Category Archives: Life in General

I Lost My Wife to NaNoWriMo

I’m an NaNoWriMo widower… at least to an extent.

If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo—or can’t remember when I’ve talked about it before (I sympathize, believe me)—NaNoWriMo is internetspeak for National Novel Writing Month, and you can find out more about it at nanowrimo.org. The simple definition is this: you write 50,000 words in a month. The aim is to write a short, completed novel, though some begin early and use that crunch to finish—or at least get close to finishing—a novel. It happens every November. The idea behind this is to get the story down on paper. Don’t edit. Don’t polish. Just write. What my wife calls word vomit.

Yes, we’re back to my wife again.

See, I got married in July to the woman I’ve spent my life looking for. Less than four months later, she’s writing a cozy mystery for NaNoWriMo. In and of itself, I love the idea, and I’m fully supportive. But as I write this, it’s November 7th, and I miss her already.

See, to achieve this goal, she has to write an average of 1,667 words a day (50,000 ÷ 30 = 1,666.66667, for you math nerds), and she has to do this in the evenings after she gets home from her day job (you know, that nasty thing we writers have to have to do things like eat food). And that means she has very little time to spend with… me.

I know: cry me a river.

Though this post is largely tongue-in-cheek, I have to be honest and reiterate that I support her fully. Way back when we reconnected (my wife and I once knew one another more years ago than I care to talk about), during the catch-up stage, I told her I was a writer and had four books published. She admitted that had been a dream of hers all her life.

See how we’re so well-matched?

But here’s the thing: she saw my writing, and that of the people I associate with, and I think it intimidated her. After that initial mention of wanting to be a writer, she didn’t bring it up again.

And that bothered me.

See, I’d read some of her Facebook posts. And thesis papers. And I knew she could write, if she’d just give herself permission to. But I had trouble convincing her of that.

I stayed patient, though, not because I’m a saint, but because every writer in history has been there: we want to write, but have no confidence in our abilities to do so. We want to be (insert name of favorite author here) right off the bat without going through whatever (favorite author) went through to get that good. It’s normal, and very human, and it’s not limited to writers and would-be writers. I’d guess every creative person is that way.

What separates the wheat from the chaff—or elevates a would-be to a writer—is the discipline to put butt in chair and write. You gotta have your chops, and while meditation is a good thing, it will never totally replace action, especially when it comes to being creative. At a certain point you simply have to do something about your dreams, rather than just dreaming them.

My wife loves cozy mysteries, and she came up with an idea for one (I refuse to share it here until she’s done with it) that I think is excellent, and it draws on her own experience, which will make it more authentic. She’s let me read most of it as she finishes each section, with the caveat that I turn my editing off, and it’s excellent, especially for someone who said she couldn’t write. I’m not much on cozies, but I know good writing when I see it, and she’s got it.

I encouraged her, so I guess I’m getting my just desserts.

But you know what? That’s okay. It’s made her happier than I’ve seen her yet, and she loves that I believe in her, and that makes it worth anything I could go through. After all, she sits in bed to write while I’m reading (how’s that for a hot time in the bedroom?), so we’re still spending time together, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Only twenty-three more days to go…

Later,
Gil

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Two Firsts

This past week marks two firsts for me—the first time I’ve had a book re-released, and the first time I’ve been featured on someone else’s blog.

Let me explain. I’ll start with the re-release.

If you’ve paid attention to my offerings here, you’ll notice I took the link down for Spree. That’s because I got the rights back at the end of last year and a new edition has been in production since, with a far better cover and interior layout.

And the return of my original opening sentence.

When I originally conceived of Spree, I wanted to have fun with it. So I made the writing style a bit irreverent, and very informal. I wanted it to be more stream-of-consciousness than some stodgy, formal thing (I hate that anyway, anymore). Yes, the story becomes serious—as it should—but I wanted the reader to have fun getting there.

In this spirit, the original opening sentence to what I guess you’d call the prologue read This is how it went down. I thought that, in a sentence, summed up the experience I planned to give the reader.

