My Chair by the Window

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outside view

I’ve followed the same routine Saturday mornings for as long as I can remember.  I awake about the same time as a workday.  I sit in my chair by the window, and drinking unhealthy quantities of chicory coffee, I read the paper.  If there’s something productive on my weekend agenda, it can wait for Sunday.

Every decade or so, I change up my routine.  Around ten or eleven, I used to get up to run massive miles.  Nowadays, certainly since October, I stay in my chair by the window the entire day.  I don’t shower or shave.  Short of a national emergency, I don’t dress out of my pajama pants.  Nowadays, I continue reading throughout the day.

After I finished my paper today, I bored into my latest pulp fiction.  Well, not exactly the latest – Darwin’s Radio is twenty years old.  A biotech thriller by Greg Bear, given to me earlier in the week by my friend Wendy.  Good read.

I stood up at some point in the early afternoon to discover it was snowing, so I let the dogs out to play.  They caught the falling snow on their tongues like Snoopy in a Charlie Brown cartoon and they played hard.  I sat back down in my chair by the window and dragged another chair across the hardwood to serve as an ottoman for my feet.  And I finished my book.

Saturdays are good.

No ​Risk, No Reward

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BBS Check

This never gets old.  Nor is it likely to lead to wealth.  Six pack of IPA though, or a couple of hand-rolled puffers from the local dispensary.  Enough to get me through the winter.

The last time I posted a photo of a royalty check, I received comments voicing concern from publishing the bank routing and account numbers.  Myth.  As you’ll learn from reading my pending sequel to Cyber War I, Full Spectrum Cyberwar, the ACH system is quite secure based on its high degree of authentication.

Crooks can compromise your checking account, but not anonymously.  I don’t make these cyberattacks up.  I interviewed my banker brother-in-law for those specifics while drinking rum at a wedding in Cancun.  Full Spectrum Cyberwar does take some liberties with what my brother-in-law shared with me.  It’s fiction after all.

I’ve improved on my writing from the first book, and have toned down some of the tech talk.  Not entirely though, because that’s the point of it for me.  To tuck away a primer on cybersecurity inside a fictional thriller.  You’ll learn how to confidently auction wares on the dark web.  And how to hack into a wifi server.  I expect this next book to be banned in certain countries.

This blog has been visited by fifty-five countries so far this year.  Including all eight countries currently banned for export by the U.S. State Department.  If I’m not careful, I could be swept up in Mueller’s Russia investigation.  These are risks writers face.  I’m up for it.

 

Ten Thousand Words

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tenk words

My manuscript is 10,000 words short.  Let’s say I agree with that, because by convention, tech thrillers are at least 70,000 words, and I only have 60,000.  And let’s say I come up with 10,000 more words.  Where would I put them?

It’s a fair question.  Coming up with 10,000 words is easy.  I’m a writer.  I’ll probably enjoy it.  But where will they go?  Where would you put them?  At the end?  Seems sensible.  I wouldn’t have to move any other words around to make them fit.  They could just line up at the end.  Easy peasy.  But my manuscript already has an end, and endings are sort of final.  The dénouement.  Can’t go there.

By similar logic, they would fit nicely at the beginning, and that’s where I intend to attach most of them.  I’ve already added a few hundred words for one new beginning scene, and I’m going to keep doing it until I have a beginning scene that I’m satisfied with.

This will address another issue, pointed out to me by one of my beta readers.  Very likely a typical mistake on sequels.  I assumed my characters were already introduced.  Character development on sequels is a bit tricky.  I know these people already and I’m not inclined to keep describing them.  I should be adding depth though, so I’ll focus on that too.

Curious to receive feedback from other writers.  I know this is a running blog, but when’s that last time I ran, let alone blogged about it.  I know that people who read blogs often write blogs.  And bloggers are writers.

The first question is how much you worry about following word length conventions.  The second question is how you would go about adding to your story when the shortfall is 10,000 words.

RTFM & the EULA

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Stash

The holiday break was good for my writing.  I received feedback on my draft manuscript from two of my three beta readers, and I’ve incorporated most of their suggestions.  Some of it was super helpful and will make for a better story.

It’s still overly technical, although I’m certain it’s not nearly as geeky as the first book.  I’m considering dedicating it to those techies who RTFM and the EULA.  If you understood that last sentence, you might be my target market.

I still plan to use my computer mouse tanks photo for the book cover.  I’m also looking for a publisher though.  Assuming I find one, my book cover ideas might not be mine to act on.  If finding a publisher becomes too onerous, I’ll self-publish again.  I’d like to learn the formal publishing process though.  If you know an agent or publisher who is interested in my genre, let me know.

