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Overgrown Yard Bird

I grew up in the Deep South where the chickens (yard birds) roamed (not where the deer and the antelope roam). Turkeys and geese always struck me as overgrown yard birds. My family never had turkeys or geese on the farm, and for that, I am thankful. They’re kinda creepy looking to me being the small dinosaurs that they are. When they tilt their heads to look at me, all I see is the freakin’ Jurassic Park Raptor tilting its head before it pounces on its prey.

When I was living in Orrington, Maine, there were, and still are, wild turkeys aplenty. It was common to be driving on the back road where I lived and have to stop while the turkey train proceeded across the road. One at a time. For all 20+ birds. One year they frequently blazed a path from the woods behind my house, across my side yard, and over my front yard, to cross the street to go to my neighbors’ home and feast on the droppings from their bird feeders. They were fun to watch after they finished grazing and re-formed their tiny dinosaur line to enter the woods behind the neighbors’ home.

So in the States today, many people will be doing the grazing on the giant yard bird. I will be hanging with some of my Maine family today, but I will skip the bird.

In January of this year, I spent a lot of time with friends that are frequent meat eaters. I was eating it with them, but after a while I noticed I felt like shit. I wasn’t sure if meat was the cause, but I figured an experiment wouldn’t hurt. I stopped eating all meat and within a week I felt some better. Maybe meat was the cause? Wasn’t sure so I kept it going. By two weeks I felt WAY better. Easy solution to continue forward – go vegetarian (mostly).

I can’t deny that I love salmon sushi. And I do mean LOVE. So I made a sushi clause that I would only eat it or other fish only once a month, if that often.

Now, I realize that claiming to be mostly vegetarian is silly. Kind of like being mostly pregnant. You either are or your aren’t, honey. I still declare myself as mostly vegetarian even if it’s a misnomer. And to be extra clear, no, I’m not pregnant and never will be. Just used that as an example.

A few months into me being 98% vegetarian with my sushi clause, I was showing signs of anemia by late Spring. My healthcare provider asked me about recent changes in my routines. Turns out the slashing of meat from the diet was having a bit of a negative impact on me. But I wasn’t ready to go back to a carnivorous lifestyle, so I made some other changes to beef up the iron intake without the beef. It helped.

I kept that routine for a while, and over the last two months have started trickling a little chicken back into the diet mostly to change up my protein sources. I really like tofu, but damn, even I need to take a wee break from it now and then. At the family reunion in October, for the first time since Jan, I had a few bites of beef from a slow-cooked pot roast my dad fixed for roast beef po boys. The taste was catastrophically good, but my gut had a giant WTF moment as a result. I have not had beef since, but I did create a family reunion clause to use once a year if needed, knowing there could be another gastrointestinal WTF event as a result. Pop’s roast beef po boys are worth the risk–they’re THAT good.

So today, if you eat yard bird, overgrown yard bird, pig, cow, or whatever you choose today or any day, knock yourself out. I culled meat from my routine as an experiment and noticed I felt better for it. I’d never try to convince someone to give up meat just because. But if you want to change things up, add or remove stuff from your diet. I mostly eat gluten free bread now. I tried it to see if it changed how I felt to go gf. It didn’t change a thing, but I still eat it because I got used to the texture and I don’t mind it as much anymore.

If you are carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore (or mostly herbivore like me), go for it. People can get crazy this time of year with shopping frenzies, family dynamics, and other weirdness. Don’t be a nut bar. Stay happy, healthy, and kind as the holiday season ramps up.

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About the Books

Fall is Back

After a busy October that turned into a blur, the leaves have come and are just about gone in Maine. There are a few stragglers left here and there with most of the vibrant colors vamoosed until next year. Personally, I’m ready for some snow. I’m always ready for snow.

In the mean time though

My sabbatical wrapped up at the end of September and I have been back at the IT job. I immensely enjoyed my break, but I was glad to get back into the technical realms of work. Yes, I’m a geek. Yes, I missed it. Yes, it’s further proof I’m not cut out to be a full time writer. I mean, I was already about 97% certain I wasn’t cut out for it, but now I’m 100% certain.

This isn’t a bad thing; I certainly don’t see it that way. My brain is wired so that I need to be actively juggling a few different balls at the same time for me to operate at peak performance. I haven’t been clinically diagnosed as ADHD, but there are a lot of indicators that support my self-diagnosis. It’s all about managing the juggling game and developing coping skills. Hell, I wasn’t clinically diagnosed with a reading disorder until I was in my last semester of grad school. K-12 plus 9.5 years of college to get a diagnosis? Sure. That works. Took a while, but that’s fine. I just finally had a “name” at that point for what I’d always had and worked around. So my attention span issues fall into the same bucket.

I’ve learned to cope.

