PonyBoyHappy New Year! 

I guess it's time to take down the decorations. Maybe tomorrow. Today I spent a lot of quality time with stories. On Ms. Roundy's advice, I've cracked open one of the books on my stack. I didn't get a ton of reading done in 2015. I was always busy doing a poor job at proofing one of my own books. But it's necessary to read other novels. Just seeing the way that other people put together a story is crucial. My favorite book of last year was probably The Martian. I loved that I could trust Andy Weir to get all the science right. Even if he didn't get everything perfect, it was all good enough to fool me.

The forward of a book used to really turn me off. I wanted to dive into the action. I really enjoy them now. I like to form an image of the author sitting down to tell me the tale. I want to get a sense of their voice as they warm up to the story. Yes, they should disappear and leave me with the impression that the story has always been there and will always be. But even if I can't see the strings, it's good to know that there's a kindhearted puppeteer behind the scenes. 

With my next book, I'm going to try to make sure that the ending has the same heart as the beginning. When the world is new, and we're just getting to know everyone, I think I paint a much warmer picture. By the ending, everything seems fatigued and flat. Perhaps I should do another edit out of order and see if that helps. I like that idea. But, I also need to make sure that I keep my pace up. Last year was good to me (especially the second half), but only when I kept a good pace of releases. As soon as I stop putting out books, everything begins to go cold. If sales decline too far, I'll have no choice but to live out of the freezer.

I won't put a forward on my next book. I'm not that kindhearted of a puppeteer. I've tried to write them before, and it felt phony. It's all I can do to put a note at the end. 

Take care, and Happy New Year.

 

CarOnRoadI had a panic moment today--dog licenses! I have to renew in January or else animal control gets really testy. I finally found the form online. The crisis was averted, or at least it will be on the first. I'm definintely not getting as much done as I thought I would. Or maybe I'm getting the wrong things done. I spent a while today cleaning up my office. I installed a towel bar in the bathroom. I finally replaced one of the outlets that has been bothering me. These little tasks don't feel like the kind of thing I should be focusing on. It feels like I'm getting ready for something that's about to happen. 

Nothing is going to happen.

My sleep was troubled last night. I dreamt only about things that had actually happened to me during the day. I watched "Bob's Burgers." I installed a water filter in the laundry room. I drank a cup of coffee. Those things happened both during the day and in my dreams. Each time I woke up, I realized that I was more and more bored by my dreams. I'm going to have to find a way to expose myself to new sights and sounds.

Speaking of which, one interesting thing happened tonight. I was walking through the house when I saw a car's brake lights come on. As I looked through the window, I saw what the car's headlights saw--someone had pulled out to the end of their driveway and stopped. The stopped car had no lights on. The car on the road came to a stop and turned on its hazard lights. My mind raced. What did they see? I thought maybe the driver of the stopped car had spilled halfway out the driver's seat and was unconscious in the snow.

The driver with the hazard lights got out with a flashlight and rounded thier car. This action was taking place just beyond the corner of my property, so I could barely see what was happening from my vantage point. As I watched, the driver investigated the stopped car. After that, they got back into their car and sat. I don't know what they're doing now. They could have called the police or an ambulance. I have no way of knowing what they found.

So now I'm waiting to see what happens. Maybe I'll dream up an interesting ending tonight. 

 

ClownWe had a good day today. My dog is feeling better. He's still a little delicate, but hopefully he will have a few days off from the insanity. Friends came over for food and football. I think I've only been alone one day since the beginning of the Reclusion. I suppose I can blame it on the time of year. The house will probably look different in the middle of February. The days are getting longer, but somehow the shortest days always end up in the middle of that short month.

I've got too much to write at the moment. A couple of strong ideas are swirling in my head. I'm excited about all of them and want to write them, but it has been a long time since I tried two novels at the same time. It's not impossible, but I wouldn't dive into that endeavor again without a really good reason. And right now I'm committed to finishing the series that I'm working on.

I'm debating if I should make The Hunting Tree permanently free. That approach has worked really well for Extinct. In the second half of this year, more than 10,000 people have downloaded it. A decent percentage of those people went on to purchase Instinct. Right now, the sales of Instinct each month are more than Extinct/Instinct were making combined (back when Extinct cost money). I have enough data to conclude that the experiment is a success. I'm not sure that The Hunting Tree will have the same luck though. The title and cover of The Hunting Tree aren't as compelling as Extinct. And the sequel (Blood Ghost) has never done much business. I suppose that there's no harm in giving it a shot.

I got lost in a show called "Making a Murderer" for about a day. That's all the time it took to watch all the episodes. The scope and depth of that documentary is amazing. 

Although I'm on a virtual island here, I'm somewhat affected by the holidays. None of the normal shows are on TV. Podcast schedules are erratic. Food is everywhere. It makes me feel like I have a certain flexibility when it comes to sticking to my routine. I don't like that. I prefer a routine. When I was a kid, as much as I hated school, some part of me relaxed when it started again after a break. It was a joyless prison, but I understood the dimensions of it.

