Anniversary Fifteen

Posted by TechyDad on June 24, 2016 under Anniversary, B

WeddingAlmost seventeen years ago, I met this wonderful woman online. I knew right from the start that there was something special about her.  A month after our first online meeting, we meet in person for the first time. To say that our date went well would be an understatement. When it came time to leave, we found it difficult to part from each other. I never wanted to leave her side.  Fifteen years ago today, I married this wonderful woman.

Fifteen years have passed and many things have changed. We’ve had to shoulder many adult responsibilities, have had two amazing children, had stresses and joys, and – yes – have grown older. One thing hasn’t changed, though. I always want to be with this wonderful woman. I still love being at her side. I want to do all I can to make her as happy as she’s made me.

Happy anniversary to the most amazing woman in the world!

Share:
Share on Facebok
Share on Twitter
Share on Pinterest
Share on Google+

Book Writing Insights

Posted by TechyDad on June 1, 2016 under Writing

4362686814_0c76b989d6_zI might have mentioned this a few times, but I’m writing a book. My personal goal was for it to reach 50,000 words, but obviously it’s over when the story says it’s over. Right now, I’m over 48,000 words with at least another 5,000 to go. If everything aligns properly, I might even hit 60,000.  Along the way, there are some book writing lessons I’ve learned.

Get Inspired

For years, I’ve started the same pair of stories only to stop writing after a few weeks. The general world I was building my story in was fine, but I just didn’t feel the drive to finish. This time, though, I have JSL driving me on. He’s been so interested in my story that his enthusiasm has pushed me on when I might otherwise have let the writing slide.

Always Be Writing

I’ve written my story primarily using Google Docs. Not because it’s particularly well suited to novel writing (it really isn’t), but because it’s always available no matter where I am. If inspiration strikes at 1am, I can open up the file on my phone and type out some notes without getting out of bed. If I’m on the go, but need to wait for a few minutes, I can open my story and add to it.  Eventually, I’ll move the story to a more conventional word processor for final touch ups, but for now Always Available trumps Perfect Formatting.

Don’t Take Rejection Personally

Back in college, I wrote quite a lot. People liked my writings and I decided to try to get something published. I sent a story to a well-known magazine that published stories like my submission. A few weeks later, I got the news.  My story was rejected.

What I should have done was shrug my shoulders, write more, and submit to other magazines. Instead, I took the rejection personally (despite the fact that it was a standard form letter) and decided I wasn’t going to write anymore. I picked it back up here and there but not with the same gusto.

Had I not let a single rejection derail me, who knows how many stories I could have had published by now.

Publishing Has Never Been Easier

Back when I was rejected for publication, there was only really one way to get published. You sent your work to a magazine publishing house and hoped they picked yours from their giant stack of submissions

Nowadays, it’s simple. You format your file and send it off to CreateSpace or another on demand publisher.

Talk To Other Writers

When it became clear that my short story was expanding to novel length, I mentioned my project to some co-workers. They revealed that they had written and published their own novels and gave me some great advice on going from "The End" to "This is my book in my hands." At the very least, when you encounter a writing roadblock, it can help to know that others have been there before

Stories (And Characters) Have Minds Of Their Own

I first learned this when my short story decided to veer into novella territory. It turns out that telling your story just how long it needs to be is a useless endeavor. It will end up as long or as short as it decides to be. You have very little control over this.

The next lesson came with one of my characters. Without giving too many spoilers, one of my characters has the ability to see the future. He gives a prophesy at one point that was based on my idea of how the book would end.

Unfortunately, the story had other ideas. Now the prophesy is going to wind up being incorrect. This means that I’m going to need to go back and rewrite the prophesy after I’m done with the story.

Finally, characters can invent themselves. I was at a point in my tale when all of the important main characters should have been introduced. What was meant to be a quick intermediate scene with just my main character turned into my main character and a new character. This character won’t be a big factor in the current book but might just play a bigger role in the next one. (Yes, I’m already planning the sequel. I might even make this a trilogy.)

Read (And Reread) Your Own Work

I’ve been reading the book to JSL as I write it. Although he’s fallen behind. It’s forced me to reread my own writing. Not only does this let me pick up on autocorrect induced mistakes, but it shows me sections that flowed well in my head but not when read aloud. When this happens, it’s usually an easy matter of correcting the mistake or rephrasing a few sentences. Then the passage flows better and my entire work winds up improved.

I’m really enjoying the entire writing process. Sure there are days when I get stuck but those other days when it feels like I can’t stop writing are wonderful. I just love the feeling of the story flowing from my fingertips as if it were alive and I was just a conduit for it to come to life. I can’t wait until I’m holding the finished product in my hands.