But the original editor/publisher believed that sentence was too omniscient. Not enough deep POV. So it was scrapped, and I’ve always regretted that. Let that be a lesson to you, kiddies: don’t always give in just to be published, which is sorta what I did.

There was one other passage I had a minor problem with, where I had my cop character have a hunch, and the editor didn’t like it. He wanted to add in that the information had come from a confidential informant. I’m not sure exactly what the objection was to the hunch—it’s been long enough that, if there was a reason given, I don’t remember it. Some people just don’t like the idea of people getting hunches, but I’m convinced cops—and people in other professions as well—get these hunches based on their long experience in their jobs. They’re not something weird and mystical, they’re just our brain and subconscious working together in ways we don’t fully understand yet.

But, I let it stand.

Most of the other editing was fine. No objection. But, on the whole, I wasn’t that happy with the publisher, so when it came time to renew the contract, I opted out.

Now, on the other subject, though I’ve been a published author for some time, I’m not good at the PR end of things. I even stopped doing this blog because, quite frankly, I ran out things to write about. There at the end, I was trying different strategies to make it more relevant and less focused on things only other writers would be interested in, but it didn’t work too well.

And, quite frankly, I lacked the self-confidence to promote myself on others’ sites.

But my wife—God bless her—wants to see me succeed, probably more than I do, and she’s getting me out there, making me do things outside my poor, introvert’s comfort zone, which means I’ve been featured on Ninetoes Loves Books (https://ninetoeslovesbooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/introducing-gil-miller/), so pop on over and give it a quick read and see what you think.

I’m still not sure what to think of it, but I’m happy to report that the man himself sent me a friend request on Facebook, and we talked a bit on Messenger and it turns out we’re a lot alike, so if nothing else, I got a new friend out of it. And I hope for both our sakes we get a lot more than that. If we can give each other a boost, so much the better.

And if I haven’t put up links to my newest books—including the re-release—by the time you read this, rest assured they’ll be up soon.

Later,
Gil

Westward Ho!

In just a little over a week, I’ll be getting on a plane and flying to LA to be at my daughter’s wedding, and I have mixed feelings about it.

First of all, there’s the simple fact that, in my mind, she shouldn’t be old enough to get married. She’s 29, and I should be younger than that. Like a popular meme says, people my age are so much older than I am. When I was 25, I thought it would be eons before I crossed that half-century mark, and as I write this, I’m two years past that and close to being three years over the line.

Then there’s flying. Could the airlines and the government come up with a more tortuous process just to save time? I mean, if we really want the terrorists to give us information, we should just put them through what we so-called free citizens have to go through just to get on an airplane. And never mind the cramped indignity of actually flying.

Then there’s Southern California. I know there are people who like it, love it even. And to be fair, where I’ll be staying is pretty awesome, just a few blocks from the beach and the Santa Monica Pier, plus the wedding itself is in Simi Valley, so I’ll get to see a part of the state I’ve yet to see.

But… it’s LA. I mean, it’s Los Angeles, man. It has its good points, such as the climate (especially close to the ocean like I’ll be), and the palm trees and such, but I have no interest in seeing any celebrities, and there’s the litter and… to use one of my wife’s words, it’s too peopley.

On the plus side? There’s my daughter. I don’t get to see her nearly enough, and since it’s her wedding week, I won’t get to see much of her while I’m out there, but anything is better than nothing. We talk (i.e., text) on a regular basis, but that’s not the same as spending time with her. She’s really cool, as much my friend as my kid, and I have to say any time spent with her more than makes up for whatever inconveniences I have to put up with to get out there to her.

Besides, as a writer, I’m sure I’ll see something that’ll work its way into one of my books. Even with what little time I’ve spent out there, I can see why so many writers like to set their books in LA. It’s such a varied city, with so many wonderful locations to set the action that I couldn’t resist indulging a bit myself, with some action taking place in Santa Monica in two of my Rural Empires novels.

