9 Months Ago…

I have heard quite a few people, including my current boss, say that it is a good idea to remind yourself periodically, if not daily, of the progress and accomplishments you have made. One of the suggestions was as simple as when you are making a checklist for the day, taking an item that you have already completed that day and still writing it down and checking it off. It builds some confidence as well as shows yourself a progression.

This post I have decided to write about my progression in the last 9 months. Primarily it is about my fitness routine as that started 9 months ago, but there are a few more items I am going to add in there.

These are the things that I couldn’t do 9 months ago:

  • I could not squat much more than 135 lbs (full set)
  • I could not deadlift over 135 lbs (full set)
  • I struggled to bench press over 100 lbs (full set)
  • I could not do a V-up (try one, it’s hard as hell to do properly)
  • I could not run more than 5 minutes without falling over after.
  • I could not finish a workout routine without wanting to throw up.
  • My Plank lasted only about 30 seconds at best
  • I barely could eek out a handful of declined situps
  • I could not maintain a writing regimen of anything more than 500 words a day.
  • I could not go without sugar
  • I drank nearly 3 POTS of coffee a day.

There are more things that I can dig through to add to this list, and certainly in regards to working out. I log everything, so it is extremely easy to go back and pick out what I was able to do. Although I struggle every day to get up and go do the things I need to (like go to the gym), I have to remind myself of that progress of just going to a little more than an hour each morning before going to work and monitoring my intake a little will do.

Here’s what I am doing right now:

  • My squat weight is 335 lbs for (full sets)
  • I can deadlift 295 lbs (half set)
  • A full set bench press of 205 lbs
  • I can perform multiple sets of V-ups
  • I can run for 15 minutes at least (mind you I am not training to run)
  • It takes considerable effort to get me to feel like throwing up after a routine now.
  • I can plank for several minutes.
  • I can perform full sets of declined sit-ups with a 70lb weight.
  • I finished an 11 day 2K per day writing streak… Now only not able to do it do to an additionally heavy schedule. But I am ok as I have proven the capability.
  • I do not add sugar to anything (including coffee and tea) and avoid candy.
  • I have cut myself down to 1 pot of coffee a day and plan to cut back more.

I’ve been able to to maintain this throughout the 9 months by focusing on making little improvements here and there and not pushing everything all at once. Days that I find that I want to stop or quit, I remind myself of this progress. More than anything, I just don’t want to give that up.

The Career No One Wants to Want

I spoke to my wife some time ago about a post I read from Michelle Huneven on the Trouble With Writing. Then my wife said a most astounding thing: “writing is the career no one wants to want.”

I cannot say that I’ve heard a much better description for my desire to be a writer.

Having been struggling with writing for nearly 20 years and then for nearly 17 years wanting to be a writer full time, I am all too intimate for the torment (and joy) that follows this choice.

Based on the previously mentioned post (linked above), I wanted to make my own list.  And to allay any preliminary judgments: this list is based on a writer who currently makes no money doing it, has a paltry following, a very good career outside of writing, and a very limited number of items out there for the public to view:

  • the problem with writing is that it isn’t easy:
    I remember staying up late at night on a writing assignment and cursing it to no end as I struggled with getting it down on paper. Now while I may balk at such things now since I write routinely, it doesn’t mean for any stretch that it is any easier.
    Writing is just inherently difficult for any number of reasons. First, it is a solitary task. The only company one really has while writing is themselves. Couple that with a procrastinating, distracted personality, it becomes a chore. Even with everything so intent on writing, the act of writing itself is slow and wrought with chances for the brain to become bored. An entire world can formulate in my head in seconds, and then I spend the next few years struggling to put it to paper in slow daily processions of a few hundred to a few thousand words a day. While doing it, I have to pay attention to what I have already written and keep myself on point to where I am going with the story or else I end up a few thousand words into a tangent that isn’t relative to the plot.
    And what character said that line again in the last chapter?
    Oh damn, I meant to make her eyes green, not brown. It is dreadfully easy to end up contradicting something written in a previous chapter. Sure, you might keep the overall plot stable, but what about that detail you mentioned before? Might be important… or was it trite? You have to keep track of the details.
    Another matter is that when the creativity and motivation are plentiful, time and energy are the issues. If time is plentiful, then suddenly the motivation isn’t there.
    I’ve had so many times where I am just so exhausted from the rest of my life that when time becomes available, I am spent to a degree that I cannot even bring finger to keys… which brings me to the next item:
  • Life always gets in the way:
    If I had only a hobby, or if I viewed my writing as only a hobby and not something I wished a career in, I would be in an easier position. Often I wonder why I can’t just come home and veg-out in front of the TV, or go do chores to occupy my time, or even just play with my kid. Instead, I have this gnawing need to sit down and write, whether or not I have the energy.
    It [expletive] gnaws at my soul when I am not writing. Or when I am not able to write.
    Any other activity just doesn’t quench the need to write for me.
    For someone with a full-time+ job, (meaning I am working well more than 40 hours a week and sometimes 6 days per week) I end up having little time to manage the other things in my life. Realizing that it all is ultimately important, I am forced to put the writing down in favor of… playing with my kid, for instance.
    One might think of me as an ignorant [another expletive] for writing this in such a way portrays that playing with my kid is a burden… you don’t have:
  • The drive to create that eats you alive:
    Hobbies such as tinkering with a cars, gardening, reading, gaming (video or table-top), building legos (trust me… it’s a full-fledged culture of lego builders out there), and the like certainly will tempt you at every waking moment. Hobbies are for that. They are not only a healthy distraction, but they can also be something enjoyed to a level where you think about it often.
    I can attest that all of my other “hobbies” I’ve had over the years like playing guitar, reading, drawing, gaming, etc do not eat me alive when I am not doing them. They don’t consume my thoughts most of the day distracting me from nearly everything I do. Even when I can’t or don’t have the energy to write, I am thinking about writing, or the story I am writing, or a character in my book, or when I will get time to write, or how I will plan my next story, or if what I just wrote an hour ago is worth keeping or not… it is [yet another expletive] frustrating sometimes that I cannot just sit and relax without my brain going haywire.
    There were a few months/years, where I put writing aside thinking that it was just a phase, that I could ignore it and it’ll go away…
    NOPE! I just get miserable.
  • Satisfaction is difficult as [goddamn I am a potty mouth] to muster:
    People reading what I write = satisfaction.
    I love hearing people enjoy what I write. I love hearing what people think (positive and negative) about my work. Sure, negative feedback isn’t wonderful at times, although I try to always look at it as a learning exercise to make myself better. Good or bad, feedback means that someone read what you wrote. Holy book reader, Batman!
    But getting people to read my book has been one of the most embarrassingly hard trials I have ever had in my life. For one, getting people to read a book has nothing to do with actually writing a book. Most writers I have ever met hate doing the work to get people to read what they write. I hate it too. It’s part marketing, sales, promotion, and begging for money (from people who will ultimately give you the money but give you a ton of guilt over it, or conversely trying to get money back from that evasive friend who you lent it to but keeps having excuses as to why it hasn’t been placed back into your hands yet.)
    I mean, heck, I have family… family and friends who bought my books but never actually read them. Not even a sympathy read…
    I am even willing to bet I could count on one hand (not including my ½ finger) who will even read or see this post.
  • Money is even harder to make:
    I have a very good job. I have to be honest about that up front. If I didn’t have this dream to write constantly badgering me, I would be quite content to continue with where my life is going. I could even just make writing a part time hobby and be happy.
    But that isn’t enough. I like my job, but I want to write for my job. I want to sit and toil over a manuscript every day. I want to put in that effort and treat it like a legitimate job.
    I don’t have any delusions that I will make millions at this. At this point I am quite sure that it will remain a part-time endeavor for the rest of my life.
    Because of the immense difficulty of the previous bullet point, this point is increasingly hard to accomplish. So far, I have only a spattering of individuals beyond family and friends who have even bought the book. Those are the guaranteed sales.
    To turn this into a career, I would have to sell between 3,500 to 21,500 books per month depending on what title sells to replace my salary and thusly my career. Easy right? I can’t even unload 1,000 free copies…
  • It costs money or time to get the work out there… and neither are cheap:
    In this point, I am arguing from a standpoint of self-publishing. Thanks to Amazon and KDP/Createspace that is essentially cost-free. That is, it is cost-free provided you either spend a crap-ton of money for the editing, formatting, design, etc, or a lot of time doing the editing, formatting, design, etc, or a mix of both time and money to varying degrees.
    So far, I opted for the time-consuming methods of not paying for others to take care of those non-writing assignments. It is that and begging like crazy for people to beta-read and edit what they can.
    I’ve priced editing for a few of my books and the cost is $2,000 to $4,000 and even more for a good editor. While I have argued against editors, editing is still vital and needs to be done. Book covers can cost several hundred dollars apiece. Were I to have gone those routes, I’d be in the red, although I would have had a few hours for several weeks more to write. Arguments abound though in favor of paying to have the work done and that it does help drive sales. I cannot prove that myself as I just can’t (don’t want to) front the money.
    I am not experienced at all in going through traditional channels, but I understand that the editing aspect is still there and I hear that the query process is about as fun as an unlubricated colonoscopy. My understanding is that I would also have to increase my sales numbers to somewhere north of that 21,500 units per month to be in the running for replacing my job… but that’s already been discussed.
  • And finally… it’s probably going to be a lot harder than doing what I am now if I were to make it.