I also, finally, came up with a title for the book, again, assuming I get to name it if I go the publishing route.  I’ve been referencing my manuscript Cyber War II.  It makes sense but didn’t feel very satisfying to me.  I came up with “Full Spectrum.”  The storyline is around Hybrid warfare.  Full spectrum references the mission statement and tactics of US Cybercom.  Another thought I have is using “Defend Forward,” because that speaks to my plot and is yet more language used by the DoD.  They’re both good.

If that’s not enough, I’ve also started writing my third book.  You could argue it’s the 3rd in a cyberwar series, but it’s 20 years into the future and is in the cyberpunk genre rather than tech thriller.  It’s already more fun.  I’m able to take more liberties with reality in this genre.

I’m also reading every day.  I got two books for Christmas gifts.  My new year’s resolution is to focus on reading and writing in 2019.  It’s all about the books.  I’ll try to share some time with health and fitness, but my aperture on personal interests has narrowed over time.  I rarely even watch sports anymore.  Reading and writing.  That’s my focus now.

Final Destination

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Thelma And Louise

I’ll pick up where I left the girls off, in the Texas Panhandle.  Does this look like Amarillo?  Not content to view Texas in the rearview mirror, they turned around for a good look back.  Colorado is their final destination.

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Thelma has a boyfriend to get back to in time for a new year’s kiss.  She told Louise to wake up early for the final leg.  When Louise tried waking her at 5:30am, she said that was too early.

Thelma Louise Road

The girls were on the road again by 6:30.  They had to turn back to Amarillo for gas though, losing 30 minutes from their early start.

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Thelma drove them through New Mexico.  Louise took the wheel in Raton and carried them home to Colorado.  They arrived safely in the mid-afternoon.

Texas Panhandle

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Karen and Ellie let me out at mom’ s house Saturday morning.  They delayed their departure for better weather.  Those girls aren’t trying to beat the Post Office.  Ellie got us from Austin to Round Rock via MoPac.  Karen took the wheel heading out of town.

When I drive, I tend to steer well east of Lubbock.  It’s too early for dinner and too late for lunch, and too tempting to stop early for dinner, making the next day a longer drive.  

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Coincidentally, when Karen drove it today, her map app took her through the middle of her college stompin’ grounds.  Go Tech.

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Karen called me after reaching Amarillo to say they had a nice ride.  Ellie drove for ninety minutes.  They were planning dinner.  

The two are driving home for the new year.

The End

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Cyber War

Just finished the first draft of my second novel.  I haven’t named the title yet but I’ve been calling the draft Cyber War II since it’s a sequel to the first book.  I already licensed the graphic above for the cover.  Nothing says cyberwar more than computer mice dressed up as tanks.

Once again, Thanksgiving week plays a special role in the timing of my writing.  Two years ago, I took off the entire week to self publish my novel.  I’m on a slower schedule this time around, taking two full years to get to a first draft, whereas I completed writing the first book in six months, then edited and published two months later.  Still, this week plays a productive role in my personal storyline.

For those of you who served as beta readers the first time around, I promise you, this first draft is much more readable.  I’ve developed my skills.  I can tell it isn’t finished yet though.  It’s 40,000 words less than my first novel, 10,000 too short.  There really aren’t rules on this but the convention for a tech thriller is to be between 70,000 and 100,000 words.  This draft is at 60,000.

No doubt, it could use another 10,000 words worth of character development.  I’ll take feedback from friends on that.  I developed some new characters that I actually plan to use for my third novel.  It’s not exactly a trilogy, but the 3rd book will be 20 years in the future, using the more youthful characters from this story, and will be in the cyber punk genre.  Always thinking ahead.

I know that I improved my writing in one specific area for this book.  My biggest criticism from the first book was that it was way, way too technical.  That I should consider writing for people who enjoy reading user manuals.  Fair enough.  Not that I shied away from writing another primer on cyberwar, but I’ve employed a number of tricks to make the learning more digestible.

Despite my confidence on improving in that area, I find it impossible to know if I’ve written a good story or not.  I’m too close to it.  I’m certain Stephen King never scared himself with his own novels.  I’ll find some help on that.  I’m targeting completion of a second draft by end of winter, seek out my ‘ole editor, and maybe publish in the spring.

Taco Junky

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taco junky

Karen and I miss most of Brit’s performances, because they are typically in Denver and she plays past our bed time.  So it’s unusual that we went two Friday’s in a row.  This one was in Boulder though, on the Hill at Taco Junky.  I posted possibly the worst ever Facebook live video in the history of videos.  I started before they even warmed up and the place was loud. The good stuff didn’t start until after my battery died.