I thrive when I’m doing multiple projects at once. And I’m not talking about multi-tasking. What I’m referring to is picking up on giant task/project (like a novel) and working on it for a while then changing gears. Since going on the road with IT, I learned to compartmentalize my days of the week. Monday through Thursday, I’m all IT. The technical brain gets its fill.

Friday becomes a split day with the morning being IT and the rest of the day busywork like errands and mindless stuff with an occasional sprinkling of creative pursuits.

Saturday and Sunday are my creative days.

I get the best of both worlds each week. So by being away from IT for three months, the geeky part of my brain was a bit deprived. It is now happily monkeying around in databases and picking data apart Monday through Thursday again. And my creative brain gets to mull over writing and other creative outlets until sometimes Friday but goes into overdrive on Saturdays and Sundays.

Can’t say my system would work for everyone with attention span issues, but it works for me. And since today is Monday, the geek is in and the creative brain gets a break after writing and editing over the weekend.

Photo by me, Abol Bridge, Maine, near Mt. Katahdin. I forget the year.

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How did THAT Happen?

Apparently a month has flown by since my last post. I was truly baffled on how that managed to happen until I looked back at my calendar and went “Oh. That’s how.”

The photo I took of my rucksack was done when I was in Wick, Scotland. That photo was taken a few days before a wild mishap at the Wick train station before I left the town.

Weather created some issues in the UK that week, lots of rain, wind, and flooding was starting the day I was leaving. Wick hadn’t quite gotten the rain and flooding yet, but it was getting the wind. It’s easy to imagine this given the rugged (and gorgeous) coastline of a town situated very close to the far northernmost tip of mainland Scotland.

Wick, Scotland

While hanging out in the train station waiting for my train that would take me to Stirling, I started transcribing notes from my paper outline on Echoes #3 into my laptop. See, I scribble notes of the entire novel to one piece of paper. That gives me a high level outline and I carry that paper everywhere. I had the paper filled out finally and decided it was time to put the notes into my Scrivener software. Great plan.

Except…

The wind from the storm blew the station doors open and took the paper right out of my hand and blew it up over the wall between the waiting area and track area. My notes landed about 15 feet up on a net over the track area. While I was chuckling nervously about the absurdity of what just happened, I was also kinda losing my shit. I NEEDED THAT PAPER!

Wick, Scotland

The Wick station staff came to my rescue with a stick, a ladder, three station employees, and a cyclist that was also in the waiting area when my paper took flight. They were able to knock the paper off the net and back over the other side of the wall where I could reach it. I thanked them profusely and wrote a note to ScotRail to thank them again.

Stirling Scotland from the walls of Stirling Castle

Stirling was a beautiful visit for a few days, and from there I went back down to Glasgow before flying to Ireland. I spent a week there to attend WorldCon Dublin 2019 and was completely blown away with the volume of sci-fi and fantasy fans and big names at the convention. George R. R. Martin, yeah, saw him a few times. Naomi Novik, check. There were lady astronauts, artists, and so many other amazing people. But my author hero, Martha Wells, was the high point.

I got to attend her reading and got so starstruck that after the reading, when I had a chance to speak to her, I froze. My throat suddenly didn’t know how to work, nor did my lungs. I forgot how to swallow. I managed to bob my head and make incoherent noises though. Yep. It was beautiful.

Martha Wells

So while I kinda wanted to crawl into a hole after that mishap, I still managed to croak out a few words to her when I got her autograph.

Following that moment of brilliance, I saw her a few other times around the convention, but I didn’t try to go speak to her, knowing I would just clam up again. I worked as an ER and ICU nurse for 10 years. I have helped bring people back from the dead without breaking a sweat. But put me in the presence of Martha Wells, and I turned into a frickin puddle. Oh well.

Next time, right?

Sea Dogs

I made it back to the States after the convention, found and apartment in Augusta to move my stuff out of storage finally. In between shuffling boxes, I went to a Portland Sea Dogs game where they did a Field of Dreams throwback. Even though I’m not a baseball fan, this was really cool to see.

I’m using the apartment more as a glorified storage unit. I didn’t really bother to unpack too many things. I actually have only one plate, one bowl, and one cup in the kitchen cabinets. I’ll still be traveling for work though not as often as before. Still, this is a landing pad where I can enjoy being in Maine without being in a housing scramble in the winter when camping is a no-go.

And then THIS happened!

The book release was this week, and I’m slated for two interviews already, one podcast and one a TV show. Check the website for updates on those as they get closer. I’ve also been entering book festivals/contests and working on both Echoes #2 and Echoes #3 at the same time. It’s getting kinda crazy. So, yeah, I can see now how I lost an entire month without realizing how quickly the weeks were going by.

I have just under three more weeks left of my sabbatical. Part of me is ready to go back to work. I’m certainly not bored, but I miss my IT stuff and my IT friends. Just more proof that I wouldn’t do well as a full-time writer. I need to be moving in a few different directions to operate at my best level. It certainly helps keep my attention span issues from running amok. 🙂

Images by me, 2019.

