Writing update

casey-with-safety-glasses

Writer in editing mode

It has definitely been awhile since I updated the blog on the writing side of things. A few reasons. I really don’t like writing about writing.  I also discovered that I’m not really a fan of reading about writers expounding on writing. Bores me to tears.

When I took the plunge into actually publishing my work, I friended up quite a few authors and independently published writers in the social media world to get their take on things. Educational yep. Exciting and fun to read? Nope. So my blog has evolved to the things I DO find interesting to blabber about, namely my 8-legged cats and other hobbies.

That all said, I haven’t stopped writing, but it has slowed down this last twelve months. You’re probably asking yourself at this point, if this dude hates writing about writing so much, what is this for? The answer is that I have actual readers now who are waiting for the next book(s) in the series that began with “Princess”. Folks wanna’ know where things are at, and a few have asked politely how stuff is going, so here ya go.

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New Year, new posts

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I’ve been away a bit. Doing stuff, and work has taken a turn for the busier. As this is what I consider my “journal”, I’m not going to spend a bunch of time on the missed items, as most of it is boring day-to-day stuff. Instead, here are few shots of the zoo, which I DO find interesting, and I hope you all do as well!

Aquatics is progressing nicely. I have branched into freshwater planted stuff just to see if I can do it. (So far so good!)
The reef stuff is going along smoothly, and the Fish only tank is populated and happy.

 

The Tarantula gang lost a member, and gained two new denizens, so I’m up to twenty at this point. Other than the late lamented P. ornata, everybody else is doing nicely, building tunnels, molting, and generally just doing their spiderly bits.  My OBT (Pterinochilus murinus) has decided to become an avid fan of all things computer screen-ey, and as such, even during meals has created a silk TV chair to watch the screen. This is one of the T’s that is supposed to be a terror and purveyor of the “Major Threat Display!(tm)”. So far, this kid has been calm, figured out the noise at the top of the enclosure is “feeding time”, and is a fan of “The Expanse’.  Go figure.  😀

The Pterinochilus murinus in a comfy chair, eating and watching scifi.  :-D

The P. murinus in a comfy chair, eating and watching scifi.  😀

 

 

Writing is picking back up for those who are waiting with baited breath. I’m not pushing it. There has been a minor pause for a rework on the outline and a critical look at the manuscript as it progresses. I’m having fun. If you can’t wait for book #2, I suggest getting into tarantula keeping or fish. heh heh.

 

Anyway, here are some shots of my passions…er hobbies.

 

I hope the new year is treating all of you well, and if not, you should grab the new year by the ears and smack it with a trout.  😉

Exotic Pet Updates

The Evolution of a reef tank

The Evolution of a reef tank

Tiphane - G. porteri. Mature female. Six inches. "Havin' a snack".

Tiphane – G. porteri. Mature female. Six inches.
“Havin’ a snack”.

There is nothing like a day where the two applications I have for managing my reef tank and my tarantula feeding schedule sync up. That was almost work. 😀

Lack of blogging…lack of writing…well, just chalk that up to “I’m DOING” instead of talking about it. Things are finally settling down though. The nano-reef has settled in, and all the chemical tests have been optimal for weeks now even after adding various corals and cleaner crew members. Sub 40 gallon tanks are called “nano” when a reef tank is involved. (Fish setups as well, but more it is used more in the ‘reef’ side of things.)

Cleaner crews = hermit crabs, snails and cleaning shrimp. They are a necessary part of the reef tank’s life support. They scavenge junk/detritus/dead stuff, and scarf up algae and such. Some of the snails act like the sandworms of Dune and surf around UNDER the sand, eating stuff and with this motion giving vital oxygen to the bacteria that lives  there.

15 tarantulas. There are times I wonder how folks do it with 3-4 times as many, but usually I only wonder this when the feeding schedule coincides for almost all of em’ on the same day. heh. I’m getting very good at wrangling prey, so it is getting a lot easier, and I have also discovered that I was tensing up every single time I opened an enclosure. Not from fear of the tarantulas, but rather a fear I’d have a runaway. This is part of the ‘noob’ process to veteran tarantula keeper. The T’s LIKE where they are. They would bolt out of fear, but they actually have set their homes up to their liking, and if the Keeper (that’d be moi) gets the environment right, then the whole ESCAPE!!! thing isn’t really an issue.

I’ve got some pictures of the latest goings on in the hobby side of things, and rather than blather on, I’ll post em in a gallery, and stick relevant comments in there.

Work is going well, writing…slow…but that is changing now that I’ve finally gotten all of this zoology stuff in place and running smoothly.

