringer to our world
Losing to it brings such shame

It can make you stronger
It can make you weak
Stress enough to make you weep
Or grit your teeth and push longer

Keep your chin above the rising tide
Let it roll from your shoulders son
You can beat i if you don’t hide
You will look back and say “I won!”

Bittersweet Valentine’s day…

Today is a day of love and romance for many. For me, it is also one of reminiscing for a different reason. My grandmother, who I spent most of my young life living with, was a Valentine’s baby. She was a guide and role model for my life that I could not be who I am without. She would have been 85 this year, but she was taken from us almost 3 years ago. I know in my heart there isn’t much that I could have one to spend more time with her, but I still wish I had had one more day, even one more hour. We celebrated her 82nd birthday at my home, she laughed and joked and we had a grand time. 3 months later i was camped in her room at the nursing home when she took her last breath. The emotion is raw still, especially this time of year. While everyone else is buying roses and chocolates, I think of a very special woman and all the advice and wisdom she imparted to me over the years. A few years before her health started to decline, I worked third shift and would visit with her in the mornings when I got off work. I am sharing something I wrote during that time. There are times now that I still have to fight a tear when I pick up a pack of playing cards.

Spending Time with My Grandma

There are mornings where I have a new pastime.
It involves a visit with my aging grandma.
We sit and talk and play a few hands of cards.
While I talk to her about my work and day,
she listens intently, always with a few kind words,
or a bit of advice to help me on my way.

Staying with my mom, she is right on the way
home from work. This new fun pastime
of mine is sometimes hard to put into words
what it truly means to me. When I visit grandma
she always tells me she misses me every day,
and is quick to bring out the deck of cards.

Her shaking, aged hands shuffle the cards,
everything on the table cleared out of the way.
With school and work I can only visit every few days,
but nothing can take away the joy of my pastime.
The time is precious that I spend with grandma,
and the hours spent is more important than any words.

We pass the time in laughs and exchanging of words,
shuffling, dealing, shuffling, and dealing the cards.
“I am going to beat you this time,” says my grandma,
getting three aces and clearing the cards out of the way.
I think she has as much fun as I do with our pastime.
With excitement I wait for the visits on those days.

When it is time for me to leave at the end of those days,
a sadness creeps into my heart. We put into brief words
the happiness and comfort that comes with our pastime.
The table has been reset, the scorecard and the cards
have been put in the drawer and out of the way.
With a hug I leave, saying, “I love you grandma.”

The time with my grandma on those special days,
will always outweigh the advice or the words,
or the little deck of cards of our favorite pastime.

Logistical Improbabilities – “What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor”

Logistical Improbabilities, or What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor

Ok, so I am a dispatcher for a fuel company so I deal with gas stations, fuel Coops and Bulk plants. I also have the unfortunate task of keeping tabs on the oil and gas futures markets.  This means I field a lot of, “What is the market doing today?” phone calls. We have a saying, “You live by the price, you die by the price.” It is mind boggling to me how someone who owns a gas station can run themselves out of fuel. I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but it only takes once or twice that a station is out of gas when I try to fill up that I am not coming back. I don’t care how good the coffee or donuts are. Having no fuel at a gas station is like a grocery store with no food. It just makes no sense.

I think, before you can be licensed to own/operate a gas station; that you should have to take a logistics course, with a heavy emphasis on truck routes and map reading. There seems to always be those people who have no idea what it takes to safely deliver them fuel, especially in inclement weather. If your location is 45 miles from the loading facility, you can reasonably expect an hour of transit with a big truck. This is especially true if you are not on a major highway. To expect a load after a market swing (Typically 6pm) to be delivered by 7pm, is just plain crazy talk. We aren’t driving DeLoreans with flux capacitors here. It is essentially 80,000 pounds of flammable liquid cruising down the highway with a bunch of little 4 wheelers who think they own the road. The lack of respect passenger vehicles give to big trucks is a whole other post however so I won’t delve into that much here. Just understand that to operate one of those trucks safely requires a lot of training, attention to detail, and a sharp mind in order to account for all the motoring public around you.

Another pet peeve revolves around the unloading area at gas stations. Whether you own the place or just shopping there, be aware of the giant manhole covers in the lot. Do not park on them and then wander off into the sunset. Though unlikely, a driver just trying to do his/her job may arrive and need to get the truck over there in order to safely drop some fuel. If you see a truck delivering at a gas station, be aware that a person is there just trying to do their job. Don’t run over the caution cones or through the delivery area just because it is more convenient for you. Yelling at the driver to hurry up does no good. Typically the equipment can only dispense the fuel so quickly; similar to the pump you just used only pumps so fast. When it comes to driving through the area with the giant manhole covers, just remember, it is only a thin ring of metal/concrete holding that cover up. If it cracks/breaks and you drive over it, expect some damage to your vehicle. I, and most anyone else, would also laugh at you.

Typically, the driver has no control over how fuel performs in the winter time. This is especially true for all you diesel drivers. Diesel, more than gas, will gel at low temperatures. Get low enough, and you are not going anywhere. As a station owner/fuel orderer, it is on you to make sure that you are either supplying additive, or purchasing winterized DSL. If you fail to do both, and end up with vehicles broke down in your lot (yes it can happen that quickly), then good luck to you. As a consumer, make sure before you push that button or swipe that card, that you are getting what you should for your vehicle. If you do not, expect some internal damage to your vehicle’s fuel/engine system. I, and most anyone else, will also laugh at you. Educate yourself about what your vehicle and fuel needs are and shop appropriately.

It is recommended to not wait till you are out of something before you call your vendor for a delivery. What would happen if you called your soda delivery company at the last minute and said, Oh, I am out of X Brand cola, I need a delivery now. More than likely they will do their best to assist you, but you could be out for a while because they are typically working into the future on their orders and now have to backtrack and push someone else off (who ordered before you) in order to remedy your emergency. Vendors are not like a pizza place, it isn’t a 30 minutes or it is free situation.  We will make a good faith effort to adjust to your lack of planning, but ultimately the responsibility for your station is yours.

If you own/operate a gas station, talk to your vendors. (Calmly and rationally please, we typically do not respond well to threats, insults, or general asshattery.) You might be surprised what you can learn from us when it comes to making things easier for you to do business.  This goes whether it is your fuel, soda, beer, or candy. We know our business, and the better communication there is; the smoother things will go.

Oh, and BUY A MAP, or take one from the shelf, and learn where your products come from so you can understand the time involved in bringing you the items necessary for your business.