NOTE: The "book and pen" image above is "Of Words and meanings…" by Trilok Rangan.  The image is available via Flickr.com under a license that allows commercial use with attribution.

Share:
Share on Facebok
Share on Twitter
Share on Pinterest
Share on Google+

An Open Mother’s Day Letter To My Wife

Posted by TechyDad on May 8, 2016 under Mother's Day

To the love of my life and the mother of my children,

 

Eleven years ago, we celebrated our very first Mother’s Day.  It seems like so long ago.  Back then, we could pick our little guy up and snuggle with him while he napped.

mothers-day-03

Nine years ago, on Mother’s Day, we were ready to welcome a second little one into our family.  A mere day later, JSL arrived.

mothers-day-07

I knew you’re be a great mother before NHL was born and I was right.  As the years passed, our kids changed. Despite all of our protests,  they continued to grow older.  You, on the other hand, stayed an amazing mother through it all.  If anything, you improved as life threw us challenge after challenge.  When we’re in school meetings fighting for supports for our son, you’re the one speaking up and standing ground.  When you think there’s even the hint of something unsafe in the boys’ world, you’re ready to yell and scream until it is taken care of.  You manage the household, make sure the kids take their medicine when they need to, and ensure they always get to where they need to be.

For all of this, I would like to say that you are always thanked profusely, but you know this would be a lie.  All too often, you are taken for granted.  Your work to keep everything running smoothly goes unnoticed or, worse, is outright protested.  (Something that will likely just get worse as our boys enter the teenage years.)  I’ve also let my appreciation of you go unsaid far too often.  You know how hard it can be for me to put spoken words to my feelings sometimes and I know it can frustrate you.  It frustrates me also.  I hope you know that I love you with all of your heart.  You’re an amazing wife, friend, and mother.  I don’t know how I’d even come close to running this house without your help and I hope I never need to find out.

mothers-day-16

I love you, B, my beautiful angel.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Share:
Share on Facebok
Share on Twitter
Share on Pinterest
Share on Google+

Jungle Book – The Wisdom of Baloo

Posted by TechyDad on May 4, 2016 under Disney, Movies, Parenting

baloo-and-mowgliLast week, my boys had off from school. One day, B took them to the movies to see a The Jungle Book. While I didn’t go (my day job frowns on taking a few hours off to see a movie), it inspired me to watch the classic animated movie again.  While watching it, I was struck by Baloo. He’s supposed to be a stereotypical slacker. Someone who’s big on partying and short on responsibility.  (A "shiftless, two-bit jungle bum" according to Bagheera.)  Upon watching the movie again, though, he’s surprisingly wise.

A quick warning: There might be spoilers for the new Jungle Book below, but only if the new movie follows the 1967 animated movie.  So technically these would only be spoilers if you haven’t seen the 1967 movie and I think the statute of limitations has long since passed for that film.

Before I get to Baloo, let’s look at Bagheera.  He’s supposedly the responsible one of the movie. He finds baby Mowgli and takes him to the wolves who raise him as their own child.  When Mowgli’s life is threatened by Shere Khan’s return, he volunteers to lead Mowgli back to the man-village where he will be safe.  Bagheera rescues Mowgli from Kaa – and winds up nearly being eaten himself.  He’s definitely a role model, right?

Wrong.

After meeting the elephants, Mowgli asks where they are going.  Bagheera tells Mowgli that he’s going back to the man-village immediately.  Mowgli insists he’s not going and Bagheera attempts to force him to go by pulling on his shorts with his teeth as Mowgli holds onto a tree.  This ends with Bagheera falling into a river.  (Side note: Those shorts were insanely strong.  A panther pulling on them should have ripped them to shreds! Then again, naked Mowgli wouldn’t make for a family friendly Disney movie.)  Bagheera, frustrated with Mowgli, declares that he’s on his own and leaves him.  This, not even 10 minutes  (screen time wise) after Bagheera told Mowgli that he wouldn’t last one day and after Mowgli was almost eaten by Kaa.

I can sympathize with Bagheera when it comes to dealing with stubborn children.  Both of my boys can be exceptionally stubborn at times.  There are definitely times when I think that it would be so easy to just walk out the door and never return.  The thing is, though, that those thoughts would never be put into action because I care about my kids too much.  Even when they’re being a major pain in the neck and not listening, I might leave to a different room to cool down but I’d never leave them on their own.

When Baloo encounters Mowgli, he could have just kept walking.  Instead, he noticed that Mowgli was upset and alone.  He tries to teach him to defend himself and purposefully loses to Mowgli to help cheer him up.  Then, Baloo teaches Mowgli about "The Bare Necessities."

