Too Tired

I was a little short on my hours last week, and it ended up with me having to pull a ten-hour Friday to get back on track. At the time, it wasn’t too bad—I’ve done similar things plenty of times. And at least it was just the Friday; I was looking forward to making a big push on editing Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia over the weekend, possibly getting all the way through to the last chapter.

So much for that idea.

It turned out that other guys on my team had been chasing a problem on one of the public-facing systems for a couple of days, and got nowhere. Friday night, 6pm, I got a phone call asking for help. And so for about ten hours yesterday (Saturday) and another four or more today, I’ve been digging into the code, trying to figure out what’s broken. The guy who wrote it left a couple of months ago, and he used some components that he’d downloaded from a third party (new and trendy: good; old, tried and trusted: bad)—and none of the rest of us are familiar with it, and we don’t fully understand how it works.

We want . . . information

We want . . . information

I’m a bit closer to understanding what’s wrong, but the root cause is still a mystery. I can’t do any more with it until I get into the office tomorrow, when I can get with the team and regroup.

And so I did, finally, manage to get on with a bit of editing. I finished Chapter 9 (yay!) and got about a quarter of the way into Chapter 10—and then I hit the wall. I suddenly realised that, four in the afternoon or not, I’m ready to hit the sack and sleep for about twelve hours. I’ve been staring at the same paragraph for the last half hour; editing it should be easy, but I’m just not seeing it. So I’ve saved what I have so far, backed it up and closed it out. Maybe tomorrow I can get back to it—if the other problem doesn’t zombify me during the day.

One good thing about the coming week is, of course, that July 4 is on us, and I’ve supplemented that day off by taking Wednesday and Friday as vacation. So I only have to work Monday and Tuesday, then I get a five-day weekend. And I’ll get these lost weekend hours back, too, so I can either quit early for a few days after that, or maybe just take another couple of days off, depending on the work schedule.

Enough blogging for now—normally I find it relaxing, but right now it’s taking the last little bit of energy I have. I need fluids, and I need to get into bed and watch some telly. Fringe season 5 in the DVD player, methinks.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .

Not So Quiet On The Writing Front

I have a few things going on right now in the writing arena.

Copy editing work on Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is, of course, the big thing, and that’s coming along pretty well. I’m in the middle of Chapter 9 (the whole thing is twelve big chapters . . . maybe I should have written shorter chapters. Oh, well; lesson learned). Another couple of weeks should see the whole thing done, although there’s bound to be a little more bouncing of chapters between me and my copy editor before we can say it’s all done, and then there’s still line editing and final approval, so still some work to be done—but the copy editing is the toughest, and it’s good to see that the end is in sight.

When I’m not working on the editing, I’m relaxing, by . . . well, by writing something else. This one, which doesn’t even have a working title yet, is a fantasy short that I’m intending to submit to Xchyler’s next anthology contest. Submissions open on July 31, so there’s plenty of time.

I’ve read plenty of fantasy—Tolkein, Eddings, and quite a few others—but I’ve never written for that genre before, and it’s not something that I’d ever thought of doing. And it’s been a long, long time since I wrote a short story for publication; the last one was an SF short that I submitted to Interzone (they didn’t like it). I decided to have another go, in part just for a change of pace, but mostly because I’ve refined my writing process—thanks (again) to my awesome editing team at Xchyler—and I’m just itching to put it into practice. So far I’ve got my story outline, and I’ve made a start into the scene-by-scene description. Target word count is around ten thousand, but to be honest I think it’s going to be a bit over that by the time it’s finished (but that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t go over fifteen).

Of course, it may never see the light of day; it’s being submitted to a contest, after all, and it may not make the grade. But all the same, it should be fun, and it’s all good practice.

There’s one other thing on the horizon that’s pretty exciting: barring any major hurdles, Kate and I will be at the Xchyler booth at Salt City SteamFest, which runs July 26-28. The current plan is to be there on the 27th, but I’ll post any corrections here closer to the date. Watch this space.

Until next time . . .

Making Progress

Editing of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is coming along . . . and about time, too. Last weekend’s yard work left me with only a couple of hours of writing time, then during the week I managed to squeeze in maybe about an hour or two on one evening, and that was all. It’s been pretty ghastly—and of course, my rotten luck, this had to happen while I was editing Chapter 7, which also happened to be one of the worst chapters in terms of the amount of work needed. (Chapters 6 & 7 seem to have needed more work than any of the others, because of various factors that it would take too long to explain.)

This weekend has been much, much better. Chapter 7 is done, apart from one last passage that still needs a little polish (the words say what I want, but the phrasing is a little awkward). So now I’m into Chapter 8, and it’s coming along nicely. I’ve got my momentum back, I think, but in addition to that I have the feeling that the remaining chapters were better done the first time round, and the editing should go a lot faster as a result. For that, big thanks are due to my editing team at Xchyler; I’ve learned a lot, and that shows in those later chapters.

I’m taking a short breather to make some tea, and to write this post; in a few minutes I’ll get back to work. I have music on headphones—I have trouble writing when there’s too much ambient noise, but I also have trouble when it’s too quiet. I have to choose music-to-write-to carefully; nothing too powerful, and nothing with lyrics (having words feeding into my ears is a concentration-killer when trying to write). I find that soundtracks from movies and games is best (right now, I’m listening to the soundtrack of Sacred).