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Ye Olde Rucksack

The pack I’ve been living out of for the last 2+ weeks with another 1+ weeks to go, is a Granite Gear Stratus Access 4500. I bought this in 2001, maybe 2002, from an outdoor gear store in Orono, Maine, called Alpen Glow. I think it’s still in business.

This giganto pack hasn’t seen a ton of use, but when I have needed it, it’s been perfect. It’s size means you can put a lot of crap in it. Meaning, it gets real heavy real fast and it’s easy to overload because there’s so much room and extra gear straps to lash things to it.

It’s first major use came when I was doing research on Maine islands for grad school. I remember it being so heavy with my research and personal gear that I couldn’t pick it up and just put it on. I had to lift it to a chair or something then get into it that way. Once I had it strapped on, I was good to go.

So for this UK trip, I was careful with my packing since I would be wearing it a lot more traveling place to place and being on foot for primary transportation. Plus, there is a right way and a wrong way to pack these things. Infrequently needed items go in first, on the bottom. Fast-access items like rain gear get lashed to the outside of the pack or placed in the very top.

This pack has a great feature where you can completely open up the front of the pack to access the contents and pull stuff out without it being only a top load. Top load means if you have something packed at the bottom, you have to pull EVERYTHING out through the top first to get to it. With this pack, you just undo the exterior straps, pull down the bilateral zippers on the sides, and undo the interior straps (as needed), and you can pull out what you need. LOVE this feature. I used a smaller top load pack for Germany last year, and I developed a powerful dislike for top loading packs.

The publicist suggested I bring five copies of Echoes of War with me to the Ireland WorldCon. The last thing I wanted to do was schlep five novels around with me in that pack for three weeks before ever hitting Dublin, but that is exactly what I’m doing. Yeah, that pack is freakin heavy with those books in it, but I’ll be able to finally unpack them in a few days when I arrive in Ireland. Five books doesn’t sound like much. Strap them to your back and walk around with them to train stations and bus stations and through the grocery store and then let me know what you think.

In my UK travels I’ve seen a lot of Osprey packs. Osprey is a great, well-known brand and one I have shopped before. I was sorely tempted to get a new pack for this trip, but I had to keep reminding myself that I already had one. I know mine is aged and heavy, but there’s nothing wrong with it. The new rucksack framing is much lighter in the newer models (especially on the Ospreys I’ve been stalking) and they’re designed for better airflow across your back. Mine does get hot and there isn’t much airflow, but again, it’s pushing two decades.

Overall, I love the giant rucksack. I feel much like a turtle when I put it on because it is very close to me wearing my house on my back right now in these travels. I may eventually upgrade to a newer pack, but I’ve fallen in love with this pack all over again from the day I first saw it in the shop. Bonus points for the pack because I do love the black and yellow combo.

–images taken by me, 2019, Scotland

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Living out of a Pack

It’s been a week since I’ve been living out of a pack while traveling Scotland and I wanted to do some gear reviews as I go.

I saw good reviews for these Eagle Creek Compression Sacks through Pack Hacker and decided to give them a go. Some people also call them packing cubes. These are super light weight and thin, and the fabric holds up well. The zippers, however, are complete crap. They’re thin and pop open with the slightest insult. You can zip back over where it popped open to get it to re-seal, but the zippers are rather frail.

Compression bags are made for–wait for it–compression! Put crap in them, squish ’em down to save space. These kinda do that. You can put stuff in them and compress them down, but the zipper may not hold well for you. I will say they’re great for organizing gear, but compression and durability it’s a big fat NOPE.

I have some other packing cubes (they aren’t compression bags because they’re mesh) by L. L. Bean, that I like too. They’re heavier material and since I’m living out of my pack for a month, I brought the lightweight Eagle Creek ones on this trip instead. Before I left Boston, I was already having some zipper issues so I threw some Ziploc freezer bags into my pack just in case. Glad I did!

For true compression for space saving, I now use the Ziploc gallon and quart freezer bags. Work like champs. Granted, I can’t get a pair of jeans or three T-shirts in a Ziploc, but I can work around that. Socks and undies go in the Ziploc for compression and the other clothes now go into the Eagle Creek medium bag. The small Eagle Creek is now a first aid kit of sorts plus charging cables.

If you want organization and light weight but no compression – Eagle Creek.

If you want organization and slightly heavier weight and more durably built without compression – L. L. Bean.

If you want lower capacity but true compression – Ziploc freezer bags. And you can use the heck out of the Ziplocs for organization. These are my new go-to system for compression and organization. And I re-use the heck out of them too. Once the ones I use for compression get battered enough and get holes so they no longer stay compressed, they switch over to organization detail. I can get dozens of uses out of one baggie.

I’ll do a review of my 18 year old multi-day back pack coming up. Wasn’t so sure I’d picked the right pack at the start of the trip, but it’s turning me into a convert. 🙂