Eff Cancer

If you are wondering why I haven’t been posting lately, we have had some serious health issues that we continue to deal with. Two years ago my wife had a mastectomy. Six months ago we found out the cancer had come back. With a vengeance. My wife has been amazingly brave throughout the ordeal. I would not wish chemotherapy on my worst enemy. The fight continues, but my posting on here will be sporadic at best for the foreseeable future.

The Secrets of Harrowgate Valley

harrowgate 5Dive into the world of Harrowgate Valley University, where not everything is as it seems on the surface. This shared world anthology features eight tales of secrets, scholarship, and the paranormal.

The Secrets of Harrowgate Valley: A Shared World Anthology

It’s my first published work. My story opens the anthology. Tom Babbage is the newest faculty member at Harrowgate Valley University and a visit from an FBI agent starts him on a path to uncover mysterious happenings on the campus and the disappearance of his mother, the Dean of the English Department.

The other writers are all friends of mine and are all exceptional writers. Here are links to their websites:

Sheri Queen – Author of the Sleepy Hollow Hunter series

Traci Douglass – USA Today Best-selling Author 

Carrie Gessner – Editor of the Anthology and Author of the Heartfriends Trilogy

K.W. Taylor – Multi-genre Author of Sam Brody series and Jonson’s Exotic Travel Series

I hope you will take a look.

 

Submission Anxiety

This is not a new thing. I’ve been through this twice before and was entirely unsuccessful. So, it’s created a cringy moment for me every time I see that I have mail in “that” inbox. I expect a “no thanks” and it is kind of crazy that it is giving me so much anxiety. To be fair “so much anxiety” for me is just a little more than your everyday getting through a humdrum day level of anxiety. My wife and kids suffer from anxiety disorder, so they know it much more intimately than I do, but nonetheless it is surprising.

My son tells me he is that way for any email. Even though he knows he may have important info in there he hates getting that ping.

I remember back in the old days of America Online and that little voice that told you, “You have mail.” It was a cool thing. Subbing has kind of ruined that feeling for me.

I have it out to a dozen agents and one publisher and have already got “no thanks” from two, which, good for them, it was super fast. I appreciate that.

I know how things are. I know I have to level up my game, and I have. I expect to get a yes this time, but even saying that I still cringe every time I see that I have a response. I want it, but my track record thus far has ingrained in me an expectation of rejection.

My mentor from my MFA program told me to sub each manuscript until I got a hundred rejections. The problem I personally have is finding that many agents that represent science fiction. I have around 90 on my list. I keep looking and hoping. I know it only takes one, “Yes.”

I would love to hear your submissions stories.

A Perfect Film to Watch During This Pandemic

The_Guernsey_Literary_and_Potato_Peel_Pie_Society

Theatrical Release Poster

My wife had heard about the film, actually has the book, and had read part of it. It got great reviews and is playing currently on Netflix. It’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I know the title sounds pretentious, but I had a visceral reaction to the story, as a writer, and as a person going through the pandemic with the rest of the world. The story really puts things in perspective. When considering what the people of Guernsey, and much of the rest of Europe, went through, having to live with the Nazi occupation and seeing loved ones killed with little regard for life, it made sitting on my couch, eating too much as I quarantine, or having to wear a mask in public seem like very little to ask.

The story takes place mainly in 1947 in the aftermath of WWII. A successful British writer, Juliet Ashton, played by Lily James, gets a letter from a man in Guernsey, Dawsey Adams, played by Michiel Huisman of Game of Thrones fame, because he found her address in one of the books their literary club had read. The club itself emerged from a confrontation with Nazi night watch when they were returning from a get together to eat forbidden pork and drink homemade gin. Drunk and terrified, the name of their club came out of desperation to cover their tardiness in getting home under curfew. They literally lied to save their lives, but as a result the literary club was registered and had to be continued with a Nazi chaperon. At least for a short time, until he gets bored with their meetings, where they read and dissected literary works.