Rachel & Brit had the whole night to sing so they took some solos after first singing together.  Brit sang her cover of Lost Boy and the college crowd really got into it.  Brit followed with another cover that got the coeds singing and dancing.

That was enough for Brit to figure out what they liked so she got her phone out and began pulling up piano chords and lyrics to more songs.  It would take her a minute to study and then she would just play and sing based on reading music she barely knew.  She owned that crowd for the next hour singing dowloaded tunes.  The audience even started holding her phone for her while she played.  Pretty impressive adaptation to a crowd.

Before long, Karen was singing and dancing with the coeds.  A professional photographer showed up from nowhere with lights and began taking photos.  It turned into a rock n roll hoochie koo.  Still, we left in the middle because it was past our bed time.

Indian Summer Run

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Last weekend’s run in falling snow was nice.  The contrasting weather made today’s Indian summer run all that more special.  With these dream-like conditions, it’s almost as if God wants me to get outside for a run.

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Over the past five weeks or so, I’ve lost ten pounds.  At 189, I’m running with confidence again.  Certainly not fast, but with strength over the white rock hills of the East Boulder Trail.  Those three days of running in southern Utah were the catalyst I hoped they would be.  Running is joyful again.

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This is hands-down my favorite running season.  The air was crisp, the sun warm, and the Indian Peaks capped with fresh white snow.  The absence of those ten pounds were noticeable.  My legs felt strong running up the hills.

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Afterward, we picked out pumpkins at Munson Farms.  Karen’s parents are in town.  Brit joined us with her fiancé, Eric.  And Ellie Rose brought her boyfriend, Will.  Along with pumpkins, I purchased some Munson yellow onions to stew a french onion soup for dinner  tomorrow.  The days might be warm still, but the evenings cool off, suggesting a fall menu.

 

Snow Bridge

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Ellie at Tortugas

The girls layer when the cold sets in and I honestly can’t tell if this is Ellierose or Brit.  Must be Ellierose.  Brit doesn’t live with us anymore.  I live for this weather.  It’s why I live in Colorado.  Gently falling snow and 20° is meant for running.

snow bridge 1

I woke up this morning to a foot of snow, excited to get out there.  As a gentleman runner, I might stay inside when the wind blows hard, but I dream of snow runs.  Below freezing temps don’t scare me.  It is a trick though to not overdress on the first cold day.  I did okay in light tights, two shirts and a wind jacket.  I was able to pocket my gloves before two miles.  This was ideal running weather.

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I got in six miles on the LoBo Trail, making it a little past this snowy bridge before turning back around.  I streamed James Bay on Pandora, gentle music for post card conditions.  Real winter is no doubt coming.  Running on days like this is how you acclimate.  Don’t miss out.

Little Burning Man

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GC Sunrise

I drove to Kanab, Utah to experience some of this country’s most spectacular trail runs.  And to maybe reignite my passion for running.  Sunrises like this one over the Grande Canyon were enough to make me become a morning runner.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon Course

The first morning was less certain.  Crawling out of my tent at 4:30am into cold, monsoon rain was not an easy thing to do.  But I came here seeking my tribe, to see if I might once again belong with the men and women who are actually in shape to run these trails.  I gathered my gear and confidence and headed to the start of my first race in nearly a year.

Bryce Finish

Bryce Canyon began as a sodden run in mud, with rain clouds obscuring the sunrise until half way into the course.  Fortunately the ground was more firm in the second half, spared from most of the rain, because the trail here was more exposed on side hills of dirt and trying to run it would have been dangerous.

Runners from past events said it was also good they reversed the course, as the vertical was easier to handle in this direction.  As incredibly scenic as this course was, winding its way through hundreds of hoodoos, the final mile ran through a dry wash and required crawling under this mud-packed bridge ten meters before the finish line.  The finish was almost ironic in how ugly it was relative to the panoramic run.

Zion

Zion Course

Day two was Zion and the weather was gorgeous.  I don’t think any of the runs warmed up over 60° and this particular course was fast for those primed for racing.  We ran a thirteen mile loop on the Gooseberry Mesa that wound its way through waves of slick rock.  Not ideal in that running on rock isn’t too much different than running on cement, but it was such a visually unique surface, like running on the moon.  Imagine running a half marathon through a skateboard park.

