Monday, April 25, 2016

Beating My Own Drum in the Band

Well, I finished my April 2016 Camp NaNoWriMo project today, and validated it at 91,972 words. I will continue editing Meant To Be Here well into next month, with an eye to publishing sometime in the fall. I know the main author, Ken Cummings, will be happy to see this conclusion!

I have to call out my awesome cabin-mates, via the clip of the Cabin Mates panel from today. (Mind you, the insanely twitchy GIF avatar for @InsanelyWitchyMarauderette really needs to be seen in motion for full appreciation.)

Please note that I am not the only camper here to finish early; I'm not even the first! No, that would be @alias093001 with 50K words past her 125K-word goal, and @Sylvela from Germany with a short day's writing (for her) past her 100K-word finish line, not to mention @Azombieatemyshoelace, who has already started a second novel in her April NaNo sprint past her 100K-word goal.

When you are surrounded by productive people, it is easy to be carried along by the tide. Also, we see only the production, not the quality, and that helps to quiet our Persistent Inner Editors. See, I can too write 3000 words a day, maybe 5000. Ooh, maybe 7500! Shut up, PIE!

Even the silent cabin mates are inspirational, if only in a speculative way. I know I've been hoping that @lauramaria3 is one of those folks who does Camp NaNo because she's writing long-hand. I have visions of a hasty OCR upload on Day 30 to validate her goal. 

Camp NaNo progress report:
Word Count: Day 25 Total: 91,972 words

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fear of the Rule of 33

I was pleased to learn that R.J. Stewart (Ron), whose book I reviewed in August 2015, was one of eight contenders for best new novel in Colorado for Then Comes A Wind. The award was to be given at The Tattered Cover, a bookstore in Denver, and each author was invited to stand and tell a little about the publishing processfinding a publisher or finding an editor, or maybe how one connects with a beta readerbefore going on to a brief reading.

Ron was up first, offering a comment about finding a beta reader:
Well, I contacted "DrPat Reads," a book blogger, who reads about a book a day. DrPat has a neat way to decide what books to read. You just open to page 33 and read a little, see if you like it. (See my Rule of 33)

He heard a quick flutter of pages behind him, and turned to see all seven other authors on the stage, flipping to page 33 in their books to see what readers would find. One said: Oh, no, a sex scene! 

Fear not, writers whose books I review. What I am looking for on page 33 is past the opening scenes (which should be tight to draw the reader in), to a point where the author's voice relaxes to the level it will likely retain to the end of the book. Of course, if I read those 20 or 40 sentences, and encounter eighteen typos, I will not buy the book. (This is important; if you can't afford to hire a proofreader, read your own manuscript at least 3 more times after you are certain it is clean. It almost never is.)

Another thing that sends a book back to the bin for me is clich├ęs. I might read on page 33:
She wanted to fly again, but her wings were bruised so badly that even her own licks could not heal them.
or perhaps 
He had never dreamt that there would be a day to come when his relationship perched on the brink of a steep hill and could go sliding down into a dungeon of despair at any moment.
I would normally set this book down and go on. In the case of the book from which both these sentences actually came, it was written by a friend, so I won't publish a scathing review. If this rampant banality continues much further into the book, however, I won't finish it, which means I won't review it at all.

So let your scenes fall as they may on page 33. Sex, death of a pet, favorite cake recipe (yes that was on page 33 once, and it turned out to be a great book, too!)whatever it may be, it helps in the decision process. 

Besides, who knows what will turn your eventual readers on?

Camp NaNo progress report:
Word Count: Day 23 Total: 84903 words

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hey Man, Where You Been?

We needed the rain, Lord knows, and I'm not really complaining. Except that one side effect of the chilling effect of rain is something I didn't need: pain in arthritic fingers.

And as I observed to my cabin-mates at Camp NaNo, You have NO idea how much work your fingers do until you have a bout of arthritis, and have to severely limit them to the essentials. On the other hand, cutting out browsing and surfing and social media does leave a lot more writing energy for the NaNo project...