The Juliet is intrigued by the notion of their club and decides to invite herself down for a visit. There she meets the member of the club, minus one, the instigator of the club, Elizabeth McKenna, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, had been arrested a few years before hand and nobody has heard anything about her since. Juliet wants to write a piece for the London Times about the group, but they are extremely reticent, and it starts her down a path to find out why. There are several side stories that add conflict, including her engagement back in London to a Major in the US Army, and a young girl, being raised by Dawsey, that is the daughter of the missing Elizabeth. The story is wonderfully written and really sucked me in from start to finish. I am a sucker for a good love story and ultimately that is what this is. A love story wrapped in a mystery, with all the bells and whistles that would make a writer absolutely love this tale.

The four of the actors are veterans of Downtown Abbey, the two female leads and the motherly figure of the group, and Juliet’s literary agent, played by Mathew Goode, who is incredible in everything he does. The entire cast is wonderful. My wife and I really connected with the story on many levels and things like this just refresh our love for each other, as pithy as that might sound.

I cannot express enough how perfect this film is to watch right now.

Alternate Reality

I  don’t know about you but life feels surreal right now.

Pretty much everything is cancelled. My daughters opera slated for next month is cancelled. All the schools here are online only until further notice.

No sports, of any kind, except . . . except Virtual Sports. Could this spark something new? All those out of work sports reporters need something to do.

cornonaprepper

I’m listening to Karl Schroeder‘s newest book, Stealing Worlds. People can disappear in the LARP game worlds, into the alternate economy of Notchcoin and blockchains. The people who build the games also program the surveillance networks. It’s s Deep State thriller that deals with a lot of virtual and mixed reality stuff. Combined with what is happening across the world right now it has really got me feeling like we are in the first stages of Schroeder’s world.

 

My imagination has been working overtime, and I can see a world where virtual sports really take off, online worlds thrive. Why? Because you can do it in the comfort of your fortress at home. I wonder about the implications of social distancing. If this virus threat continues for months and months it could have a lasting impact on how we live for years to come. If I had the money I would be investing in online ventures and delivery services.

I hope you are doing well. Keep washing your hands.

What the Fluxx?

FluxxMy eldest son has a degree in game design. (he is very talented and looking for work if you are hiring.) He loves games of all types. One of his coworkers introduced him to a game called Fluxx and he liked it enough to buy it. We played it Saturday night and I have to say it’s one of the funnest games I’ve played in years.

It’s a card game. The goals and rules change throughout the game, guaranteeing that every game will be distinctly different. The rules are on the cards so it only takes about 5 minutes to learn how to play, if that. It takes a little longer to get familiar with all the variations, but it’s not difficult and we played two games in less than an hour and had a blast.

The game is made by Looney Labs and has a bunch of themes, like Dr. Who or Firefly. We played the Star Trek: The Next Generation version and I loved it. I played with my three youngest children, ages 18-24, and they have never seen ST:TNG, but it didn’t make it any less fun.

We are always on the lookout for fun games. Do you have any suggestions?

 

I Don’t Do My Own Plumbing . . .

01 Jan 2000 --- Plumbers dilemma --- Image by © David Bentley/CORBISSo, I did something I said I would never do again. Plumbing.

And it bit me in the butt.

It was a simple task. Change out the faucet in the main floor bathroom. I figured I could manage that. How hard could it be?

 

I took pictures (Well, actually i forgot to take pictures, so my wife took a few and texted them to me) so I could match it. I went to Menard’s and found a similar new faucet and slotted the time for installation for the weekend.

Sunday afternoon I unboxed the faucet and started the removal. That’s where the first problem popped up. The new faucet had a pop-up drain, instead of a pop-up rod assembly. So I would have to remove the drain and install the new one. No problem.

Well…problem. The area under the sink was very tight. I couldn’t really get my head and arm in the same side without contorting my body. And I was unable to separate the top and bottom part of the drain and it would not pull out otherwise.