This is where Baloo gives three under-rated gems of advice.  First of all, Baloo sings that you’ve got to "forget about your worries and your strife."  All too often, we let our worries dominate our thoughts.  It’s important to give ourselves time to put our worries aside.  If we don’t, we might miss some wonderful aspects of life.  I learned this lesson a long time ago.  I’d hyper-focus on something that went wrong (especially if I did or said something wrong) and would ruminate on it for days.  It didn’t help the situation in any way.  It didn’t make me react differently the next time.  All it did was cause me to obsess and doubt every action I took.  I realized that I needed to be able to examine whether I could do anything about a worry at that moment.  If I couldn’t, that worry needed to be shelved until such time as I could make a difference.

Next, Baloo sings about using claws to pick prickly pears but not needing them for big pawpaw fruit. This is intended to be humorous (with Baloo singing a veritable tongue twister) but is sound advice.  Every situation is different and the approach needed for one might be totally different than the approach that the second situation needs.  If you go through life with just one approach – and an inflexible attitude that all situations need to have that approach for their solution – then you’re bound to "prick a raw paw."

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Baloo sings about minimizing your life.  Like many people, we’ve accumulated a lot of things that seem important, but which we could easily live without.  For example, a year ago we decided to cut cable.  Before doing this, we wondered just how we’d survive without hundreds of channels of video programming coming into our house at every possible second.  The answer was that it was a lot easier than we initially thought it would be.  Were there bumps along the way?  Sure, but it turns out that cable TV isn’t one of the "bare necessities" and you can live a full life without it.  When you cut the extraneous out of your life, you leave more time for the activities that you actually are interested in.

This is especially true for pursuing things that you can’t obtain.  Many people, perhaps envious of what others have, stress out over not having X, Y, or Z.  This stress negatively impacts their lives and, ironically, makes it less likely that they’ll get what they desire.  To quote Baloo: "Don’t spend your time looking around for something you want that can’t be found. When you find out you can live without it and go along not thinking about it, I’ll tell you something true.  The bare necessities will come to you."  That’s some real Yoda-level wisdom being dished out there.  (Obligatory Star Wars reference since today is Star Wars Day.)

When Baloo is convinced by Bagheera that Mowgli needs to go back to the man-village, he’s heartbroken.  In his short time with Mowgli, he had come to love Mowgli.  On the other hand, Bagheera, someone who’s known Mowgli nearly his entire life, doesn’t seem upset at all about Mowgli being sent away forever.  When Baloo fumbles in his "man-village talk" with Mowgli and Mowgli runs off, Baloo is determined to find him.  For someone who sings about reducing your life to "the bare necessities," he certainly knows what is important enough to hold on to.  Finally, when Shere Khan attacks Mowgli, it’s Baloo who stands up to the tiger, risking his own life to save the boy.

In the final analysis, Baloo might not be the most responsible character in The Jungle Book, but he has a hidden wisdom about him.  Many people in today’s society would benefit from channeling their inner Baloo from time to time.

boys-meet-balooNOTE: The image of Baloo and Mowgli above is a photo I took at Disney’s Pop Century hotel in 2010, during the boys’ first trip to Disney World.  They also got to meet Baloo.

Share:
Share on Facebok
Share on Twitter
Share on Pinterest
Share on Google+

Keeping Busy

Posted by TechyDad on April 22, 2016 under Life

Machovka-Write-300pxI haven’t been posting here that much, but I don’t want anyone to think I’ve dropped off the face of the Earth. I’ve just been keeping very busy with a few things.

Friends Outing and Emotional Rollercoaster

We had an emotional rollercoaster starting with Bar Mitzvah Incident. The next week, NHL had an outing with a friend of his. After seeing NHL sad because he was excluded, it was so wonderful to see him playing and having fun with a friend.

They ate out at Puzzles bakery in Schenectady – which we love supporting because they’re a local business and they hire people on the Autism spectrum. I even let NHL get dessert – a half pound peanut butter and fudge brownie which we split.

After eating, we all went to the Museum of Science and Innovation. It was wonderful seeing NHL having fun with a friend. The butterfly house was still out so we all went in it. Now, normally, NHL doesn’t like going in. He overemphasizes with the butterflies and winds up afraid that he’ll hurt them. This usually means we go in without him, but today he voluntarily went in. More than that, he was enthusiastic and loved seeing all the butterflies all around. He even went in a second time before we left. We’re definitely doing another get together soon.