On a more personal note, as a dad who dearly loves his daughter, I’m so glad to see her getting married to a guy who already treats her like a queen. She was able to come here to Arkansas for my wedding in July and even played a part. Her fiancé was able to be there as well, which was a very special treat for me. And my daughter and my wife bonded very well while she was visiting, so there’s that as well.

It’s certainly going to be a pleasure and an honor to be at her wedding, and I’m looking forward to it.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll have something really good to tell you about when I get back.

Later,
Gil

Into the Unknown

It’s been quite some time since I told you to look for a comeback from me, and even longer since I’ve posted anything here. If you’ve given up on me, I’m sorry for being absent for so long (though, if you’ve given up, you’re probably not reading this, so…). And if you haven’t… well, thanks for staying the course and please accept my profound apologies for neglecting you for so long.

First, a short explanation: I ran out of things to say.

Short enough for you?

The simple truth is, unless I want to stray into areas I probably shouldn’t—and I touched on them with posts such as questioning whether or not political parties have become cults—maintaining a blog week after week is tough for me. I’ve read books about blogging, of course. I’m anal about researching things to the nth degree. But while those books are good at telling you what you should do (a plug for Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb would not be out of place here), very few tell you how to do it, and therein lies the problem for me.

Yes, I realize the details are up to me. I’m not asking someone to hold my hand. The problem likely lies more in my comprehension than anything else. What they say makes sense, I just can’t figure out exactly how to translate that into practical experience.

But I’m gonna work on it.

And I’m gonna get back into blogging. I’ve had others suggest several directions for me to go with this blog, directions that don’t consist of repeatedly talking only about writing and being an author (though I’m sure there’ll still be some of those posts), and I may dabble in many of those suggestions. So if things seem a bit scattered here, that’s why.

In the meantime, a lot has changed in the time I’ve been “off the air.” I’m still somewhat in a writing slump—which no doubt contributed to my long silence—but I seem to be slowly coming out of that and I’m feeling the first faint warmth of the creative fires burning again.

And, about three months ago, I married my best friend. Not to sound melodramatic, but I was well on my way to becoming a bitter, lonely old man (another factor which probably kept me from writing), and then this special lady from the past finds me on Facebook and my life turned around completely.

Which leads to my leap into the unknown.

Being a writer, I’m sure it only makes sense I’m a book nerd. So is my wife. And she’d love nothing better than to see me be successful as an author. To her, I’m a rock star. When last I wrote here, I worked as a security guard, which allowed me to do quite a bit of editing while performing my duties on the job. I’ve since left that job and went to work installing network, fire alarm, and coaxial cable, a job I got laid off from after three months. And, despite the so-called improved economy, I’m having trouble finding a new job.

A couple weeks back, one of the attendees at my writers group offered to pay me to edit one of his books he intends to self-publish. I took him up on the offer, but it got me to thinking, and I talked to my wife about it, and the upshot is, I’m gonna throw my hat in the ring as a freelance editor.

And why not? I now have a couple years’ experience under my belt working for Oghma Creative Media. But we’re still not earning enough money for anyone to make a salary yet—though we’re getting tantalizingly close—and I need to generate an income. Yes, from what little research I’ve been able to do so far, it’s a tough field, but I’m used to that from being an author. And if it works out, it’ll mean no more commuting, which will save on gas, and it’ll be a natural extension of what I already do until Oghma gets on an earning basis. And as my wife said, it’s a good time to experiment and see how it goes while I have some unemployment coming in and no job offers as yet.

Yeah, it’s scary. But following your dreams always is. If you sit on your duff and never take a chance, you never get to find out if you could have made it or not. For some, I’m sure that’s fine, and I won’t argue with them about it.

But I’m not getting any younger. If I’m gonna do this, I better get on it.

I’ll keep you posted.

Later,
Gil

Are the Political Parties Cults?

I’m probably nowhere close to being the first person to realize this. The problem is, us independents are very definitely a minority, so things we notice like this don’t get bandied about on Facebook and other social media. We’re drowned out by the faithful, yammering as they do about their candidates.