I haven't been posting to my blog at all, and that includes writing flash fiction per Charli Mill's Carrot Ranch challenge. I haven't quit reading, either, just writing reviews in my head and waiting for the flare to subside.

I have continued writing for Ken Cummings' memoir, Meant To Be Here, and nearly met my revised goal for April Camp NaNo: 85,000 words. That takes the memoir almost to completion in raw draft form, and now comes the truly hard part: convincing Ken that editing is needed.

For one thing, we are missing Chapter 11. Chapter 10, Over the Hills and Through LAX, is way too long. It may get divided into two, Over the Hills... about Ken's adventures by bicycle, and ...and Through LAX, about his strange encounters and wild rides while driving a shuttle van.

Other edits may move stories from one chapter to another where they belong more naturally. I want to balance the chapters in size, but I will not be fanatic about it. From all I can observe, Cummings' life has been up and down and all over the place. It shouldn't be surprising if his memoir is as well!


The last sample: 
The [airport shuttle van] company had a contract to take flight crews from airport to airport, so I often had airline personnel aboard. One such shuttle trip was a charter from John Wayne airport in Orange County to LAX, with an entire flight crew aboard. The senior pilot automatically took the front right seat next to me. This was normal; I had noticed pilots preferred to sit in front, and co-pilots would defer to captains.
Driving north through Seal Beach on I-405, I left the carpool lane, merging right across the lanes so I could get to the new Interstate 105 freeway, a direct route to LAX. The flight captain challenged this move and ordered me to get back into the car-pool lane. I replied calmly that I knew what I was doing; this was a better way to go. 
He became upset, repeating that he knew how to get to LAX, complaining and insisting I stay on the 405.
Finally I told himand the crew in backsomewhat forcefully that another driver and I had timed this new route against the 405 carpool lane. There was no time advantage either way, but I-105 offered a smoother ride, and that made it a better route to LAX. I handed him one of the company business cards, saying, "You can report any complaint about my driving to my office. The complaint line is on the back of the card."
A voice from the back said, "It sounds like The Captain has spoken." 
The pilot blinked and sat back. "You're right," he said.
No more fuss. At the end of the run, the flight captain waited until the others had moved away, then apologized for trying to "take command" from the shotgun seat.



Word Count: Day 22 Total: 84009 words

Monday, April 11, 2016

Breaking Stride, Breaking Rules

Cindi Staiger stokes tandem at the Furnace Creek 508 race.
I declared yesterday a day of restor rather, my body did. I couldn't make myself get out of my nice warm bed. I really didn't need to sleep, but I did require some word-consumption. So I opened my Kindle and devoured the conclusion of the J.E. Hopkins thriller, The Scarlet Crane, after which I segue'd into its sequel, The Saffron Falcon

Since I finished Ned Hayes' The Eagle Tree last Friday, perhaps I should to set up a new TBR category on my Kindle: To Be Reviewed!

Finding motivation in the midst of the doldrums can be a challenge. When your goals are self-set, and missing a deadline affects only your self-image, it can make it even harder to keep pushing. This is one of the ways Camp NaNo helps us achieve our dreams: a cabin full of people to be up when you are down, peppy when you are depleted, and willing to lend an ear while you complain or crow.

Even in "real life," though, these self-imposed rules can bite. The sample from Meant To Be Here today comes from Ken Cummings' story of supporting Cindi Staiger, the female cyclist who won the Race Across AMerica (RAAM) in 1988. 