No matter how many cards are stacked against me, I still want to write. Failure after failure, I continue to find myself pleading to get back in front of my computer or with a pad and pen so that I can write something. Each day as I exhaust myself, I try yet to stay up a few minutes more even for the hope that my fingers and brain will sync up and I will spill out some words to continue the story, a story I doubt sometimes will even be worth publishing. I have to write it; I just have to.

I am sure that no matter how many years pass that bear no passable success, I will keep trying to do this damned thing. No matter how much I suffer, I still want it. And yet I shouldn’t want it. And I wish I didn’t want it so bad.

The Vigil to be on hold possibly indefinitely

Putting a project on hold is not something that I genuinely like to do. In fact, I do not like it so much that I more often end up in project paralysis, or ‘I have way too many projects to be able to aptly focus on one enough to get it done.’

This past few weeks I’ve realized that it was time that I did just that to an active project to allow myself the concentration to continue pushing towards the finish line on other projects that are vastly more important. That project I am putting on hold is “The Vigil.”

I write Vigil normally in spurts when the inspiration hits. Inspiration has not hit lately and I am not going to spend any time on it. Here are a list of projects currently going on as to why I am choosing to put this on hold:

  • The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle – need to complete 1st draft. – am approx 18,000 words away from my 80,000 word target. Completion date is projected to be (5/31) for the first draft, then editing will be a few months after.
  • Gravity 3 – 1st revision – I need to wrap up the 1st revision soon. It’s been waiting too long since part 2 was put out 1 ½ years ago. I should be churning these out in 6 month increments.
  • XY – Needs 1st draft complete – approximately 2,000 to 3,000 words left. Can complete that in 2 days and will likely be the first project up after finishing Agnes.
  • Tunnel Rats – need to complete 1st draft – I am guessing between 6,000 to 8,000 words will complete it.
  • The Demon Whispers – 1st Revision – This has been waiting for more that 10 years since I finished it. It needs a good cleaning for certain.
  • Gravity 4 – 1st draft – est 36,000 word target. Will be starting that as soon as the first drafts above are done and the 1st revision of Gravity 3 is done.
  • Of Earth and Ice – my other monthly web serial has a couple of more episodes in queue, so it won’t go on hold any time soon. Plan is to get drafts of more episodes into queue after Agnes’ 1st draft is done, but this might go on hold as well just to be safe…

There are more items on here, not to mention that I will have all editing duties, cover art, etc to complete before I can hit the publish button. So that is why I decided that I can sacrifice at least this one for a while. Right now I am calling it indefinitely. I have no idea when I might revive it. We shall see.

