Baby Francesco’s Nursery

Before, there was ugly medium shag carpet, and old dingy dark brown trim, which matched the window sills, doors and jambs.

The first thing was to rip up the carpet, padding and remove the staples; all 10,000 of them (not really that many, it just felt that way). Then I used some wood putty to repair any damage on the sill, door and closet jambs. The sill looked like a big dog teethed on it years ago.

Next I removed the old dark stained trim, and disposed of it. Don’t ever want to see that again.

When the wood putty dried I sanded the dark stain away. First I used a rough pad, and then decreased the coarseness of the pads for successive sanding sessions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The doors arrived sooner than expected. They’re pre-hung and slipped into the rough opening without a hitch. Although, I purchased new brushed nickel hinges to match the handle, because I really hate electroplate brass on doors.

For the next step I primed the entire room and closet interior. These walls hadn’t been painted in years. It took two full coats and in some spots three to get an even appearance.

Now I was ready to paint. I drew the birch trees on the wall with a light pencil and painted around those edges.

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For St. Francis and his animal companions I took a different approach. I had a roll of brown paper, so I drew the figure and animals on that. When I was satisfied, I cut out the components and affixed them to the wall. I traced around them with pencil and blocked in their edges. I basically turned it into a large coloring book.

 

Next I applied the toast color to three walls and added details to the trees and colored in St. Francis.

With the painting done the next item of business was the Pergo. These boards were a little wider than other laminates and went in with a lot of tweaking and tender loving care. The most difficult part was the trap door. The builder didn’t cut a straight opening.

Gee thanks Mr. Builder, now I have to work around someone else’s shoddy work.

The T-mold provided the edge for the trap door and door entrance.

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For the trim, I used 1×4 MDF board. It cuts, sands, and takes joint compound easily. The best part about using MDF is no jado cuts for inside corners. As you can see, I used a 1/2’” overhang for the top of the window and doors, providing a modern but “western” look.

 

After caulking and compounding, I painted the trim. The last step was the electric switches, outlets, and switch plates. A dimmer switch will work wonders in a nursery.

The last step was the closet doors and blinds. Bi-fold just seemed the best way to go for better access, and the white blinds appealed to my “less is more” philosophy.

 

Music: The Other Writing Muse

 

I once read that you should never listen to music with lyrics while writing. Naturally, I ignored that suggestion and later learned that it is truly a sound piece of advice.

Luckily, besides my towers of classic rock CDs, I have a cabinet full of classical music. There’s Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Prokofiev, Chopin, Wagner, and many others. Classical CD’s are quite the bargain as well. You can get a stack for the price of two or three of the stuff charting on Billboard. Not sure if they’re a bargain on iTunes, but I’m sure someone will post in the comments about it (psst…that’s a hint).

trebleBeside a broad paintbrush approach, think about music that compliments your subject. Listen to Chopin while writing something romantic, Wagner for a major battle scene, Grieg for a morning scene or writing about Dwarves. However, if you need to listen to something between writing spurts, then go ahead and break out that classic rock catalogue.

At those times, when I take a break, out comes The Beatles, Yes, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Dylan, or ELP. Yes, I’m a classic rock child of the ‘60s and ‘70s and I hope you are one too. If you’re wondering about my classic rock choices, then check some of those artists out on YouTube. There’s a plethora of uploaded music and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Another Inspirational Source

Last November during #NaNoWriMo, I wanted to complete the first draft of my second #fantasy novel. The second book in the Tales of Tyrennia Series is set in the Dwarven Kingdom of Eismark. At one point I became stuck. I wouldn’t call it a writer’s block episode, but rather a malaise. During NaNoWriMo 2016, I caught a bad flu and didn’t write for weeks.

So, I thought about what could serve as a healthy push about Dwarves. In a flash, I had an idea. I created a Dwarf toon on Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). After running around Thorin’s Hall and a few quests in the mines, I found myself itching to write again. Suddenly the last three chapters flooded onto my screen. They poured out of me and practically wrote themselves.

The #LOTRO gaming experience turned a fledgling NaNoWrimo into something of a success.

What music or other media inspire you to write?