And the majority of them actually do act like they’re in a cult.

donald-trump-is-still-soaring-in-iowa--but-there-are-now-some-clear-warning-signsConsider: you have the Trumpites (Trumpets?), who seem to be the majority on the Republican side of things at the moment. Of course, in political terms, it’s a long, long time till November, so anything can happen by the time the election comes around, but right now he seems to be the one riding the wave. I think it interesting—and a bit disturbing—that the Republican leadership differs with their members on this one, as they don’t like the man. Do they know more than the average Republican voter? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: it’s a disturbing trend—and reflective of a larger issue I see in our government in general—that they are determined not to listen to their constituents on this matter.

Then there are the Cruzerians, following a man many are questioning as they did Obama ted_cruz13before him: as a Canadian born to an American mother, does he have the right to even be president? This has plagued Obama for his entire eight-year stint, and will likely follow him to his grave. I imagine the same will happen to Ted Cruz, should he win. Or, for that matter, should he lose the nomination or bid for the presidency. Talking heads will no doubt point to this as a major factor in his defeat—along with the fact he has the gall to actually be religious.

RubioThe Rubiomites seem to have a hard row to hoe, as Rubio has flip-flopped on some issues—especially illegal immigration—about as much as John Kerry flip-flopped on our Middle Eastern ventures. He seems to have earned his sobriquet of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only), at least if you ask a Trumpite or a Cruzerian.

On the opposite side, you have the Hillaryans, who apparently believe we need to follow upHillary-Clinton-Crazy-Face the first black president with the first woman president, which is fuzzy logic at best. But then, politics and logic rarely coincide. In fact, I was once derided on Facebook for uttering the blasphemous phrase Logic dictates. Apparently the commenter thought making decisions based on knee-jerk reactions (PATRIOT Act, anyone?) and emotions was a much better method than examining facts to make an informed choice. But I digress. Much like the Cruzerians, the Hillaryans have to face the fact their candidate is (yet again) under investigation for something. But hey, since when has a scandal meant anything in American politics?

socialist-bernie-sandersAnd last but not least, there is the Church of Bernie, where any day now, he will usher in a utopia where there’s all kinds of free stuff and the lions will lie down with the lambs and all that. I wouldn’t say they’re any worse than the others—after all, I don’t support any of the current crop—but they do seem the least pragmatic, since it’s pretty easy to see nothing is free. But I’m not here to argue policy, and saying he’s the least pragmatic is like saying his shit stinks less: it really doesn’t matter, cuz it’s all crap.

I realize there are likely sensible people who have decided on one of the above candidates for what to them are sensible reasons. The problem is, they’re not the ones you see commenting and foaming at the mouth on social media. They stay more or less quiet—with a few exceptions—and make their voices heard at the polls. I don’t know if they’re in the minority or not, though I suspect they’re not. After all, there aren’t as many rabid dogs as there are good ones, so I imagine those who spout off about anything and everything and resort to name-calling to make their points are an embarrassment to the rest.

And the thing is, the mouth-foamers are the ones you can’t reason with. I have a man I now consider to be a good friend, Gordon Bonnet, with whom I agree on very little politically. But you know what? We can have intelligent discussions about it without insulting one another, and he’s made me rethink some things, as I hope I have him. I don’t want to bring him over to my way of thinking, and I don’t believe he does me, but we can talk about these things and do it with respect for one another. That’s a rare thing these days, at least on the discussion threads I see online.

As an independent, I tend to like to go onto these threads and be a troll, and it’s amazing to me how alike both sides actually are. Not in what theyposts believe, but in the fervency of that belief. They absolutely refuse to entertain any viewpoint but their own—much like, say, Christians and Muslims, to use just two examples—and if you dare suggest anything different, they yell at you and call you names. And when you point out the fallacy of their argument by stating facts and figures—or simply point out that what they’re spouting is an opinion and they haven’t backed it up with fact—they go silent. I don’t know if they’re pouting or what.

And one last thing to consider: both parties are having something of an identity crisis (I suppose that’s the correct term) at the moment. On the Republican side, you have the schism between the party leadership and the voters, where many of the latter support Trump, mostly as a major sea change in the way the party does things (that in itself isn’t a bad thing), while the leaders themselves threaten to boycott him at their national convention.