If you took a smart but uneducated eighteen-year-old, how long would it take to teach them everything they would have learned in school? Do we waste a lot of hours trying to pound concepts into little brains that aren't yet equipped to accept the information? I'm thinking about that show. Present me a documentary about an interesting subject, and I can learn it inside and out within two days. I could have sat through three months of a "Making a Murderer" course in school and I would have retained nothing from it. I wonder if the Prussian education model that we still use is not just designed to create busy work for mischevious little hands.

I won't wait until the New Year to make sure that my own mischevious hands make the best of my time. I'll be right back at it tomorrow, and I'll try to maintian my routine. The house will be empty once again and hopefully I will have had a full night's sleep. Good night for now.

MerryChirsmasThis post is going to sound defensive. I believe I'm doing the right thing, but it's impossible to know. If I didn't doubt myself, I wouldn't be this defensive about it. Let me explain.

My dog (Bruno) is in the middle of a medical crisis. Maybe (I don't dare to even hope) he's at the end of a medical crisis. I'm not sure. This emergency started on August 3, 2013. I've described it elsewhere. Perhaps you've already read about it. He has idiopathic epilepsy, which is a fancy way of saying that nobody has any idea why he is having these seizures. They are life-threatening. They haven't responded to any medication (and I've tried them all, in every combination, and at dosages so high that he was unable to function). 

He has seen specialists, had MRIs, spinal taps, and been subjected to every possible treatment, legal and illegal, availble.

See how defensive I sound?

Still, after all this, he occasionally has horrific clusters of seizures that come every one to four hours for days on end. During a good spell, he will go a week without incident. In the past four days, he has had twenty distinct seizures and hours of distress and confusion. Some might suggest it's cruel to make him suffer through all this, but I always think about the good days. I think about November, where my log has only twelve entries, and most of those were mild. He had a good November, and that was just last month. Who's to say that January won't be another good month where he's happy to be alive and I'm happy to have him?

Last year we had a hard Christmas as well. Bruno had four days of extreme clumsiness and seven seizures. In 2013 we had a terrible Christmas. He had sixteen seizures and big blocks of time where he was unable to walk on his own. There is no real pattern to his seizure activity, but it seems that Christmas is bad.

In the past, he was on more medication. The extra drugs didn't stop the episodes, but they kept him calmer between them. Unfortunately, I now know from experience that he's not going to be in a good mood after four days of bewilderment. He hurts himself while he's running into things and flopping around on the floor. Then, if he reinjures himself when he's awake, he sometimes lashes out with violence. In this incoherent state he has bitten me and his half-brother, Finn. We've learned to take care around him.

Part of me knows that it's absurd to try to deal with this condition. Any decent veterinarian will tell you that more than two or three seizures in a twenty-four hour period means that I should take him in. We've done that. He's gone in for observation in the past. He's gone in for sedation to break the cycle. It doesn't do any good. His cycle breaks when it breaks--there's no way to intervene.

Last February he had a spell that was this bad. I was administering diazepam like it was going out of style. That would make him sleep instead of constantly pacing, but it didn't break the cycle. Only time broke the cycle. I trucked him down to the neurologist anyway. Unfortunately, he told me the same thing I had surmised. There's nothing more to do. One day he's likely going to drop into "status epilepticus" and not come out. As of this morning, I thought today might be that day. Now, I'm not so sure.

I'm just waiting for the next episode.

So, on day five of the reclusion I'm not in a great mood. But I'm hopeful the last few days will just make me appreciate the coming weeks and months even more. 

Oh, and Merry Chirsmas (look at the photo). My friend and I found these at the Rite Aid a couple of months ago.

ShavedHeadAnother great day of reclusion. My brother was here for a while yesterday, making a bench down in my shop, and friends came over for dinner tonight. So it has felt like a full house for the past couple of days. Definitely not lonely at all. And with the holidays coming up, I'm definitely not going to feel isolated here. 

I shaved my head. I figured I won't be able to get haircuts, so I might as well maintain my own hair by cutting it all off. It's not my first time. It definitely gives me a there-are-many-like-it-but-this-one-is-mine look. That's okay. I promise not to hide any donuts in my footlocker.

I got some of my hydroponic gear in the mail today. I should start germinating my lettuce any day. 

I was watching some TV show while I biked today and one of the main characters had to take a second job. It kept him up all night working. The idea evoked fond memories for me. I've had jobs where working all night was a requirement. That level of fatigue really makes me feel like I've accomplished something. It occurred to me that I could force myself to work through the night, just to see how that goes. I wrote a couple of books late at night. In fact, I've woken up a few times and had to delete the gibberish that my sleeping fingers had tapped out. There's something fun about that. In fact, I could brew a pot of coffee and start right now!

I think I'll watch a movie and go to bed instead. My father is supposed to come tomorrow. I wouldn't want to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.

HangingDollI didn't leave the house today. I could have--solstice isn't until 11:49pm--but I didn't. Instead, I chose to stick to my routine. On a normal day, I like to get four things done. I write, I study Spanish, I exercise, and I work on some part of the house. I've been at this pattern for 669 days, not that anyone is counting.