By this point in the race, Cindi has been in the pink jersey (denoting the female race leader) since day one, and has been on her bicycle 20 hours out of each of eight or nine days

In Parkersburg, West Virginia, with the close-support van and the Mothership [the 20-foot RV with the kitchen and Cindi's little-used bunk in it] right behind her, Cindi missed a left turn and started to freak out. I was on the radio link in the close support van; I had to shout loudly to cut through her panic, telling her to turn left down an alley I could see would lead her to a street with access back onto the race route on US Highway 50. Cindi followed my instructions, leading her whole support procession bumping and scraping down the alley.
Later, explaining “off-mic” why she had gone off-course, she confided to me and the two other male cyclists in her close support crew that the crew-leader, a woman, and her nutritionist, another woman, wouldn’t let her have any coffee. They insisted that she drink something called glycine as a substitute, because caffeine was “bad for her.”
“No problem!” I told her. “This part of the route is straight-on for several miles. Ride on alonewe’ll get you something at a shop.” She rode off, and I reminded the other crew members sternly, “As far as anyone else is concerned, we’re only giving Cindi glycine.
A few minutes later, I leaned out of the support van to pass Cindi a tall cup. “Here is your steaming black cup of glycine,” I told her with a wink.


In any extreme event, you have to be willing to break the rulesyour self-imposed rulesand indulge yourself occasionally. Otherwise, you risk burning out before you have a chance to reach your goal! 


Word Count: Day 10 (Rest Day): 414
Word Count Total: 40,085 words

Word Count: Day 11 Session 1: 2140; Session 2: none so far

Word Count Total: 42,635 words

Saturday, April 9, 2016

To and Fro in the Earth

Partial map of Concourse tunnels under downtown Oklahoma City
Doing what is expected is a good way to make others feel comfortable with you, but taking a stepor thirtyoff the beaten path can provide unexpected challenges along with the benefits. 

I was reminded of this recently when it came time to file my taxes. 

For the first time this year, I had royalty income to include on my return. Although it didn't change the total due on the bottom line, this meager amount of royalties required a completely out-of-proportion effort to account for it to the IRS. Despite the work involved, it was satisfying in a perverse way. This is what authors who sell need to do. I may have only a little toe over that line, but I'm now in the category!

The things we do in life change us, in major ways and subtle ones. Ken Cummings talks about this in today's sample from Meant To Be Here


In 1978, I had a job interview with Kerr-McGee Corporation in Oklahoma City. Along with my key, the desk clerk at the hotel they booked me into gave me a flyer describing the city's pedestrian tunnel system. Tunnels linked many parts of the downtown area, letting people avoid surface traffic, and move between buildings in air-conditioned comfort despite the unpleasant heat and humidity of the Oklahoma summer. To my delight, the system included a connection from the hotel to the Kerr-McGee tower.
The next morning I went through the tunnels and presented my papers to the guard at the small tunnel entrance to the Kerr-McGee building. He was flabbergasted. Every other interviewee before me had gone to the big glass doors with their multiple guards, up at the street level. The guard-shack there had a clipboard list of people who were permitted to enter, but from the tunnels, this man had no access to that list.
I was issued a pass from the tunnel door only after the guard made several calls to verify that I was expected. During my interview on the 24th floor, they asked why I had chosen that entrance. "You knew you were interviewing a mining engineer," I answered, "and yet you didn't expect that given a tunnel connection, he would use it?"

After I was hired on, one day while I was at work in the Kerr-McGee Tower my wife came downtown to set up a bank account for me. She deliberately selected a bank that connected to the tunnels. Waiting for me to arrive on my lunch break, she sat way in the back of the bank, next to the door labeled "Concourse Access." One of the bank officers asked if she didn't want to sit out in front where she could see me coming and wave me into the bank.
"Oh no, I know he will come through this door." And moments later, I did.


Thoreau told us, "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away." He is not wrong, but the man himself might be happier if he finds companionswhether a wife or cabin-mateswho share his vision of the world, and thus know what to expect from him even when he chooses a different road.

Word Count: Day 9 Session 1: 2163; Session 2: 1098
Word Count Total: 40,081 words

Friday, April 8, 2016

Raising the Bar

Maybe it's the active cabin and my very productive cabin-mates at Camp NaNo this April. Maybe it's the wonderful tales from Kenneth Cummings that I am organizing into Meant To Be Here this month.