I’ve been asked a few times if that bothers me that I’m not pounding the keyboard every single day lately, and I thought about it…and no, I’m not sussed about it all. I am living my life and doing things that appeal to me. Writing is ONE of those things…not the ONLY thing. (I have never been one of those writers who loses the “mojo” of a story by going away from it for a bit. I always come back refreshed, mental batteries charged, and tend to go like blazes following a break.)

The last couple months have been “setup” for some things I’ve long desired to get involved in or get BACK involved in (aquaria), and now that I have these things in place, I can get back to ‘primary’ which is the writing.

I’m having a blast. 🙂

And with that, here comes ze gallery!

Last Bits 25

The lair at night.

The lair at night.

1. So it has been awhile since I posted up a “last bits”. I’ve been busy. So nyah! Anyway, let’s get to the points.

2. Writing has slacked off.

There is something that I’ve noticed about myself over the last several years. Sometime between late June and mid July until early to mid September…every single year…I slack off pounding the keys, and delve into other things that interest me. The stories are still there, the passion is still there…BUT…other things also interest me. As I write for ME, scratching an itch as it were, and not a deadline or for others, I have come to terms with this. At first, every time this happened I would feel guilty and TRY to continue the pattern that is my norm, and this irritated me every time. This year, when the waning of the key pounding started again, I consciously decided to just give into it and go with the flow…after all it is MY LIFE, and the things I want to do also interest me.

This year, those things have been hobbies. One of them a life long passion since childhood…and the other…hmmm…also a lifelong passion since childhood.

A reef under construction

A reef under construction

A. Salt water aquariums

(Some of you thought I’d say tarantulas first, huh? -heh.)

The actual reasoning behind the tank you see in the picture above actually DID have a lot to with tarantulas (which are a passion that is a subset of arachnids in general). Originally the thought was to have just a basic tank with some scaly dudes in it to increase the humidity in the bedroom-office FOR the tarantulas. (As well as me as I’ve been dealing with a dry skin condition for some time now that humidity seems to knock back down quite well).

The more I thought about it and researched, however, I discovered that the advances in the technology, lighting and things associated with salt water and reef keeping have advanced to a point where maintenance is nearly as easy as that of my 8-legged furry friends. So with that in mind, I started putting together a basic system to build a “nano-reef”, which is mostly live corals and a few fish/shrimp to keep things in balance.

Without going into a lot of detail, the end result is that I have had a lot of fun, not just in the building of the system, but in the research and learning involved. 🙂

The picture NASA doesn't want you to know about...the spiders of Mars! :-)

The picture NASA doesn’t want you to know about…the spiders of Mars! 🙂  This is my pride and joy. Tiphane, posing in red light. Beautiful G. porteri.

B. Tarantulas. Yep. As some of you have seen, I have been heavily involved in this hobby as well. The reason I took so long to get into this? First, I thought that they were truly “exotic” and just assumed would be a royal pain in the ass expense wise and care wise. Turns out once I started to actually do the research, neither are true. Second, I have shied away from “hobbies” for years due to life long patterns brought about by travel and strange houred jobs.

Set up is more time consuming, but if done properly this is mostly mechanical, and in this hobby, a LOT of the enjoyment is actually designing and building the enclosures for my 8-legged friends, as a tarantula (most of em, anyway) are NOT crazy-time-party-animals. They are slow in their day to day lives and other than insane bursts of speed come feeding time, ‘EXCITEMENT’ isn’t on the menu. –and that is okay by me.

3. So back we go to the writing situation. I’m not concerned about it. I have over 80,000 words in the current project down, and already feeling the urge to ramp back up and “get er’ done”. I love the world I’ve created, and the story intrigues me just as much as it always did, so back to the writing chair I go.

4. Driving has been going very well. Crazy busy the last four days with the labor day weekend. Happy that it is over, but also very pleased that I was able to take care of my customers.

5. So that about wraps it up for this last bits post. I hope all of you out there in reader-land have had a great weekend and that life is treating you all well!

Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 1: History

From the pov of the spider
So the last week I’ve been busy. It seems that a new hobby always requires an inordinate amount of time at the outset before settling down.

I am now the proud owner of four Tarantulas. Two immature adults that I rescued from a Petco and two spiderlings (slings) that were mail ordered from Swift’s Invertebrates in Mississippi.

This post at first seemed like an overwhelming task as there is a lot to say and describe, and I’d rather be writing novels than a non-fiction book about this, but like any hobby that intrigues and excites the hobbyist, I get excited talking about it.

I decided that I’m going to treat this section of my blog as an ongoing journal. Not so much date specific, rather things I find interesting about the hobby, the antics of my 8-legged cats (which I will elaborate on in further posts), and my journey from a noob “Keeper” to an experienced one.

The nicest part of this hobby is that it is far less intense than many other pet-keeping responsibilities. These creatures are extremely hardy, long-lived and the only emotions they have involve catching their prey and kicking back. They don’t care about their owners, pretty much like cats…mostly. And I’ll get to that part as well going forward.