It was nasty in there too, fungus and hair and slime. I did manage to clean it up really well. There’s that. But I was missing something in taking out the drain and decided at that point to go ahead and call the plumber to install it all. Which I should have done from the beginning, since I said I would never do my own plumbing again.

So I commenced to put it all back together. It went fairly smoothly and I thought I was done. Did I say the area under the sink was tight? Getting the lines reconnected was a pain due to the lack of space. I couldn’t see very well (at all) without contorting my body again and getting up in there. But I’m not as young as I used to be and I was getting tired. I tried to do it without getting my whole upper body in there, but it all seemed to be back together. I turned the water and nothing was dripping that I noticed. The floor under the sink stayed dry.

Flash forward about eight hours.

My boys coming running up from the basement yelling, “There’s water pouring out of the ceiling!” (Thank God they are down there most of the time. I can’t imagine how this would have turned out otherwise.)

Water was pouring out of a light fixture in the ceiling and there were several places along seems in the drywall where water was pooling and starting to drip through. I ran back upstairs to try and figure out where it was coming from, but nothing was running. Our master bathroom toilet had just been flushed, so maybe something was leaking there and it was right above where it was leaking out of the light fixture. Was it a coincidence that I had tried to do some plumbing work earlier? All I had done was turn on and off the water below the sink.

I was out of my league, but it was 10 PM on Sunday.  I called the emergency number for the plumber and he was there about forty minutes later.

I’ll cut to the chase here; he did an amazing job of pinpointing the problem in fairly short order and had everything fixed by midnight.

Yep, it was my handiwork. I didn’t get the hot water line connected properly under the sink when I put it back together and the water had been trickling down along the line into the basement in a barely visible trail.

I now have some drywall to repair.

Lesson learned. Again. Never, ever, do my own plumbing.

Impedance

Funny how easy it is to not do something. The longer you keep from doing it the more impedance builds up. It might be working out, or keeping up a blog, or writing a piece of fiction. Or maybe you put off making a call to a close relative and then it started to become a thing because you had gone so long without calling.

Last summer, I had managed to run a streak of almost four months where I posted five days a week. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it up forever. But what surprised me was how sudden it happened and how easy it was to not post anything. I had a run of bad luck physically. Multiple doctor visits for different things.  Pneumonia really knocked me on my butt. But even before that I had stopped blogging when I herniated myself. It wasn’t like I had to exercise in order to blog, but the two became linked somehow. Then I ended up going to Oklahoma to work for several weeks and after I returned I got sick.

But the only way to confront this kind of impedance is head on. You pick up the phone and call and try not to make a big deal about how long it’s been. You get out your workout clothes and start back slow and easy. You post something to your blog and make a new commitment to doing it regularly. Maybe not five days a week.

Fortunately, the impedance didn’t effect my writing too much. I finished my last editing pass a few days ago and sent out the piece to a friend of mine for a beta read. It feels finished. I want to be done with it and move on to the next project.

Finishing that project has brought me to a new starting line. I’m healthy again. I’m going to start exercising regularly next week and I’ve started working on my next project.

Part of this reboot comes with some changes. If you have been following me you may have noticed a name change, both for me and for the web address. I decided on using a pen name and I bought a new domain name for the blog. I had been doing some ancestry research and discovered I had three grandfathers with the name Hieronymus. Hawkes is another family surname and I like the alliteration. I have a new Facebook page and a new Twitter persona. I’ve been on Twitter for almost twelve years, so starting over is a bit daunting.

My new project is a piece that I started while I was working on my MFA, just for a palette cleanser in between edits. It was something that was as close to universally liked as anything I had written before. I only have about 7000 words, but the ideas are solid and the thing has some real potential. I debated throwing it all out and starting over. I’m actually still debating that, but I did some work on the opening chapter and I may keep it.

I am toying with the idea of cutting some of it out and creating a short story out of it as a teaser for the novel. I would have to cut it down by about half to get where I would need for the word count. It would be a good exercise.