Or maybe I just underestimated the way the word count climbs when you write diligently every day for at least three hours, but last night, I realized I was already half-way to my 60,000-word goal.

Time to raise the bar. I changed my goal to 85K, the same goal I set for myself last April for the first half of the memoir. I may have to raise it yet again, since after just one session today, I'm 40% of the way to the new goal!

Here's the daily sample from the Work In Progress: 

I served as a U.S. Cycling Federation (USCF) official at the Colorado time trials one year. These state championships are feeders for the national trials; race winners here are eligible to compete in the U.S. 
Time Trial Championships.

This event was to be held on the rolling plains near Strasburg, Colorado, a small town east of Denver. I wanted to collect the mileage stipend, so I decided to pack light camping gear and ride my bike there the day before the time trials. The weather was predicted to be fine; I thought bike and bedroll would be all I needed.

Out in Strasburg on the barren plains of eastern Colorado, I could find no cluster of trees dense enough to hide my bike and camp in. I went back into town, and asked the manager of the local historical museum where I might be able to camp. He told me there really wasn't a camp-ground per se, but said if I came back after dark, I could sleep there between a couple of old rail cars on the museum grounds.

After dinner, I picked my way between the cars, and bundled into my sleeping bag on the ground in the dark space that separated them. The sky was clear, so any heat in the ground radiated rapidly away. Near midnight, it got really windy, and the cold breeze sucked away any remaining warmth. Unable to sleep, I went hunting for better shelter. I found one of the passenger cars was unlocked and moved in. 

I was out and away again before sunrise the next morning, off to the races.

Honesty prompts me to point out that, even with the new 85K goal, I am still one of the "slackers" in my cabin. Four of my cabin-mates have goals of 100K or more. I got lucky this year! 

Word Count: Day 8 Session 1: 2324; Session 2: 2758
Word Count Total: 36,820 words

Sense of Space (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge)

I am a strange mixture of fear and delight.

One of my favorite situations, where I am at ease and can shine, is speaking in front of a crowd. I even volunteered to teach senior driving classes after retirement so I could keep doing it. 

But get me into the middle of a crowd of milling strangers, just one of the herd, and I come completely unwrapped. I have left parties early because there were too many guests, and I never visit the cinema in the first few weeks of a new movie's release. They're just too crowded.  

That's why this week's prompt from Charli Mills for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge gave me a little shiver: 

April 6, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a response to an agoraphobic moment. Does your character see the shadows or the light filtering through? This can be used as a character trait or as a moment that causes an anxious reaction. Explore the character’s discomfort — embarrassment, indecision, feeling trapped. The scene can be direct or overheard. Is there a solution when fears are faced?

I've tried many tricks to overcome the fear of the madding crowd, but phobias are hard to banish from the inside. It often takes an outsider's eye to spot the patch of blue among the clouds.

_______________________________________

Sense of Space

Travis swallowed, his throat dry. Panic rolled in his gut as a crowd of children surged past. Disneyland was a scary place for him!

His therapist's voice cut through his fear. "Look around, Travis," she said. "What do you see when you look down?"

"Kids. Lots of kids." The words escaped past gritted teeth. 

"Okay, Look farther out; what do you notice?"

Travis shook. He was going to lose it! "Their parents." Then, "Too many people! Too many!"

"Okay," came her quiet reply. "Now look up."

Above him, the endless sky brought him the sense of space he needed.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Coasting to Glory

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, near Palm Springs, CA
Some days, trying to write seems like pedaling uphill into a headwind. I've had a couple of those days this week, time wasted battling computer apps instead of getting words on the paper.

Then comes a great day when all the apps just work, the words come easily, and you seem to have a tailwind pushing energy into your tired fingers.