For now, this is a little background on how I came to WANT to do and be a part of this hobby.

The Golden Orb Weaver Spider

The Golden Orb Weaver Spider

First up, I have been a fan of spiders…arachnids, for most of my life…as far back as early elementary school when I read E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” and fell in love with the little barn spider who saved the piglet’s life. The picture above is that of a Golden Orb Weaver which was actually my first pet other than some goldfish in a 10 gallon aquarium.

The Weaver's Web

The Weaver’s Web

At around the age of 15, one of these  spiders set up shop outside my basement bedroom window. Watching her build her web and catch bugs was endlessly fascinating. This was also the year that I took Biology class in highschool. So after a quick request from the teacher, finding an old terrarium/aquarium in the class storage area, I captured the weaver and we set her up in the terrarium at school. The spider received so many crickets, grasshoppers and other bugs that I’m surprised she didn’t burst at the seams. In her web, there were at least 5-10 “sack lunches” dangling every day the rest of the year. (My classmates thought it great fun to help out here.)  -heh.

Sadly, as is the nature of most “true” spiders, she laid her egg sac and like Charlotte in the story, curled up and died shortly thereafter, having done her duty.

Years went by, and I would occasionally read up on the animals, getting irritated with how people always seemed to want to just kill them. It is my firm belief that Hollywood is directly responsible for a lot of this, turning these amazing creatures into the stuff of nightmares.

They are nature’s very own “no-pest-strips” and in general are not pests. They kill and eat the pests. But try and convince someone who just watched that pile of dogcrap film “arachnophobia”. -sigh.

For a long time I admired people who were raising tarantulas (the pictures of people holding the animals was just sooo cool!) and I often wondered if I would have time and money to get my own.
Then several months ago I happened upon an article talking about the spider trade, and I discovered that the hobby is actually very reasonably priced, so I started researching.

I found that the prices of these creatures depended upon the species, with some being as expensive as some rare or large songbirds or salt water exotic fish, and others being as cheap as 20$-30$ (U.S.).
Hope sprang up and more reading and researching was done. Then based on online recommendations  in several places, I picked up a copy of this book:

T Keeper's GuideThis volume is pretty much universally considered “THE BIBLE” for T-Keepers. After devouring it pretty much cover to cover in a reading frenzy I usually reserve for fiction, I realized that not only did I have the funds to do this, I had the time. Tarantulas, after all, don’t eat all that much or that often, and for the cost of one bag of good quality dogfood, I could probably keep 6-10 of these creatures fat and sassy in crickets for a coupla’ years. 😀

Originally I was going to just order a couple “slings” -the hobby term for “spiderlings” which are very inexpensive, but while shopping at my local petco for some preparatory supplies, I stopped by their reptile aisle (where the “T’s” are kept) and saw they had two “Chilean Rosehairs” available.

They aren’t actually called that, but I’m nit picking. The bad thing was that they were housed under UV light, and that is a bad BAD thing. (More on that later.) One was about 4 1/2″ diameter, and the other a little smaller. They get to about 5″ at maturity, so I knew that these spiders weren’t all that old.

Seeing that store had a 50% off sale in the reptile aisle, this meant that I could purchase both of them for 30$ total.

So I did. 🙂

And that is the history in a very condensed fashion.

Next post will be all about first impressions, learning the habits of these amazing animals, “SLINGING it”…as well as discovering that they at some point share more than a few qualities with cats.  -and I’m not kidding there. More than most folks realize.

Grammostola porteri

Grammostola porteri
“Chilean Rose -Brown”
One of mine!

 

So I’m going to be a pet owner at last…

chaco_golden_knee2

Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula – Grammostola Pulchripes

So after some research, I’m not getting a Tarantula. I’m getting TWO tarantulas and I’m seriously jazzed. All my life I have been an “Arachna-head”, probably due to an utter love affair with Charlotte’s Web when I was young.

Wilbur the pig? Meh. (baconnnn…mmmmm.)

It was Charlotte who caught my attention, and never fully released it.

Most of my life, with the exception of a period of marital “un-bliss” many years ago, I haven’t had the time nor inclination to have a pet, except for the house spiders who weren’t really pets, rather roommates. 😀

I don’t kill em’, won’t let guests kill em’, and have, over the years discovered that they are the best no-pest strips ever invented.

