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Daybreak – a new trilogy begins

In my last entry, I mentioned using an early start to the day as a way to use the natural creative period many of us have in the morning.  As followers to this blog know, I am an author, so it makes sense that I spend part of my time working on a novel.

Even if I only get a page or so done before work, those bits of effort add up over time.  I’m roughly 120,000 words into a new science fiction trilogy.  it’s a little unusual in this day and age, but this trilogy is going to be illustrated.

Part of the illustrations are going to be done by me, taken from the pages of the main character’s sketchbook, but part of them are going to be digitally rendered.  If you’d like a sneak peek at some of the concept art, feel free to go here to my good friend and CG artist’s site.  I’m sure she’d appreciate a hello.

This trilogy is set in the present day, in a world that might as well be our own.  It follows the adventures of three friends who discover that they are the heirs to an alien heritage that goes back many thousands of years.  However, being just normal people, they have their own unique ways of reacting to this new and strange reality.

We have an utterly normal young woman working as a medical claims analyst, who is a flight student and an artist in her spare time, her friend who is a lead vocalist in a very small and obscure heavy metal band, and his girlfriend who is Japanese but on long-term stay in America.  This unlikely trio is cast into ever-deepening mystery coupled with danger.

It has been a real pleasure working with my friend the CG artist, and it feels amazing to see some of the craft and scenes from the books take life before my eyes!

Our goal is to have the first book out sometime this summer.

Stay tuned for more updates!

How to Become a Morning Person

Are you a night owl?

Would you rather be a morning person, either because of personal aspiration or because you have a job that requires you to wake up early?  It can be pretty rough to have to wake up early when it’s literally painful to hear that alarm and get up, head still foggy, wanting to stay in bed.

I was that way for most of my life.  I naturally was a night owl who preferred to get to bed at two or three in the morning and get up around nine or ten.  I hated, hated, hated to get up early and just couldn’t go to bed much earlier than midnight.  The alarm was physically painful and triggered an adrenaline dump, causing me to always be grumpy in the morning.

At this point I get up at five for most of the week, and maybe six or six thirty on days off, but rarely later than that.  I feel pretty good and I’m nearly as grumpy as I once was.  I do go to bed at ten, but I fall asleep right away and get proper rest.

If you’re interested in doing this too, here’s how I did it!

First, I grew up.  I don’t mean I’m more mature and that’s why I get up early, but rather that my brain developed to the point that I wasn’t quite as predisposed to be a night owl.  People in their teens and early twenties naturally need a little more rest and physiologically will sleep late if given a choice.  However, that wasn’t all, as I still had trouble getting up early in my mid thirties.

I tapped in to what motivates me.  My job got dramatically better and so I didn’t hate the thought of getting up for that reason.  You don’t have to get a new job though, because even when I had a terrible job it was easier to get up on days when I had a personal project that interested me.

I found a less disruptive and jarring way to wake up.  In this case, since I have to wake up in the dark, a light-based alarm clock with a dawn simulation really helped.  The light starts out soft and gets gradually brighter, triggering my brain to wake me up gently and naturally, and there is an alarm at the end that in case I manage to sleep through all the light.  This is the one I use, I like it because it’s rechargeable, inexpensive and not hard to use.

I kept my sleep schedule consistent.  That is a good idea anyway, and your brain will learn to fall asleep earlier if you stay with it and don’t ‘cheat’ too much.  You will also get better quality sleep.

I started my new routine at a time when my life was disrupted anyway, and I was unusually tired and ready to go to bed early anyway. When my life settled out I was already on my new schedule.

I don’t wake up right before I have to leave.  I give myself a little extra time to wake up and work on things before I have to be out the door.  This gives time to be creative, or to have breakfast if I want it, and it is a peaceful and often productive period.  For me, this lasts about an hour.

I don’t use ‘snooze.’  That little bit of extra sleep is rarely truly restful.  When I wake up early, if I don’t have at least forty five minutes more to sleep, I just get up for good.

I also sometimes have some tea or coffee in the morning, and I also sometimes have a balanced, light breakfast.  Those are both good ideas that can help you but I have an easy time in the morning even when I don’t do them, so I can’t trace my success to those activities.  I also have a shower first thing, which helps a little, but that doesn’t explain this new behavior either.

Though it pays to know yourself and understand your own personal needs, if you want to acquire a new habit like this it’s well worth it.  The traffic is better early in the morning, the grocery shopping quicker and easier with fresher produce and full stocks, and for many people, a creative peak occurs in the morning!

Review: Not your usual political book — Creative Fancy

Do you find yourself yearning for polite discourse instead of heated battle when the subject of politics comes up? Do you remember when we could discuss things as ideas instead of simplistic views of good versus evil? When people of different political leanings could actually be friends? Prepare yourself, then, for a refreshing journey to […]

via Review: Not your usual political book — Creative Fancy

Drive-through-fast egg sandwich

I’m always rushing out the door in the morning and many times I want a hot breakfast but don’t want to spend a half hour cooking and eating it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a small meal I could have that’s relatively balanced and I could make in less than five minutes?

Well, it is nice, because it’s totally possible, and here’s how to do it!

You will need:

1 egg

1 English muffin

1 slice of cheese, or 1/2 ounce of shredded cheese

Salt/pepper to taste

Optional:  Slice of lunch meat, hot sauce, other condiments you like

A tall container to cook the egg in that’s roughly the same diameter as the muffin.  I use a cheap plastic storage container.

A microwave and a toaster.

Directions:

Split and toast the English muffin.  While it’s toasting, crack the egg in the bottom of your cooking container, add salt, pepper and/or dried herbs, and mix with fork or whisk.

Microwave egg on High for one minute.