The following story from Kenneth Cummings' Meant To Be Here might have been custom-written to illustrate this kind of day: 

The finest downhill run I've ever ridden on the bike was from Beaumont, California to just west of Palm Springs. My 26-mile descent took in a couple of miles on the Interstate 10 shoulder, a couple of miles of highway frontage with a bit right on CA Route 111, and a whole lot of a semi-abandoned frontage road used only by cyclists.

The route dropped half a mile from San Gorgonio Pass to nearly sea level in that 26 miles. With a 40-plus-MPH tailwind powering me (the same way it does the turbines on the area's extensive wind farm), I covered the entire distance from summit to the edge of Palm Springs in one hour exactly.

I kept my feet propped up on the bottom bracket of the bike to maintain the purity of the run. A couple of bicyclists, their bikes on a car-top rack, spotted me from their car on the highway, and slowed down on the Interstate shoulder to give me a rousing cheer.

On the other hand, the return trip pedaling a fully-loaded touring bike uphill into the teeth of that wind would be next to impossible. I happily accepted a ride back up to the summit of the pass from a young pick-up driver. 

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? I got to ride downhill both ways!

When you get your mind into the right place, it can be easy to write, speeding along to the cheers of others, relaxed and happy, and full of momentum. The secret, as Ken pointed out, is to accept help over the tough spots, so you can coast downhill, both ways.  

Word Count: Day 7 Session 1: 1550; Session 2: none so far
Word Count Total: 30,866 words

Paid To Ride

Very little in life is more satisfying than being paid to do something you would do for fun anyway. I remember the thrill I got when the royalties from my first legitimately-published book began to come in.

It was especially satisfying because the book in question started as a test piece, designed to explore e-book formatting and HTML5 code-writing. Because I had already been rewarded by the experience I gained writing it, it seemed excessive to receive payment for it as well.

I suspect it's very similar to way Kenneth Cummings felt upon learning that he could get paid to ride his bike for a popular group event in Orange County, California

One year Bill Sellin, head of the Bicycle Club of Irvine, proposed a club ride to an overnight party at a shore-side campground in northern San Diego County. Riders would not have to carry camping gear; Bill would transport it for a dollar if you were a BCI member. 
He charged two dollars for family members if they were not BCI members. three dollars to tote gear for other people. The same transport took wood for a beach campfire and food for the picnic dinner.

He had done this ride before, and it was very popular. There were often a hundred riders or more for these overnight trips, so it was a good fund-raiser for the club. I wasn't interested in the overnight camp. I asked if I could ride the 40 miles down there with them, and then just ride back the same day. With no overnight stay, I had no gear to tote. 

"Sure,” Bill told me. “I will not charge you for that." Then some people said their families just wanted to drive down there for the evening campfire and then drive home. "OK, I'll make that the zero-dollar option," Bill told them.

"Wait just a minute!" I was joking, but responded as if I was annoyed. "I thought I was the zero-dollar option for riding down there and back the same day." Bill acknowledged my point; he declared that mine was now the negative-dollar option. 

He actually paid me a dollar for doing the ride.

Confucius is reported to have said, "Find a job you love, and you'll never work a day in your life." For me in retirement, writing is that job. Any income I make from it is pure gravy.

Word Count: Day 6 Session 1: 1891; Session 2: 1815
Word Count Total: 28,944 words

The Locust

Example of a faired tricycle via kmxtornado.blogspot
Hunger comes in many sizes. At Camp NaNo, we know this. That yearning to hit your daily word goal is akin to being "a mite peckish," as Monty Python's Cheese Shop Sketch had it. Next, the aching gulf waiting to be filled by the exact right word: poets know this hunger, acute and burning, like a street urchin peering through the bakery window.

Then there is the diet-buster. This hunger is not sated by thousands of words "down on the paper." Not even 10K words makes a dent in it. It's like grazing at an unsatisfactory buffet, searching through bite after bite for the exact flavor that will please your palate. In writing, this hunger can only be appeased by sharing: publishing what you have written.