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Minnie the Cat

Last month I told you all about Phoenix, our eldest kitty. Well, now I’m going to tell you about Minnie our black & white tuxedo.

Although we call her Minnie, her real name is Minerva. As you may recall, our cats’ names reflect a Harry Potter theme. She is so named for Minerva McGonagall.

Minnie was a stray that I picked up in San Antonio. I was helping out a sergeant in my wife’s squadron paint his living room and kitchen. Every time I went out for a smoke, I spotted this scrawny starving kitty. She would approach me and meow for food. My friend didn’t own a cat so I gave her some dry dog food.

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Later that week I purchased some #cat food on the way to paint. Minnie was pleased to get some real cat yummies. The next day I brought a carrier with me and put the food inside. I captured Minnie and brought her to a veterinary clinic near my home. She got a clean bill of health and has been with us ever since.

Minnie is very playful and follows me from room to room. She is extremely jealous of other cats and quite vociferous. If I should mention Phoenix or Luna, Minnie will come running over. She does not like me doling out affection to another cat.

Odd as it may seem, I’ve learned to discern what she wants. Her usual requests are for petting, playing, and opening the blinds. However, a study was done concerning how cat owners do understand their kitties when they speak.

Do you understand cat chat? Do your kitties have a jealous streak?

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Technology in Your Fantasy World

Fantasy novels can cover so many different types of worlds. It doesn’t always have to be a medieval or agrarian setting. Remember, pre-computerized or pre-electrified societies had guns, cannons, and steam power. Have you wandered into Stormwind City in World of Warcraft lately? While many players ride around on traditional steeds, others ride dragons, and still more have motorized transportation. There’s no reason that a little technology can exist in your world as well, if you wanted.

Sometimes a map, creature encounters, or a sword fight are not enough. A reader needs to know what type of world s/he has been thrust into upon opening your book.

Mythical Creatures Fairy Tales Gnome Control Troll

Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Now I’m sure some may say, “They know they’ve purchased a fantasy novel. They should know what kind of world to expect.” All well and true. But how to best describe the intricacies of your world? One unique aspect may be the level of technology.

Exposition right out the gate is definitely NOT the way to go. Imagine opening a book or using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and seeing something like…

It was the third age after the fall of Westernia. Many people roamed far and wide over the centuries. They built communities, new cities, and were now the denizens of four separate Kingdoms. The distances created new languages, regional accents, alliances, and war.

However, all the Kingdoms would unite when faced with a common enemy blah blah blah… Maybe this could work as a blurb, but not as a chapter opening.

Here’s My Approach

A better way to build your world is in dribs and drabs emerging from the story and characters. As an example, in my forthcoming novel Storm of Divine Light, I have a single passage from the middle of Chapter 3 that locks in my world’s technology level and a few other things.

***

The vendor blinked his over-sized eyes and smiled ear-to-ear at Cyril, as only a Gnome could do. He held out a small, plain steel box, about two inches square and a quarter inch thick. With a flick of his fingers, the Gnome flipped the top open to reveal a wick and a gnarled metal wheel. His thumb pressed on the wheel, and after a quick quarter turn, the wick burst into a small flame.

Cyril raised his eyebrows and smiled. “By Korak’s staff! Instant fire.”

“I’d hate to hear the price,” Daggorat said.

After a hearty round of bargaining with the vendor, Cyril paid eight Golden Claw pieces. He proudly admired the gadget as they walked away. “An amazing feat of Gnomish ingenuity and craftsmanship.”

“And you accuse me of being impulsive. Just twelve copper-jacks for our breakfasts. We could eat at the tavern for almost a whole year on that money. Why does everyone trust those Gnomes?” Dagorat shook his head. “It must be those huge childlike eyes.”

“Oh, stop casting shadows upon my enjoyment.” He moved closer and whispered, “Besides, with this fascinating little trinket, I can make fire without suffering the company of dark mages. Or bending to their will.”

***

Within this small passage, I’ve introduced Gnomes, the monetary system, some information about the technology level of the world, and something mysterious concerning both Light and Dark Mages. All while keeping the story flowing. This is the approach that I’ve had the best feedback from at critique groups. Give it a try and see what it can do for your writing!