Of Earth and Ice – Episode 6

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial

by Jeremy C Kester

Edited by: Beth Townsend-Smith

6: The Run

Gerald arrived to find Evie standing perfectly still on her one leg.  It was quiet.  Only the hum of the generators made any sound, though both women had tuned them out for the moment.

Most of the colony was asleep, except for a crew of slushers out on evening waste removal and the guards who patrolled the corridors.  Gerald discovered this was an ideal time to visit Evie each night, foregoing her own rest.  Few were around to stop or acknowledge her existence, and even fewer would dare question her motives if they had.

“How long have you been at it today?”

Evie’s eyes opened as Gerald moved into the room and sat on the same chair she always sat in.

“Does it matter?”  Evie snidely replied.  She squatted down and pushed herself off the ground trying to jump.  Once she landed, she slipped onto the ground with a loud thud.  “Damn it!”  She pounded her fist on the floor.

Gerald ran over to Evie with a look of concern. She worried that Evie was trying too hard and may hurt herself even more.  She worried there was a chance Evie would still fail.

“Don’t help me up,” Evie said, trying to brush Gerald away.

Ignoring her, Gerald gripped Evie’s arm and supported her as she got back up.  “You need to take it easy.  You are going to make it worse.”  Her voice, though always authoritative, betrayed her dismay.  “What were you even trying to do?”

“I need to be able to jump without both my legs,” Evie answered matter-of-factly.

“You don’t need to do that,” Gerald shot back as she helped Evie hop over to her cot.

Evie now roomed in a standard officer’s quarters. The walls were more robustly insulated and were actually painted a less-dull hue of white making the room a little brighter. The furnishings, though, matched her caste and were a dull grey and brown, torn, and in general disrepair. It was a fair balance, Evie had thought.  She felt lucky enough just to have her own room, rather than have to share space with a few dozen others from her caste.

It hadn’t taken long it to be determine that the room inside the medical sector was too valuable to be taken up by her.  She was given the prosthesis, instructed on what supplies she would need, shown how to change her dressings, and been sent on her way.  Gerald had lobbied as much as she believed she could to extend Evie’s stay there, but social norms and practices had won out.

What Evie did manage to keep was far more than any caste below the first four would have been allowed.

Evie looked earnestly at Gerald.  “I told you, I need to be able to work without that leg.  It’s only a matter of time before they take that, too.” She looked at the fake leg sitting in the corner. It was dramatically more clean than it had been when it was first given to her. The activity had taken her days of scraping as there was no water allowed to her to soften any of the grime that had been left on it.

“They won’t take it.  I won’t let them.”

“Just because you’re the Commander doesn’t mean they’ll excuse your support for me.  If they found out about us, I’d be sent out to freeze and you would be exiled.”

Gerald remained still, contemplative.  Though she had once executed others for that kind of infraction, she had never considered what that meant in relation to her own actions.  She felt immediately hypocritical.  Falling in love with Evie was the last thing she’d expected when they met.  At the time, Evie wouldn’t even talk to Gerald, due to her caste.  Their initial discussions about becoming an officer had been done through a mediary, as was the standard.  Now, Gerald felt a deepening rift between her principles and her heart.

“I won’t let that happen,” she finally said, dismissing her sudden worries.  The statement sounded as unsure as her feelings.

Evie shook her head as she pulled herself away from Gerald. She leaned over to reach the prosthesis.  Gerald saw it for the first time since Evie has been dismissed from the medical sector.  It had been heavily modified since then.  Nothing was truly recognizable from the original.

Gerald watched Evie adjust the straps.  Where Evie had gotten any of the components to do what she had done to it was a mystery to Gerald.  She’d never had to forage for anything.  Being in the highest caste made it easy to get anything she wanted.  And as Colonial Commander, Gerald had far more privilege than any of her counterparts.

Once secured, Evie stood up and took steps towards the door.  Aside from the hint of a limp, Gerald saw a woman who had fully relearned how to walk.

“Where are you going?” Gerald asked.

“I’m going for a run.”

“A run?  Now?”

“Yes.”