Writing My Book

Back in high school and college, I was a voracious reader but I also loved making up my own tales. I wrote down many short stories. Over time, though, I stopped writing. Partly, this was because I sent a story to be published and it was rejected.   The rejection was your average form letter saying they weren’t publishing my story at that time.  There was nothing extraordinary about it and definitely no "your work stinks" text in it.  Still, I was a college kid and took rejection to heart too much.  I had decided that being successful as a writer meant being published and this one rejection meant I’d never be published so why try at all.  (I’d like to go back and slap some sense into younger me.)

A few months ago, JSL told us that he was writing a book.  This wasn’t a surprise since JSL loves making stories.  Whether it is written stories, playing with his toys, or even with the magnets on the fridge, he’ll have whole storylines pouring out with heroes, villains, and epic battles.  When he told us he was writing a book, had illustrated the cover, and was giving out signed photocopies of said cover, it sparked something in me.  I decided to take up writing again.  I have had two story ideas bouncing through my head for years.  I chose one and mapped out a long tale – then quickly discarded it.  I decided to start small and work on a short story instead.  Also, I decided not to map the story out but to just write and see where it took me.  (Though, sometimes this meant needing to go back and rewrite a section to make everything fit better.)  My "short story" grew and grew.  Before I knew it, I had 5,000 words written.  Then 10,000.  My most recent count puts me at almost 32,000 words and the story is only around halfway over.  I figure that, when it ends, the tale will be 50,000 words long.  This is in the "long novella/short novel" territory.

It doesn’t end there. As I was fleshing out the world while writing this story, I realized that the tale would extend to multiple storylines.  So when this story ends, I can start "Book 2" and expand it more.  I also have built a world where I can tell side stories that don’t involve the main characters at all.

As I’m writing the story, I’ve been reading it with JSL. First of all, this helps me spot typos. I’ve been writing this in Google Docs on my computer and on my phone.  When I’m writing on my phone, I can go quickly, but often the wrong word gets put into the story. As I’m reading with JSL, I can spot "he turned his fact and looked at her" and quickly correct it to "he turned his face and looked at her."  Secondly, it helps me spot sections which don’t work either due to how it was worded or because later story points contradicted this earlier segment.  When I encounter this, I can quickly correct the section before moving on.  Finally, it lets me gauge JSL’s reactions to see how good the story is. Granted, he’s a biased audience, but given his begging to hear more, demanding I answer many, many questions about the characters, and getting frustrated when I say "I can’t tell you that, it’s a spoiler", I think I’ve got a hit on my hands.  At least with JSL. (Then again, he’s one of my three most important readers along with NHL and B. Sorry everyone else.)

Oh, and remember that whole "you need to be published to be a successful writer" thing that I believed as a college student?  Well, I might have been wrong, but it so happens that it’s much easier to publish nowadays than it was twenty years ago. Back then, to get published, you needed to submit your work to publishing companies who would critique your writing and likely reject it. Now, I could publish it on my blog – giving it out for free. I could post an ePub file for everyone to download. I could even use CreateSpace to make an actual, physical book for people to buy. I’m planning on taking this last step. I’m under no illusion that this will sell like crazy (though I do allow myself the occasional fantasy where my book becomes the next "Harry Potter") but it will be satisfying to give someone a copy of my own book for them to read.

Cleaning For Passover

Passover starts tonight. During December, I’ll sometimes laugh when my Christian friends talk about the pains of putting up all of their Christmas decorations.  I’ll respond with the "pain" of decorating for Chanukah. "You take out the menorah and some candles. Done."  Unfortunately, Passover is when Karma kicks in. Passover preparations begin weeks in advance as you buy special foods (that cost a lot of money) and try to use up all the foods you can’t eat during Passover. Yesterday, I started the main preparation of cleaning the kitchen. Counters were scrubbed, ovens were cleansed, refrigerator shelves were taken out and put under hot water and soap.  Today, I need to finish cleaning everything and THEN I get to go to the attic and carry our heavy Passover pots, pans, and other various equipment down from our attic.  Once that’s all done, I get to "relax."  Normally, this is where I’d cook a huge meal, but we’re going to someone else’s Seder both nights so I get to take the night off from cooking.  The downside?  Dinner won’t start until after 10pm.  Saturday and Sunday morning are definitely going to be sleep in kind of days.

 

So if I don’t seem to be around much, don’t think I’ve deserted the online life to become a digital hermit.  I’ve just been extremely busy.  I do promise to stop by and write a post once a week or so, though, and will definitely post updates on my might-be-a-novel.

NOTE: The image above, "Write" is by Machovka and is available from OpenClipArt.org.

Share:
Share on Facebok
Share on Twitter
Share on Pinterest
Share on Google+