On the Democrat side of things, the contentions between followers of Hillary and Bernie also seem to threaten to tear the party apart, with supporters on both sides saying if the other candidate wins the nomination, they’ll vote Republican. Or stay home.

genetic ignoranceThe bottom line is, the hate and vitriol I see both sides spewing is very much reminiscent of religion. I saw a meme on Facebook positing that anyone who is against Obama is not only a racist, but also a victim of genetically inherited ignorance. This was put out by Occupy Democrats. I have no idea how radical they may be, but if this is one of their beliefs, I’d say fairly radical. My first thought on reading this was to wonder if they were going to start espousing their own form of eugenics at some point in the future. You know, instead of eliminating “inferior” races, just eliminate those with genetically inherited ignorance, or at least decide they can’t vote.

Cult, indeed.

Later,
Gil

The New Western

the-revenant-compA little over a week ago, I went to see The Revenant, the fictionalized version of the Hugh Glass story, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, and I have to say it was a great movie. Unlike most movies today, they eschewed the use of CGI, even when filming the bear attack that is the pivotal event of the story. And they filmed only in natural light, so the scenery is spectacular, and you can practically feel the cold seeping into your bones. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and correct that discrepancy.

The Revenant is among a crop of recent westerns, including the direct-to-DVD Bone Tomahawk, The Hateful Eight, and Jane Got a Gun, none of which I have seen. But I did read an article about how the newer westerns, while a welcome sight, were much more violent than westerns of yore.

Of course, one of them is a Quentin Tarantino movie, so you can expect it’ll be violent. A Tarantino movie without violence would be like Star Wars without spaceships: it just ain’t happenin. Obviously, not having seen any of these other movies, all I have to go on is what the article said, but I have to wonder about the author’s motivations (and I can’t seem to find the article now, or I’d link to it).

The west was a violent place, though that violence was probably not as prevalent as the movies would have us believe. After all, take people who really don’t fit in in the first place, put them in an area where the law doesn’t exist and there’s no one to curb their antisocial tendencies, and you’re gonna have violence. It’s just human nature.

However, I would guess that, based on what I’ve read, the violence was about like becoming a tornado victim in Tornado Alley: it’s very much a possibility, but if you look atThe-Hateful-Eight-banner-620x467 the statistics, actually not as likely as urban legend would have us believe. The period we call the Wild West didn’t last very long, in fact. The vast majority who traveled west were settlers, men with families in tow who were seeking a better life, something they simply couldn’t find in the stratified east. They were chasing a dream of having their own land. They formed towns and quickly hired law enforcement officers of various types. The Texas Rangers patrolled that huge area under the motto One riot, one Ranger. The US Marshals were also present throughout this period. And that doesn’t even include the town sheriffs and marshals populating the landscape.

That’s why there were places like Robber’s Roost and Hole-in-the-Wall. The bad guys needed places to hide out because, in all honesty, the vast majority of people in the west were against them. And they were armed.

What we read when we pick up a Dusty Richards or a Louis L’Amour novel is a romanticized version of the west, where the good guys were gooder and the bad guys were badder, and the honest citizens were often caught in between. Call it a nineteenth century version of The Avengers. Yes, there were the larger than life figures, some of which switched sides, like Bat Masterson.

When it comes to movies, the classics have actors like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Randolph Scott, and so on. More recent stars would include Sam Elliot, Tom Selleck, and Jeff Bridges. When we pick up a movie with one of these actors in it, we expect more or less classic western action, where the good guys win and the bad guys get their comeuppance.

High_Plains_Drifter_posterThe 1960s saw a different type of movie come along, though, the fabled spaghetti western. Made with low budgets, they generally featured up and coming actors such as Clint Eastwood (who has also starred in more classic western movies), strident music, and lots of close-ups of actors making various noises in reaction to horrible deeds and a more violent, less idealized version of the west.