Tea’s ready; back to work. Until next time . . .

Pete & Kate’s Chicken And Rice

This is a simple recipe that we do fairly frequently; it uses packet rice and a ready-cooked chicken from the store to save time. It takes about an hour and a quarter, costs less than $10, and serves four, maybe more.

You will need:

  • One ready-done seasoned roasted chicken (we get ours from Sam’s Club—we find they have the best seasonings).
  • 2 regular size (7.2oz) packs of Rice-A-Roni Rice Pilaf. (This rice is especially good with fish and chicken.)
  • 4 cups cold water.
  • 4 tablespoons butter.
  • A large, deep skillet with a lid. (We use a fairly heavy hard-anodised non-stick job.)
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You will need . . . (just the stuff on the front. You don’t need a coffee machine for this.)

First, do the rice:

  • Melt the butter in the skillet on medium-high heat, then dump in both packs of rice. Keep it turning until it browns. You’ll hear snapping noises when it’s getting close to done.
  • Carefully (because of scalding steam) add the water a little at a time, stirring continuously.
  • Turn up to high heat. Add the contents of the seasoning packets, stir in.
  • When the mix starts boiling, turn the heat all the way down (you’re aiming for a really gentle simmer), and put the lid on. Set your timer for about an hour.
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Almost ready to add the water

While the rice is going, deal with the chicken:

  • There may be broth in the bottom of the container the chicken comes in; if so, drain it into something and put it to one side.
  • Get the skin off; keep the crispy bits with the seasonings (the parts from the top of the breast and legs, probably) and put them to one side.
  • Separate all the meat, discard the bones and fatty parts.
  • Cut the meat into bite-sized chunks, about ¾”.
  • Scrape any fatty junk off the seasoned skin, and chop the skin finely (it’s the seasonings you’re after here, so an alternative is to scrape those off the skin. Whichever’s easiest, and you don’t need much).
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Cut up chicken on the left, finely chopped seasoned skin on the right. Brown bits of chicken are from the drumsticks, if you’re wondering.

It usually takes me about 30-40 minutes to prepare the chicken, so there’s time for a tea break while I’m waiting for the rice. When the rice has had its hour, it’s time to put it all together:

  • If you had some broth from the chicken, add that to the rice.
  • Add the chopped skin/seasonings, stir well.
  • Add the chicken, stir it all in. Put the lid back on and let it stay on a low heat for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, stirring it around once or twice. This is just to get the chicken nice and hot; you might want to turn the heat up just a little, but not so high that it burns.

You’re done! Serve with nice bread (garlic bread, maybe, or seasoned bread sticks).

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Ready to serve!

Reporting In

Late for work this morning—or, since I work flexible hours, I should say that I was later than usual by about two hours because of an errand I had to run first. The moment I walked in, I was dragged into a meeting to decide which, of the two projects with critical problems, I was to be spending my time on. So that was decided, and I got right into it. And I pounded at that most of the day, until a bad headache came along. At that point I decided to pack it in and start fresh tomorrow. So, late start, early finish. I’ll have to make the hours up, but that’s not a problem.

Thanks to the yard work over the weekend, I didn’t get much editing done—a couple of hours on Saturday morning was all I managed to fit in. So the plan for tonight is, grab dinner (something quick and easy from one of the nearby fast-food joints will do), watch a bit of telly while eating (I’m watching Fringe season 4 on DVD), then get busy with some editing for an hour or two.

It Is Done

I finished the yard work about an hour ago, which is good news on several fronts.

First and foremost, it’s done, and I don’t have to worry about it for a good while. Well, almost—there are a couple of weeds jammed between the deck and the fence, not easy to get to, but my back won’t stand for any more nonsense today; I’ll deal with those during the week.

Second, this will be the last time I blog on the subject of yard word, which is good, right? In fact, even though those weeds will just grow back, and I’ll have to do this all again in a few weeks, I promise not to blog about it.

I did promise Before and After pics, though, and here they are:

Before

Before

After

After

So that’s where our BBQ grill was, all this time.

The growth in that first shot came up incredibly fast—no more than three weeks, I think. Some of those big, stinging weeds (like the one just left of centre) grew four feet in that time.

In the hour since I finished, I’ve cleaned up, had a coffee and a couple of well-earned sausage biscuits as a late breakfast. Time for a break, then on with some editing.

Until next time . . .

They Don’t Feel Pity…

I’ve been back on the yard work, starting early while it’s cool. And wet. Yes, it rained last night (first time in weeks), so everything’s sodden, including me. I’m taking a breather break for a slurp of tea and to rest my back and hip (they’re giving me gyp already).

Still, I’m about a third done. I’d have got further if not for the weed in the picture (this weed is #6 in a series of . . . well, a lot; I’m collecting the set, it seems).

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Heavy, fleshy green stuff on a fibrous endoskeleton that needs a machete to chop through. It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or anger. It is the T-101 of weeds.

I’d better get back to it. Phased plasma rifle at the ready. Well, if I had one. Just what you see, pal.

More later, including before-and-after pics.