Hope you found this writing tip helpful.

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This Baby Boy Needs A Name

The anticipation of a new #baby brings many new trials and tribulations. Our latest conundrum is choosing a name. My wife and I have been over this issue many times. At one point, I proposed an idea. “How about putting a bunch of names up on the blog and see what others think?” To my surprise, she laughed and agreed.

In my family, we always name children after grandparents. My dad was Francis and my father-in-law was George. We’ve been kicking around different combinations, but I must admit feeling exhausted from the process.

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Of course, there is always the Catholic tradition of selecting a name from a Saint’s feast day. If he’s born on St. Patrick’s Day then he gets to share his name with the Saint, and that Saint becomes his guardian.

Time is running out. There’s only about 7 – 8 weeks left before (baby boy name) emerges into this world.

 

Cast your vote from among these variations and a few others

 

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Phoenix (The Wonder Cat)

As you can see, Phoenix is a tortoise shell #cat. My wife acquired her from a rescue shelter when we were living in San Antonio. She was seven then and now she has reached the ripe old age of fourteen.

Unfortunately, she was de-clawed while she was there. De-clawing is such a foul and despicable practice. She still likes to scratch her imaginary claws on carpet posts.

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Phoenix is something of a princess. Her favorite pastime is sleeping on the couch. Of course she turns into a lap cat whenever my wife and I cuddle up on the couch. She is playful, but on her own terms. Phoenix only likes to play with me or my wife, as for other cats….fuhgeddabowdit! Like I said, she is too much of a princess to bother with other cats. I’m sure she regards them as commoners in her royal eyes.

Even when we have visitors, Phoenix will sit on the back of the couch without the slightest hint of curiosity. Naturally she expects guests to approach her throne and greet her formally.

Since she is affectionate, a newcomer can make friends instantly by brushing her or using a toy mouse on a string. I think she enjoys a grooming session more than most other kitties.

Lastly, there is the specialty of her name. All of our cats’ names have something to do with Harry Potter. So goes my wife’s influence on the household.

Got cats, dogs, or something else? Tell me about your pet(s).

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The Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The glorious tomato is a bright star in the culinary universe. Think about the different possibilities that can be done with this versatile ingredient. From cream of tomato soup, an Italian sauce, a rich salsa from south of the border, or a BLT, the versatility list can go on forever.

However, the tomato conjures up one of the most perplexing conundrums, is it a fruit or a vegetable?

Surprisingly the tomato is both; it just depends upon who is going to answer the question.

tomato

Public Domain Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

From the legal viewpoint: The tomato is a vegetable. The Supreme Court of the U.S. declared it to be a vegetable on May 10, 1893. A decision was necessary because of U.S. tariff laws.

From a Scientific viewpoint: The tomato is a fruit. Botanists consider all plant life to be “vegetation.” However, they classify fruit as the edible ovaries of a plant. Certainly our friend the tomato clearly fits into their fruit definition.

From a culinary viewpoint: The tomato is a vegetable. It can be part of an appetizer, a soup, a side dish, or an entrée unto itself. However, a vegetable can never, ever be part of a dessert.

Is it any wonder that I despise the very existence of Carrot cake?

The final definition was the determining factor of the tomato’s legal status. Although scientifically a fruit, the government classified it as a vegetable because it was used and treated like one. So go ahead and enjoy your fresh, sweet tomatoes. Just don’t try to make tomato pudding and garnish it with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a tomato?

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2017: A Prolific Writing Year

Hopefully, 2017 will be my most active year as an indie author.

The first novel in my fantasy series, “The Tales of Tyrennia Book One: An Easterly Sojourn” will be (not should be) released this year. The editing is cruising along. The problem was continuous editing. We would get about seven chapters done, and then either the Queen or I would learn something new and start over again.

2017

 

The reason we would jump into repetitive editing was simple. We were not satisfied with the end product. Therefore, after learning something new about editing, it seemed obvious to go back to square one.

I’m happy to report that I am satisfied with the quality. As we complete each chapter, I create a manuscript file. I can’t wait to print out copies and send them off to beta readers.