Currently I have three different species of spider I co-habitate with:

1. A solitary Wolf spider who lives in the back of my pantry, only occasionally coming out to wave at me while I’m in the bathroom. (About the size of a 50cent piece tip to tip.)

wolf spider

2. A solitary “Parson’s Spider who roams the corridors in search of evil pesty bugs and such. (Size of a nickel tip to tip.)parson's spider - herpyllus-ecclesiasticus

…and 3. The Barn funnel weaver. These buggers are pretty much everywhere in Colorado, and pretty much stay out of the way. (Size varies, but usually small, and almost always the dumb asses fall into the bathtub, requiring rescue.) If you see cobwebs in the winter in the corners of rooms, pretty much blame these walking raid cans.

barn funnel weaver

BUT, at the back of my head has there has always been a desire for two types of pet. The choices would be large bird (McCaw, or something similar), or Tarantulas. The problem with the bird choice is that they are smart, and social, and you cannot just leave em’ alone or they go nuts. Literally. They need company and companionship and attention, and I’m not willing to commit to that. Maybe at some point, but not yet.

Tarants on the other hand are more like cats. As long as they get to eat once in awhile, they could care less about you.

Also, no walking, no grooming, no spaying, neutering, and no picking up of poop or putrid smelling litter boxes…

and of course they are absolutely gorgeous in coloration, form and movement. (Although some variations are about as mobile and exciting as a rock, and in the trade are actually sometimes referred to as “Pet Rocks”. heh. )

Decision firmed up in the last few weeks, I started heavy research on sellers, habitats, mating information, breeding stuff, and general handling characteristics.

There are some types of Tarantulas that are known as Arboreal, meaning tree dwellers. The other type are “terrestrial” meaning ground/burrowing types.

Of the two, the Terrestrial variations are much easier to handle, care for and have a wider tolerance for different climates. They are also much more “docile”, meaning they can be handled if necessary (in fact some species actually LIKE it).

As a first time owner, I decided on two different…similar species. The first, a Chaco Golden Knee, which are considered docile, and can grow to over eight inches in diameter. Big, but not the largest. The Golden Knee, if cared for properly can live up to thirty years.

The second is a more common “first timer” called the Chilean Rose which is less expensive, has similar characteristics (mannerisms) to the Golden Knee, and are slightly smaller (Five inches diameter) and live 5-15 years.

So in the next week or so I’ll be the proud pappa, er, owner of two Slings. Oh…slings means “spiderling”. Both of them will be less than inch in diameter, meaning they are just out of the “nymph” stage (what they are called when they hatch before their first molting.) Think of it as a kitten or puppy that has opened its eyes and is big enough to take care of.

The slideshow below has captions and such. The picture at the very top of the post is the big girl, the Golden Knee.

Bet you can’t tell I’m excited, eh?  😀

Now back to my regularly scheduled date with a word processor.

Writing progress

Screenshot from 2015-07-16 06-28-24As you can see from the picture, I’m playing with progress meters on the site. Part of this is for you loyal readers who have been asking where I’m at with the second book in this series. The other part is a small prod for moi to kick things into higher gear. I am not as happy with the progress as I would like to be, and any “anti-cat-vacuuming” tool that I can think of to sit in chair and put words in the word processor is a good thing.

Now some of you might think that this in and of itself IS cat vacuuming, but for me, “seeing” where I’m at rather than staring at a page of text every now and again is a good thing. It is also teaching me more than I ever wanted to learn about CSS and HTML, and this is NOT a good thing, but hey.

I’m an “admin” bigot from the IT arena going all the way back to the days when I taught myself visual basic and clipper/foxpro thinking I’d make a go of a programming career.

Yeah, that didn’t fly.  😀  Coding sucks. heh.

Anyway, while I am not as happy with the progress, I will admit that if I were running a race with G.R.R. Martin, I would have probably won it a couple of years ago.

Also, while I had the “bones” of book 2 going as far back as last June, I didn’t really buckle down until after Book 1: Princess was finally up and finished in print form on Createspace in early December of last year.

So, all things said and done, I guess I shouldn’t really be complaining. 70,000 words isn’t just a sneeze in the short story bucket.

Lastly, the target number you see of “145,000” is just a place holder at the moment. At a guess this word count may go as high as 200,000 in the first draft. BUT, based on the outline itself at this point, 145k is doable.

Now, off of this writing platform and back to scrivener.

10 Questions With Andy Weir

Nice lil’ Q&A with Andy Weir…the guy who wrote this book:

the-martian

The Leighgendarium

Welcome to the second edition of 10 Questions With…

This evening our guest is
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Andy Weir

I will be honest with you, I did not think I would get an answer when I sent Andy the email asking if he would participate.  I figured that his calendar was pretty full at the moment, and would be for a while.  But he responded and agreed.  I was so excited.

The Martian is one book that everyone should read.  The writing is great and the story lines grabs you from the beginning.  It is very easy to get lost in the story.  And let’s be honest, Mark Watney’s humor is great.

My Leighgendarium calendar has been filling up pretty fast with interviews, July is completely booked and August is almost booked.  September and October are going to fill up really fast and I knew that I did not want to wait that long to…

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