Tuesday, September 09, 2008

You load sixteen tons and what do you get...?

...another day older and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don't call me 'cause I can't go
I sold my soul to the company store...

I think I've mentioned in the past, probably more than once, how much I hate the day watch. You're not allowed to sit down, nor to read, no matter how boring it might be - the summer heat in Virginia hasn't yet bled away to winter chill, so this tiny gangway hallway is one of the more uncomfortable places on the ship, and there's apparently no 'dimmer' switch to the flow of people streaming through the door, so things are either 'shoot me in the head' dead slow, or 'ohmigod I'm gonna die' fast.

This is one of the slow periods, hence my ability to update my blog. I love my Sidekick... even though it sucks as a phone, it's internet capability has saved my sanity more times than I can count.

Usually, the way things work, there's three people on watch - two on the gangway and one roaming. Two people on the gangway means that, no matter how busy it gets, there's enough people to deal with it. One person roaming gives you a chance to recharge your batteries, get some head space back after the mindless tedium of standing at a podium, sweating your brains out. Today... there's just me. I've been shackled to this frigging podium going on six hours now, save a half hour meal break and a ten minute water break. It's getting to me.

On the other hand, I've gotten a couple of pages written for my new 'series', West End Blues, so at least there's an occasional silver lining. Knock on wood, this month has shown some promise for my writing - Twilight Exile proceeds apace, WEB has already netted some positive remarks from my peers on RDI, and I'm keeping up decent word counts on each (which will hopefully keep the hungry wielders [not members] of my 'fan club' at bay). All in all, I don't have much in the way of complaining to do.

My brother asked me last night how I was doing. I had to think about it; my usual answer is that I'm "holding a turn". I'm not really going anywhere, or doing anything, I'm just in a kind of pleasant limbo... making good money, home most nights (at least until the ship deploys), I've got a good bunch of friends, a very caring, loving family... I can't really complain. I'm tired all the time, maybe because of the fluctuating work hours, maybe because of the medication I'm on to control my blood pressure, and I wish I had more time to do stuff, but over all, I'm doing well.

He also brought up the possibility of me going through the hoops necessary to publish, and actually try to make a living as an author. It's a conversation he and I have every so often, mainly because he wants to make sure I don't grow too satisfied, or despairing, and give up on my dreams, and it's a conversation I appreciate. It's one I've had with other friends, too, and it's one for which my answer is always the same.

"I'm not ready."

It could be considered a cop-out answer... after all, if you leave it up to the engineers, the project's never ready. Eventually, you have to take it away from them and send it to market. But I still feel that my writing is rough and unready for a mass audience (despite Aly's support that she's read published authors much worse than I), and I haven't completed what I would consider the most basic hurdle - I haven't actually finished something that could be satisfactorily published. I have one (1) completed short story to my name, and a handful of teeny fic... a pair of half finished novels, and some works in progress. Nothing that would make a publisher, or even an agent, sit up and take notice.

But I'm workin' on it. I'm inching for daylight.

What being an author means to me, most of all, is freedom. Not from work; as any writer, even an amateur, would be quick to tell you, an author puts in just as many grueling hours a day as anyone in an office. Not from want, because unless you're Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or John Grisham, chances are you won't make it big in the business. But freedom none the less - freedom to tell the stories I choose to, rather than listening to someone else's. Freedom to travel, because with today's communications, you can send your work in from damn near anywhere.

Freedom to be myself.

Which raises the question... who am I now?

Holding a turn...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Time is like broken glass...

cuts you down to size
Jagged edge, cuts both ways
I'm a diamond...
...in disguise...

So, at some point in this life or a past one, my brother seems to have irritated a minor water deity. His apartment has been flooded, from one appliance failure or another, no less than three times over the past six months, and each time this happens, I end up taking care of his cats until the problem is remedied.

Now, don't get me wrong - I adore his cats, little hellions that they are, and I don't even mind the 8 AM furry rump against my face wakeup calls. Usually, I end up blindly, blearily, reaching out and hugging them until they go away and let me go back to sleep.

I've tried this on girlfriends in the past, too, but it never seems to work properly.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up - besides the fact that this is a blog, and therefore a reasonably-up-to-date guide to the minutiae of my life - is because when I came downstairs ungodly early this morning, I found that the downstairs toilet had overflowed, leaving my front hallway - already littered with junk mail that I hadn't bothered to pick up for the last, oh, month or so - a minor swamp.

Which leads me to believe that it's the cats, not my brother, laboring under the curse.

Anyway, minor problem soon remedied with a plunger and a mop... for now. Here's hoping my brother gets his floor and plumbing repaired before my water heater decides to go... or my pipes... or, well, anything else.

So, my life continues very much as it has before - we're in port, have been for some time, will be for most of the month. The ship is scheduled for a nearly year long deployment, starting at the end of September; I don't plan on sticking around for it, having put in for a relief date of October 2nd. Whether I'll actually get said relief date is up to the whim of the gods and MSC detailers, neither of whom are very much known for their common sense or rationality; sure, the company could save roughly 2 grand in plane tickets by simply sending my relief over a day or two before the ship deploys, but more likely I'll find myself flying home from Spain or Crete. Hardly the first time I've done so, and what the hell - I like flying.

Robin Williams once said, "Cocaine is God's way of telling you that you make too much money." Me, well, I'm pretty straight edge - not to mention that my job conducts random drug testing. So, instead of narcotics, I blow incredibly stupid amounts of money on toys and hobbies. The latest fascination? Airsoft, a game in which grown men dress up like soldiers and run around the woods shooting each other with plastic BBs. After a failed expedition to Ebay proved the truism "you get what you pay for," my brother and I absconded to our local airsoft store - Poseidon Airsoft Group Armory and picked out our favorites from the, sadly limited after a major blowout sale, selection. Fortunately, everything we wanted was there - James ended up with a Classic Army G36, I picked up a CA M-14 and a pair of KWA M1911 pistols. Everything is incredibly shiny, and I've been forcibly restraining myself from bouncing back and purchasing more - despite the hefty price tags, despite the fact that I haven't yet had a chance to play with the ones I already have, my work schedule as draconian as it is.

I know, somebody should really hold me down and take my credit card away from me.

Twilight Exile continues along, steady enough although progress has been slower than I'd like; it doesn't help that I'm as easily distracted as a ferret in a room full of mirrors, and whenever I embroil myself in a major project I inevitably seem to find other story ideas boiling up out of the back forty of my creative subconscious. I've been giving thought to NaNoWriMo this year as the fall draws closer; for a while there, I was pretty sure I was going to do a Rifts novel, probably focused around a burned out ex-CS Juicer who was dishonorably discharged and forced through detox, but now I'm not so sure. Of course, if previous NaNoWriMos have taught me anything, it's that I'm going to be unsure and waffling about the novel right up to November 1st - and afterwards too, most likely.

I pitched an idea to my friend Brian, involving a shared universe and a common starter scene, as seen from the POVs of everyone's characters - he took to the idea enthusiastically, and that enthusiasm is one of the reasons I'm second guessing my idea to do any sort of genre-fic this year. But hey, the Event itself is still almost sixty days away, and a lot can happen in that time.

Light, I hope I can stay in the area for it this year.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I obey the letter of the whipping, if not the spirit.