Draft version 0.5 of “The Tales of Tyrennia Book Two: The Frozen War” is done and waiting in the wings. I call it version 0.5 because of my scant writing style. A strange habit, but rather than cutting the first draft down, mine tend to swell.

What About Short Stories?

I’m so glad you asked. Two short singles will be released as well in 2017, “Little Red Revolution,” and “Psychic Confidence.”

“Little Red Revolution” is a best described as a satirical-vampyrical-romp. I had some compañeros from my former critique group who enjoyed #writing vampire fiction. So, I put this piece together mostly as gag and to poke some fun at the genre. In the end, they loved it.

“Psychic Confidence” should finish up at around five-thousand words. It’s a thriller with a complicated plot, coupled with characters that have aliases. I had worries that I could lose a reader too easily, but my first reader breezed through it without any problems.

There will also be a new collection of #shortstories called “Wondrous Stories: Seven Vile Uplifting Tales.” The stories are quite an assortment. However, there are some binding themes running throughout. Like, what happens when the iron fist of government points a finger at you? Or what happens when individualism clashes with a mob mentality?

Although I’m talking about a lot of work, I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a very good year.

What are your goals, writing or otherwise for 2017? Are you #PoweredByIndie?

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A New Short Story

Although it will not be ready for another month or two, I finished a new long short story last night. Right now it stacks up at 22 pages, but with my scant writing style, I can see it expanding to almost 30 pages.

The end came as a pleasant surprise. #NaNoWriMo ended almost a month ago, and I’ve been furiously editing my fantasy novel “An Easterly Sojourn.” For some reason, I got the #amwriting bug a few days ago and hammered out the last half of the new short. The first half had been floundering in stasis for over a year. Then in an instant, the rest of this very complicated plot flashed in my mind.

crystal

Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

I never told or discussed this story with my resident grammar nazi…editor…wife…um…The Queen. I felt that it would be important for her to read through it without any previous knowledge. Therefore, I’d know if the plot got too confusing, had glaring holes, or paths of least resistance were sufficiently blocked. Also, some characters have more than one name. I was somewhat worried about that as well. In the end, she read through it without confusion. Phew (*wipes brow), looks like I’ve managed to handle those potential baddies.

What will win in the end, love or greed? Well you’ll have to read it to find out. You didn’t really think I’d offer a spoiler at this moment, did you?

At first, this short story had the working title “The Psychic.” However, after numerous attempts to re-title, I’ve narrowed it down to two others, either “Psychic Games,” or “Psychic Confidence.” I’m leaning heavily toward the latter over the former.

Keep an eye out for a cover reveal in January

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R.I.P. Greg Lake

Way back in the 1970’s, I put my first album by Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) on a turntable and was summarily hooked. It wasn’t long before my collection grew, as did my taste for bands with unusually long songs considered unfit for top 40’s radio. Only late night FM DJ’s would occasionally risk playing such material.

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Photo by Jean Luc and used under CC License

The amazing Bass and Guitar playing by Greg Lake will be missed. Of course along with musicianship came his ability to write timeless classics. Gone are the days when I used to play passages over and over from an album, trying desperately to copy those notes on my guitar.

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s self-titled first album was a brazen and loud announcement to the world that rock music had evolved into a higher realm. I remember teaching a music appreciation class back when I was still with the NYC Department of Education. Naturally the textbook assigned mostly dealt with classical, folk, and jazz music. However, the last chapter did make mention of notables from rock. Of course, Emerson Lake & Palmer warranted a few paragraphs.

There are many ELP songs and full albums on You Tube. If you’re not familiar with their music, have a listen and try to understand the depth of our collective loss. Remember ELP was one of those classic rock progressive bands that didn’t just make songs; they made albums. And those albums explored particular musical themes and subject matter.

Thank you, Greg Lake for all of your creative energy, which not only entertained, but also amazed. You were more than a musician, composer, and lyricist. You were a pioneer who transported your fans into other realms.

DO GO – LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!  Tell me about your fond memories of Greg Lake.

P.S. I know all about Greg’s time and legacy with King Crimson as well. But for me, he’ll always be the “L” in ELP.

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