And now we have the more modern, more violent western, where the characters aren’t so clean cut, and they get dirty, and tired, and the action is more in touch with reality—albeit still a somewhat romanticized reality—than the classic westerns. There’s more grit and fewer Guys in White Hats who always get the girl.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. I can’t see how it would hurt to have a modern western made in the classic way. At the same time, I enjoy the grit and dirt I see, because, as much as we idealize those who settled the west, it wasn’t a clean or easy job. It was backbreaking labor, whether you were a cowboy or a sodbuster. Taming a frontier isn’t for the faint of heart or the spoiled. You gotta get your hands dirty to get anywhere.

And I’m sure the violent western is a reflection of our times, as so many movies are. It’s escapism, plain and simple. So while the author of the article I mentioned above seemed to deplore the violence in the new westerns, I’d say it’s here to stay, in all likelihood, and the best we can do is enjoy the stories. Or not. After all, no one is forcing you to go to these movies, or read the books.

Having grown up reading westerns, I think I’ll give them a chance. After all, the only constant we have in life is change, so this too shall pass.

Later,
Gil

Long Ago Spring

7022544797_ba8bdde317We’ve had a few nice days here in Northwest Arkansas. Temperatures in the sixties, warm sunshine, pleasant southerly breeze, birds singing, water sparkling so bright it blinds you. Spring in the middle of winter.

In some ways, I hate it, because I know winter isn’t over and this is like Nature teasing us before slamming the lid down again. On the other hand, it’s a bit like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Any break from winter is a welcome one.

Driving home from grocery shopping with the windows down, having a hard time paying attention to the road because it was so pleasant, I got to thinking. For some reason, the pleasant weather put me in mind of spring when I was young. The winters were harsher then, and lasted longer. More snow, more cold, and spring was definitely a welcome occurrence.

I grew up out in the country, and it didn’t matter what the weather was, my friends and I tromped all over. We had some favorite places we like to go, but pretty much everything was fair game. I lived not far from Glade Creek in Madison County, and I couldn’t tell you how many trips we made up and down that creek bed, in all kinds of weather. Hot, cold, snowy, icy, it didn’t matter. If we got it in our head to do it, we did it. I’ve walked miles of it on ice, stumbled along the banks in summer trying to keep my feet dry, made our way to some select pools to go swimming… the adventures were endless.

In the spring, though, there was something special about exploring the countryside after a long, cold winter. The creek beds had great piles of debris washed up from winter rains, and there was no telling what you’d find. The days were warm and pleasant, birds sang everywhere, and even the sparkles off the water seemed brighter, as if the water was laughing at being cut loose for another warm season.

All our familiar haunts looked strangely new, and the urge to explore them all again and again grew as the grass became greener and the trees leafed out. Birds were131 - Castle media (2) everywhere, building nests, singing in the trees. I grew up on a farm, so we’d see calves playing in the fields, get to watch hawks soaring overhead. Going to school was torture. Why be cooped up in a classroom when there was so much to do outside?

This was before gaming consoles turned into babysitters. My friends had an Atari (I don’t know which one, wasn’t aware there was more than one model), and I can remember us playing Pong on it at times. There were other games as well, but I can’t recall them. But our time on the console was rationed. And we’d grow tired of it eventually anyway. It wasn’t quite the same as playing games in the arcade, for one, and for another… well, there were things to do outside. We’d already spent too many days cooped up due to nasty weather. Sure, we went out in it a lot, but you can only take so much of that bone-shaking cold and wet feet before you figure it’s time to go back in and do something where it’s warm.

Remembering all this made me want to get out and tromp around again, maybe recapture some of the feeling I had when I was a kid. Unfortunately, that was almost forty years ago. I’m older, more jaded and, unfortunately, fatter and lazier. Of course, maybe if I tromped around out there, I’d not feel so fat and lazy, and maybe even not so old anymore. It’s something to think about.

But I’ve got the memories, memories from a time before cell phones and internet, GPS and Facebook. I don’t know that we actually had it better than the kids do today, but it sure feels like we did.

I’m glad I got to grow up like that.

Later,
Gil