When muffin is toasted, put cheese on bottom half.  Add your egg, which should have cooked into a fluffy disk that fits perfectly on your muffin.

Add any other toppings you want and close sandwich.  You can wrap it in foil to take with you, or eat it right there.  I like to use a whole wheat English muffin so it stays with me a little longer.

There you have it- simple, easy, can be made in less than five minutes.  That’s less time than it would take to buy something at a drive-thru.  As a tip, soak your egg-cooking container for a while, as it’s much easier to clean the egg out of it if you do.  You could also spray it with cooking spray before use.

 

 

Seriously Easy Berry Jam

Who isn’t tired of paying top dollar for all-fruit jam?  It’s great to make your own, but sometimes a quick and simple recipe that you can whip up in ten minutes is nicer than standing over a hot pot of boiling fruit.  Luckily this recipe exists.

You can make this jam out of any fruit you like using nothing but a spoon, some boiling water, a refrigerator, and a blender.

You will need:

2 pints berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or whatever you like.  You can use fresh or previously frozen.)

1/2 cup boiling water

1 4-serving packet of Jello-style gelatin dessert, any compatible flavor (I like cherry with blackberry, personally)

A blender

A spoon or whisk

A container to keep the jam in

Directions:

Place your fruit into the blender and blend until relatively smooth.

Add the contents of the gelatin packet into 1/2 cup boiling water and mix well.

Mix gelatin and fruit, pour into a container.  Refrigerate for several hours.  The mixture will thicken into a nice, sturdy jam that’s perfect for toast or English Muffins.

That’s it!  This jam is so easy to make and it tastes really good.  You can get fancy and use organic gelatin, or just use packets of Sure-Jell if you want to go ultra-simple.  You can use sugar free gelatin too.  It’s also fun to try different combinations of fruit flavors with your base fruit.  If you like to reuse containers, two pints of berries makes the perfect amount of jam to fit in an old Talenti Gelato jar.  Those make great jam jars.  This jam will keep in the fridge for at least a month.

 

 

Finding your Element

I was having trouble thinking the other day.  Worries were piling up and also things were just not connecting.  It seemed like I couldn’t do the simplest things the first time.  My dear spouse gave me a modern parable that I wanted to pass along because I found a lot of truth in it.

She said, “how well does a Corsair or a P-51 Mustang run on the ground?”

Thinking about it, I recalled when I used to live next to a flight museum.  Those particular airplanes coughed and sputtered on the ground, but once they were airborne and operating at full power, their engines smoothed to a powerful roar.  I said “They run like crap.”

She said, “exactly.”  The implication being that my brain was like that, and it ran best when operating closer to full capacity.

I think that’s true for many of us.  We might have trouble in an environment we aren’t suited to, or thinking at too low a level, we might have trouble.  But when we find what element we are best in, we might find that we are fare more intelligent and capable than we thought!  How many people do we know who are amazing with their hands but useless with words?  Or who couldn’t tell a nut from a bolt but can write words that make your soul sing?  Or clean a place till it sparkles, but can’t play chess?

Moreover, the speed at which you do a thing can have a huge impact.  Some people are best when they are working fast and yet lose momentum if they try to slow down.  Some people keep making mistakes if they don’t take their time.  Like the proper operation of a vehicle, finding your “best RPM range” can be critical to your success at what you do.

Don’t just take another person’s word for it, either.  Find your own best pace.

If we all find that thing we are best at, and the rate at which we work well, those are the keys to realizing our full value as human beings.

 

Hot water is a MIRACLE.

Consider the miracle that happens every time you turn on the tap or take a shower.

Clean, relatively fresh water comes through the pipes to your home, past all those bends and fittings, pressurized sufficiently to get through the maze.  Or it comes up from a well, pumped by either pressure or an electric pump.

That water is heated by your hat water heater, usually to a good temperature, and out it comes, on demand, with the turn of a knob.

I’ve had several occasions in my life when running hot water has been a scarce luxury and so I really, truly appreciate it.

I’ve lived in a cabin where that water had to be carried in buckets or a barrel from a nearby creek and heated on a stove, I’ve lived in a tent where it had to be carefully dipped up from a river twenty feet below and heated over a fire.

At New Year, main feeder line between the street to the house decided to break, the galvanized steel pipe that had been laid deep below my yard in 1967 finally gave up the ghost.

Knowing what to do in times like this, we went to the old routine of sponge baths and bucket-flushing the toilet.  I bought some cornstarch to use as dry shampoo so I wouldn’t be coming to work with greasy hair.  I started looking for financing options, adjusting the budget, and calling plumbers.

After a few estimates and some kind explanations, I learned why it would cost so much to fix.  In order to get to this pipe, which had been working so faithfully and invisibly under my feet, the plumbers will have to cut through concrete and tunnel down deep to where those pipes are, all the way under the pad my house is built on.  The old galvanized pipe looks like a tree root by now, say the plumbers, and is certainly filled with rust.  When I think about it, it’s amazing the pipes lasted this long with our crunchy, naturally corrosive Tucson water.

Overtime and financing may cover my needs, though the lenders are being tight-fisted and I have to come up with this sooner rather than later.  A temporary line can only be in for so long.  Even so, four grand isn’t such a high price to pay for that miracle of running water…. which is currently being brought through a hose in my yard.

My showers whiff of hose water at the moment, but I know a solution will come, and I am grateful for this particular miracle!

 

(If anyone wants to help, I happen to have a GoFundMe campaign here, and forwarding of this link would be nice.  That’s all I ask.  If you’re in Tucson, Pete Nye is an awesome plumber and put my temp line in for a very reasonable cost.  Thanks, Pete.)