While the elevation of this trail was fairly flat, the ups and downs over the rocks were exhausting.  I’ve developed a sore knee over the last couple of weeks training and its weakness stole some of my confidence in my footfalls, otherwise I believe I might have run faster on this day.  It was my fastest pace of the three runs.

Grande Canyon

Grande Canyon Course

Day three was thirteen miles on top of the Grande Canyon, just south of Lake Mead alongside the prominent Horseshoe Bend.  This run followed a sandy jeep road the first quarter mile directly to the ledge over the Colorado River.  The course then turned to run alongside the river for roughly three miles on rock very similar to the previous day’s slick rock, grippy but red and more crumbly.

There was never really a trail, we followed pink ribbons tied to shrubs that led us through the desert landscape.  As the crowd thinned out, it took all my focus to spot the next ribbon.  No day dreaming on this run.  Even when I had runners to follow, I couldn’t trust them.  Runners had a tendency to drift well right of the ribbons.  Too far right and they’d be on top of the cliffs again.

The middle six miles were through deep sand that sucked the life out of my legs, along with most of my momentum.  I rolled my ankle on the return as the course returned  to the rocks.  I took that as a hint that my legs were too fatigued to safely run the rocks so I walked much of the final three miles.  I also had a rock break on me when I was making a two foot jump.  Other runners around me applauded my graceful landing, asking me if I was an avid skier.  When I replied that I snowboarded rather than skied, I got a few boos.  Runners are fickle.

hoodoos

Not sure I can explain this but I had the sense this outing was like a little Burning Man experience.  Maybe it was all the mud and rain that gave it a Woodstock feel.  Or the many Native American talks and dances I sat through.  Or simply the desert of southern Utah.

I was alone for this three day event, sleeping in a one-man tent that began to feel like a coffin near the end.  I finished a Dan Brown thriller and mostly kept to myself.  Including the drive, I had time for reflection.  It’s funny how thoughts come to you differently when your mind is free from the everyday routine.  Even though I brought my laptop, I never booted it up.  I turned off all notifications on my iPhone.  I believe I may have successfully weaned myself off daily news.

I gained an understanding of where I am now as a runner.  I’m no longer competitive and that’s okay.  I enjoy running at any speed.  My doctor told me I have to lose fifteen pounds by January, five pounds per month, for my health.  That will be perfect.  I can run comfortably at 185 pounds.  I don’t feel like returning to the race scene any more than I care to return to 165 pounds.  I just want to be able to run the trails.

 

Gentleman Trail Runner

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canyon walls

Don’t bother calling my mobile next week.  Doubt I’ll have much of a signal running through the canyons of Southern Utah.  I’ve been reading my race guide and getting excited as I look at the photos.

trailfest trail

Initially, I was worried these trails were over my head, but I gained confidence two weekends ago hiking twenty-six miles in ten hours on the CDT.  I’ll have no trouble meeting the cut off times for the trailfest half marathons.  I’m looking forward to this now as an awesome three-day workout.

hoodoo view

At 12 and 13 miles, the courses will be triple the distance of what I generally run.  But with views like these two photos above and below in Bryce, looking out at hoodoos, I imagine wanting the miles to continue.

hoodoo trail

I almost don’t feel worthy of such spectacular trails, not being in better shape. So what.  This will be killer training ground.  Running 37 miles across the best trails the western high-altitude desert has to offer is the best antidote I can think of for my current running malaise.  And spending all this time to myself might be good to recharge my introverted mental capacitors.

tent city

Runners who rent tents will reside in the apparent orderliness of a monochromatic color scheme.  I’ll pitch my one-man tent in the more discordant array in the center of the photo, expecting to meet like-minded people.

Chute

I’ve studied the course elevation profiles and I’m not overly concerned.  Bryce Canyon will be the toughest with nearly 5000 feet of elevation variance, but Zion and the Grande Canyon are almost flat by comparison with less than 2000 feet of variance each.  Not to say each course won’t have challenging sections.  I am happy to see ladders, as I consider myself, certainly while in my current state of fitness, to be a gentleman trail runner.

ladder

I’ve run some great trails in my day, but next week will be like dreams come true.  I’ll be living life, as runners were meant to live it.  When I come back, I’ll be a runner again.

trail top

 

Slow takes Practice

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slow loris

Running slow is not easy.  It takes work.  You have to practice running slow.  I’m just now finding this out to be true, and I’m immediately sharing this information with you because I figure you might want to know.

I’ve said this before, muscles have memory, and mine remember running fast.  So it makes perfect sense that I would have to train myself to run slow.  I’ve been struggling all these months not because I’m slow, but because my legs have been trying to run faster than is sensible.  I’m running too fast because that’s all I know.