Gerald looked perturbed.  “Are you avoiding me?”

Evie turned, realizing what she meant.  She smiled as she looked at her lover.  Walking over, she reached out and gently touched Gerald’s chin, lifting it just enough to give her a soft kiss on the lips.  Gerald smiled back, closing her eyes.  “I will never avoid you.  It’s just easier to run with the halls empty.”

“I can’t argue with a kiss like that,” Gerald smirked.  “I’ll just let myself out and see you tomorrow then.”

Evie grinned and turned to leave.

The brisk air of the hallway greeted her sharply as she walked out the door.  The common areas were not kept nearly as warm as any of the personal quarters, even for those of her caste.  It was an effort to conserve as much energy as possible.  Envigorated by the cold, she began a short jog, stumbling a little with each step.  Though she was proficient in walking with her new leg, running was still a challenge, and she needed to be even faster than she was before if she was going to be personally satisfied with her recovery.

It didn’t take long before she had left the officer’s sector and entered the markets. It was a small zone where all trading was permitted, outside of the rationing distribution centers.

The whole colony was once the underbelly of Chicago. Now they were nearly 1,000 feet under the ice that had moved through the area, decimating the statuesque skyline that preceded them. It looked nothing like it once had, having evolved into the honeycomb system that it was now.

The colony was divided into multiple sectors, two of which circumscribed the rest. The outermost ring was occupied by the Iradiles, with general militia and defense systems the next circle in.

Inside these two rings, the remaining 5 castes were organized, interspersed with common areas.  The council quarters and council chambers were the most insulated, being at the core, and surrounded by the officers stations, which provided another layer of defense.  Directly outside the officer’s chambers were several stations, manned each night to monitor the traffic going in and out of all sectors.

Evie passed through with ease, as they were now used to her new nightly ritual.  She typically left for her runs after she and Gerald parted ways, but tonight was different in that she felt even more eager to master her abilities.

The sounds of her off-balance steps echoed in the empty corridors as she jogged lightly.  Each time that her replacement limb hit the pavement, she felt as though she were going to topple over.  Her heart leapt forward each time until she settled into the rhythm.  It was the same each night: she would begin her run unsure and unbalanced, but eventually find her stride.

She passed the markets and the trading zones.  Each place was empty, save for those of her caste moving waste from the area.  They made no contact, thinking that she had abandoned them.  She didn’t blame them.  She could only hope that her actions, that her success would one day drive change.  It was why she always pushed forward.  Maybe in proving her own value, the value of others could be more easily discovered.

As she turned down a long hallway that led to the first living zone, she was surprised by an abrupt, heavy hit to the back of the head.  Her body fell forward, propelled by her prosthetic leg.

The attacker was dressed all in black, their face covered by a mask.  It was an eerie mask, reminiscent of a rabid dog guise some child might wear during those old harvest celebrations.  Evie yelped as she hit the floor.

The suddenness of the attack threw her off her guard, but despite the hit she was able to spin around to grab the attacker.

The masked individual was fast and strong.  Using what once was her dominant leg, she tried unsuccessfully to kick the attacker off.

A knife slashed back and forth.  Evie fought furiously to parry each swipe, only to end up with a slice across her forearm and shoulder.  She screamed, pulling one hand around to punch the attacker in the side of the head. The attacker grunted before rolling off to the side clutching their ear, the knife fell and skid away out of reach. Amateur, Evie found herself briefly thinking seeing the attacker lose their weapon. She focused though trying not to let her ego get in the way. Evie saw blood trickle from the between the person’s fingers.  Earrings, Evie thought as she tried to stand.  In the moment, her mind went immediately into patterns of training and instinct instead of considering her injury, and she lost her balance, falling down again.

The attacker saw this as an opportunity and lunged forward once more, pulling out the small club that was used to begin the attack, and swung a direct hit.

As she lost consciousness, Evie heard the attacker hiss, “If you don’t stop, you pathetic pissant, next time we’ll kill you.”

Previous Episode: 5 – A Casual Meeting

Next Episode due May 18, 2015

This guy who writes stuff for you to read…