Today's snippet from Meant To Be Here comes from the tale of Kenneth Cummings' 1983 trip by fully-faired tricycle from Denver to California. It seems Ken's wife had packed too many salty snacks for him, and he didn't have enough water, so he just didn't eat much for several days of hard pedaling through the Nevada and California desert

At last he reached Orange County, where he was scheduled to crash with a friend:

Tustin was followed by a few miles of twists and turns in Irvine, and then a last half-mile of pushing the tricycle up the hill from the beach in Laguna Beach to David’s house. Once there, I could finally rest. 

David welcomed me with, “Make yourself at home, help yourself to whatever you want,” then he left for work. After two days of heavy exercise with very little to eat, I was happy to take him at his word. Before he got back that afternoon, I had emptied his refrigerator and pantry cupboard. 

For years afterward, he would introduce me as “Ken, the locust” who had descended on his kitchen with a clicking whir and ate everything edible before moving on.


So far, I've managed my "mite peckish" hunger, and been content to leave my urchin-staring for my Inner Editor to appease. (Later, dear, later!) I hope my incremental sharing satisfies my hunger to publish, at the same time it whets your appetite to read more of Kenneth's memoirs once they are published! 

Word Count: Day 5 Session 1: 1554; Session 2: 1279
Word Count Total: 25,238 words

Monday, April 4, 2016

Camp NaNo First Monday

By the first Monday of Camp NaNoWriMo, folks in my cabin are struggling with the demands of everyday life, along with the issues that can be expected to dog any writer. We all have different techniques to get past our Monday blues, writing doldrums, and plain, ordinary infections of jes' dowanna doit.

One of my favorite techniques is to begin writing about something I struggled with in the past, and managed to survive. I can think of any number of problems that seemed insoluble while I was in the middle of them, but in looking back, I see the clearly-marked exit that was there all along.

And now, I have plenty of blockage-breaking solutions to write about, to get that writing momentum going. Sometimes, being lucky is hard to see, except in retrospect.

An example from Kenneth Cummings' memoirs probably doesn't seem lucky to him, even with 37 year's worth of hindsight: 

In 1979, my wife was back in school at Mines, and I had returned from South Africa to join her. I had a job at a local mine, and started looking for a touring bike. 

Portia Masterson, the owner of the bike shop in Golden, had a Miyata touring bike of the kind I wanted, that she had ridden for several years. When she bought herself a new bicycle, she sold me the Miyata, and I rode it with great pleasure for a couple of years.

One afternoon in 1981, I was riding downhill on the frontage road below Lookout Mountain into Golden, when I hit a rock. I managed not to flip the bike, but both calipers [brakes] were broken off. The bike never was as sweet a ride after that, even though I continued to peddle around on it. 


Not long after that, I was pedaling along a Denver residential street alongside Roger Owens, another Denver Bicycle Touring Club member. I was chatting with Roger and enjoying the morning air when a Volkswagen passed us and turned left from the street ahead of us into a driveway. We saw the driver reversing out of the driveway, then to our disbelief, she backed completely across the street into the opposite driveway. Even worse, she then pulled right back into the street, smack into our path!

There was no time for emergency braking, although we both tried. Roger was to my left; with just enough room, he managed to whip around the car ahead of her front bumper. I was not so lucky. I could not stop in time, and was flipped across her hood and down to the street. The driver climbed out of her car to scold me. She was annoyed that I had broken off her wing mirror on my trip across the hood!

I was in shock, and simply wanted to escape. My bike was technically rideable, and we were close to the house. I was able to get home on it, riding slowly, not braking or even steering very much. The next time I rode the Miyata, however, the real damage was revealed as soon as I hit the brakes in a normal fashion. The front forks flexed at the damage point enough to allow the front wheel to touch the down-tube. The bike came to an abrupt halt; I was pitched over the handlebars, landing on my helmet. The impact gave me a concussion.

Alas, my Miyata was no longer even remotely rideable.