Today, I practiced running slow.  Running is so much easier when you move your legs within their limits.  Not everyone can do this.  I recommend wearing a pair of Beats ear buds to override your memories of running fast with slow-playing content.  Think Diana Krall.  Just slow it down.

Less than two weeks before Trailfest.  Running thirty-seven miles over three days in national parks Trump doesn’t know about yet.  It’s time for me to start training.  Slowly.

Sky on Fire

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Never Summer

La Plata and I rejoined for a second hike this summer along the Continental Divide Trail.  We met at the Bowen Gulch trailhead off Hwy 34, inside the Rocky Mountain National Park.  We left my car there for our finish and drove through Granby for Hwy 125, which took us up to Willow Creek Pass.

The yellow and burnt orange aspen were much thicker here than in RMNP.  La Plata said the colors were incredible between Durango and this valley.  Their color was echoed by the sun setting under plumes of smoke from the Kremmling fire as we drove up the pass.  The smoke filtered blues on top of hot pinks, mirroring the inferno below, telling the story of our summer with the sky on fire.

Willow Creek Pass

We set off at 6:30am and tracked forty-five minutes of fast-paced progress before I discovered I’d left the keys to my car back in La-Plata’s car at Willow Creek Pass.  This added ninety minutes to our twenty-two mile trek, and a good four more miles.  Today would be a marathon.

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I discovered a new 200 calorie snack bar that I highly recommend – Bulletproof.  I ate their lemon cookie for breakfast.  Yum.  I doubt there is anything else on the health food market anywhere close to this tasty.  The Kremmling fire smoke is in the picture below – those aren’t clouds.

Bowen Pass 2

Hiking with La Plata is like trail running with anyone else.  Fortunately, the section of the Continental Divide Trail between the Willow Creek trailhead and Bowen Gulch near Grand Lake is mostly below tree line.  My breathing seemed good despite the altitude and La Plata’s torrid pace.  He schooled me with this unyielding pace for the earlier blunder with the keys, not slowing down until we crossed Bowen Pass, our high point a little above treeline.

Bowen Pass

Can’t thank him enough.  Always the coach, and actually a personal fitness instructor, this training will serve me well for the three days of trail half marathons in Utah and Arizona next month.  I did have to run at times to catch up with La Plata in the early going.  I took advantage of downhill sections of trail.  We maintained a strong two mile per hour pace.  That’s good for high altitude mountain trails.  Standard walking pace is about three miles per hour.  I don’t expect the Trailfest to be nearly this challenging, except that it’s three days in a row for a total of thirty seven miles.  Recovery will be paramount.

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I missed the photo-taking for Ellie’s homecoming dance.  The kids looked good.  The first photo is with Ellie and her boyfriend Will at Chautauqua.  The second is the group shot.

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Pussyfoot

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I recently rediscovered the gravity-defying benefits of treadmills.  Turns out, I can run pretty fast on those things.  I’d forgotten that when I returned to fitness years ago, I first started out by walking, and then evolved to running on treadmills before finally pounding the pavement again.  It’s a progression that works.  So most of my runs the last couple of weeks have been on the treadmill at the office.  Seriously, it feels like I’m actually running again on those things.

I still run the trails on the weekends but it’s time to start picking up my game.  I tried to defer my October Trailfest event again but they wouldn’t let me.  Turns out you can’t keep putting things off.  This event has rules.  I paid a hefty registration fee last year and I can’t just let it go.  I’m running it.  Or walking it.  Whatever gets me from start to finish.

Knowing I’m committed now is exciting.  Lose ten pounds or die is the way I feel right now.  Each of the 3-day half marathons have cut-off times to reach their respective aid stations.  It would be helpful if they shared the actual times, it’s a little scary not knowing.

I decided to move on from my weekend routine of the pedestrian East Boulder Trail to a real mountain trail.  I ran Heil Valley Ranch today.  Last time I tried it I don’t think I made it to the top of the Wapiti trail.  I did today, and ran the shorter loop up top – seven and a half miles in all.  That’s my longest run in half a year.

This is a real trail.  Rocky.  Technical.  The two and a half mile climb was hard enough on my lungs, but managing my footfalls was also surprisingly difficult.  I expect to be able to regain my trail skills if I get out there every weekend, but conditioning is part of the process.  Running slow helps but you have to be strong enough to pick up your feet.  I’ll continue to run on the treadmill at the office during the week, but I’m done pussyfooting around on the weekends.  I’m back on the mountain trails.