For me, rendering this story into readable prose from Cummings' verbal account helped to lubricate my stalled Monday writing engine.

Word Count: Day 4 Session 1: 4815; Session 2: 665
Word Count Total: 22,405 words

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Trying Not to Break the Rhythm

Necking with cup-and-cone failure of a metal rod
 under tension. Via nsw.edu.au.
Now that I'm retired, Sunday is not a day of rest, just a day without Chick-fil-A. It takes extra effort to begin without the routine of sitting in the restaurant, popping open the laptop to get some free WiFi. 

I sit at my home desk to get into the rhythm; my fingers on the keyboard pull me along, and the stories I'm recording keep me going. Today I was surprised to learn there were some missed opportunities, things Ken Cummings regrets not doing.

Here is a quick example from Meant To Be Here of one of those regrets: 

The mining community we lived in near the end of our stay in the Republic of South Africa was strictly a bedroom community, inhabited almost entirely by mine employees, plus a few retired mine workers who had bought their property from the company as a sort of pension. A nearby industrial city (town, really) named Springs was our source of "big city" pleasures: a night-club where they had a little dance floor, a Kentucky Fried Chicken place, a public library, an Arthur Murray's where we took ballroom dancing lessons, a creditable little zoo.
My wife was working in Springs on a day when I had a holiday, and I had dropped her off at work. I parked in town, and set out for a stroll above-ground for a change. I was walking along the street when I heard a clear sound, one that is very familiar to those who have taken the Strength of Materials lab course sometimes known as "Rod-Breaking 101." The sharp TUNNGG! vibrating through the air marked something metal breaking: a rod, a bolt, or maybe a string of rebar.
To this day, I regret I did not snatch out the disposable camera I was carrying in my pocket, but this was long before the reflexive picture-taking that is a common response now that we all carry cameras in our phones. Instead, I turned towards the sound just in time to see a tower crane slowly topple over.
At the pivot of the falling tower, just out of view behind a four- to five-story building that was under construction, one or more of the anchor bolts had failed. The ringing report of that bolt failure was the sound I had heard.
The crane tower, seeming to move in slow motion, fell toward the incomplete structure. It hit the top of the building's near wall about a quarter of the tower's length below its cab.
As it hit, the tower boom flattened out on the top of the building. Ponderously, the balancing arm with the crane's massive concrete counter-weight began to pivot around the point where it connected to the tower. It swung over the top of the building near a corner of the structure's wall, and smashed into the side facing me.
Rather than the vivid memory of the bright metal-failure and the slow-motion failure of the crane, I could have had a series of shots illustrating the whole sequence, worth hundreds of Rand to the local paper.
I tell myself that the camera would simply have been confiscated by the police who showed up at the scene almost immediately, if they knew I had it. But that's just sour grapes, my regret for an opportunity missed.


I will not regret a day wasted. The best way to avoid regrets is to seize opportunities as they are presented. Of course, even when I miss the chance to write on Sunday, I can always sit down on Monday, take a bite of my chicken biscuit, and write about missed opportunity...


Word Count: Day 3 Session 1: 4523; Session 2: 3563
Word Count Total: 16,924 words

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Camp NaNo Day Two

It's great doing Camp NaNoWriMo with an active set of cabin-mates. Our cabin began with a collective word-count goal over a million words, which isn't unusual. But the level of production by day 2 is unusual (based on my "vast" experience of exactly one previous cabin.)

The first time I did Camp NaNoWriMo, I chose not to be in a cabin. I was mainly after the motivating drive provided by the public statement of goals, and the daily record of words generated. That Stats Chart is such a visual spur!

After April 2015, though, I got the sense I was missing something. I missed supportive Writing Buddies from the November effort. At camp, that's what cabin-mates provide. 

Today's sample from Meant To Be Here
In the 1990s I was riding with a fast group of Orange County Wheelmen. ... I thought I was in for a moderately-paced tour through urban Anaheim and other nearby towns. But most of the group were racers or wanna-be racers; the city limits, long straights and other landmarks were only there to serve as starts and/or finishes for their sprints, intervals and other semi-training races. I could usually catch up with the tailing riders just as they had all cooled down and were ready for the next run. 

In "race" after "race," I kept getting dropped. Until the last one, the long straight run to the finish, that is. "Wait til the next turn," I laughed to myself. 

Around that corner, I knew,  were the main railyards for East Central Orange County, including the tracks for the Metroliner between San Diego and LA, main freight service, as well as Amtrack. 

Once they made the turn, the hotshots with their light-weight racing bikes and skinny tires skidded to a halt in horror. Nine or ten sets of protruding rails, truck-sized potholes, and chunks of asphalt made an effective barrier to their race speeds. Most would need to dismount and carry or walk their bikes past the abatis.

I just went into high gear on my heavy old touring bike with its thick fat touring tires, and slammed across the hazards. 

At the finish, even second place was a long way back.


So far in my cabin, I am paralleling Ken's experience; writing, logging my stats, then checking in with my cabin-mates to find they've dropped me and sped on down the road. But like Ken on his touring bike, I will just keep plugging along, riding toward my own goals, for my own purposes. It isn't a race, and I may yet have that "winning" experience (along with a completed manuscript for us both) before April 30th. 


Word Count: Day 2 Session 1: 3381; Session 2: 1036
Word Count Total: 8835 words

Friday, April 1, 2016

April (Writing) Fool

Camp NaNoWriMo last year was such a boon to my non-fiction writing that I decided to do it again this April to finish the Ken Cummings memoirs I am co-writing. 

I promised myself I would keep my regular routine, writing in the morning each day at Chick-fil-A, perhaps writing a bit more at home in the evening. That oath lasted until 11:40 pm on March 31, yesterday. Wide awake, staring into the darkness, I knew I would not get to sleep until I answered the demon. By 0:20, I had over 400 words in, and nothing would send me to bed until the demon shut off.

That turned out to be 5 AM, and 2320 words along.

The first focus of this year's April foolishness details the trip that supplied the cover image. In a section tentatively subtitled "Over the Hills and Through LAX," we share Cumming's decades of road adventures. By bike, trike, race sag and commercial shuttle van, he has had some amazing experiences.

A small sample: 
The following day was the high point of my whole trip. Literally. About four hours after I left Breckenridge, I reached Loveland Pass Summit, where I found a crowd of friendly Penn State Geology students. I coaxed them into taking my picture. It was May 27th, day 15 of my trip. 

I had my GoPro running, so there is hard evidence of my eagerness to share my stories. In a group of willing (or captive) listeners, sometimes it's difficult to turn it off (and I don't mean the camera.) I let the GoPro continue to run as I rode away from the summit down Hwy 6. I was having too much fun to turn it off! The result is a long video of speed-blurred road-edges screaming away behind me.

At the "bottom" of the long downhill, I would find my reservation for a room at the Indian Springs Resort hotel with its natural mineral baths. My wife was extremely jealous of this stop on my trip; we had visited the spa regularly while we lived near Denver.

The geothermal "cave" baths below the hotel had been carved from solid rock between 1903 and 1911. Prior to that, the local Indians were reputed to have bathed in the pool formed by the natural hot springs, but the tunnels were dug specifically to create hot baths for miners and other locals. Today there are separate caves for men and women, each with several huge sunken rock pools that fill with the naturally hot mineral water. Varying amounts of cold "mains" water are then added to each pool to yield temperatures from 104 to 112 degrees.


You can take my word for it, sinking into a hot mineral bath is a great reward for crossing two mountain ranges by bike!


I'll continue to share my writing experience this month in my posts, interspersed with Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction and book reviews as I can. Meanwhile, Ken's memories are calling, and I must get back to the campfire. 

Word Count: Day 1 Session 1: 2320; Session 2: 1593
Word Count Total: 3913 words