I might shake up my schedule. I used to flip around my day every book or two, just to keep things interesting, but I've settled into a rut. It might be interesting to break up writing into two sessions. I wonder how that would alter my approach. I also had entire books that I wrote when I was listening to music. I haven't done that in quite a while either. 

No interesting revelations yet. I haven't discovered any fundamental insights into the human condition. I'm working on a series of books right now. I want to have at least two done before I release the first, so I won't have anything to show for it until January. Initially, I thought I would put out the first in December, but there's no need to rush it. I think everyone is busy with friends and family this time of year. January is typically a slow mony for me. Maybe I can spice it up with a release. After that, who knows. It would be great to get back to putting out a book each month. That gives me a concrete schedule to stick to. 

IMG 4244Today was my test run. I went out yesterday and bought the last of what I thought I might need. I got the last of my perishables, and picked up a couple of items from Home Depot for ongoing projects. As I relaxed for the evening, I found random cravings popping up. Wouldn't it be nice to have some Reddi-wip (Real Cream Whipped Topping)? I can't tell you the last time I bought Reddi-wip for myself. I took some (by request) to my brother's on Thanksgiving for his sweet potato pie, but for myself? 

Still, I thought about how easy it would be to get my hands on some. I'm not sure what I would do with it. 

I didn't really want the Reddi-wip. It was the notion of running out for something that I hadn't planned for. The world is full of impulse items, Reddi to consume. The solstice occurs at 11:49pm on Monday the 21st. Techically, I have twenty-four hours for any last-minute needs.

I think I'm going to experiment with hydroponics. I've been reading about how to grow lettuce indoors with a simple hydroponic setup. It seems like a fun diversion. The UPS guy brought the rest of the dog food today. This is the food that I tried to order through Petco, so the UPS guy wouldn't have to make a special trip to my house. Petco, of course, didn't understand the meaning of "order," or "food," or "customer," so they didn't actually have the food in stock when I went to pick it up.

I said to the driver, "I tried to order through Petco so you wouldn't have to deliver. They had less than three-hundred pounds when I went in. That's why I had to get another couple of hundred from you. Sorry about that!"

He didn't seem to care much about whether or not Petco fulfilled their part of the deal. He cocked his head at my story and looked perturbed/confused. Finally he asked, "What the hell are you feeding?" I hadn't told him that I was hoarding a three-month supply of food. This is information that I tend to keep to myself. I pointed at the window where my dogs were watching the transaction.

He looked at them and said, "Big dogs."

I gestured to the two-hundred pounds of food stacked on my porch and said, "This will last a week."

HorseFood

I can feel my world starting to narrow, but in a good way. Today I went to the doctor, purchased emergency gasoline, and picked up 300 pounds of dog food. It was supposed to be 450 pounds of dog food. Apparently, Petco and I have differing opinions on the purpose of a "special order." To them, it just meant that they would give me whatever food they had when I came in. That means that I'll have to order the rest of the food through their website and have it delivered by UPS. I was trying to avoid giving the UPS driver a hernia, but c'est la vie.

I'm a little concerned that mice will get into the horse feed. My little horse could make it through the winter on hay alone, so it won't be a crisis, but I don't like the idea of subsidizing a million mice with all of my stockpiled food.

What's left to do? I'm still collecting some first aid supplies. I hadn't planned on it, but a friend suggested that it would suck to have a two-day headache while I waited for Amazon to deliver aspirin. That brings up an important topic--I'm still planning on buying things through Amazon on occasion. I buy dog bones through them, and other things, like soap. I have no intention of stopping that, but some people have objected. At least three people have suggested that I'm cheating if I don't try to survive on only the things I've stockpiled. That seems extreme. 

It's weird how a lot of people are concerned that I'm crazy for shutting myself in, and other people are angry that I'm not going far enough. A couple of months ago, I hadn't even thought of this experiment, and now everyone seems to have opinions on the right way to do it. 

Tonight I'm going to see Star Wars. It will be my last movie until spring. I hope it's good!

cabinYou've finally finished all your errands, and you're finally able to rest. You've got your book, a hot cup of tea, and it's just starting to snow outside. The small pockets of air captured between the snowflakes absorb sound. That's why it's so quiet and cozy.

This is the experiment--how long can you make that feeling last?

In my experience, the feeling of calm contentment lasts only minutes, maybe an hour. There's always another obligation that comes to mind. I hope that the snow will be plowed so I can drive to the grocery store, or get to my dentist appointment. Winter is a constant battle between inertia and opportunity. I want to simply hunker down, but I'm forced to contend with the elements so I can go get a prescription filled or pick up alfafa cubes for the horse.

This winter, I'm trying something different. I've run around for the past month, preparing. I bought a chest freezer and filled it with frozen vegetables. I filled the barn with feed and shavings. I ordered 450 pounds of dog food. 

Here's my goal: I'm not going to leave my property this winter. I live in Maine, so it's fair to say that winter lasts about six months, but for this experiment I'll go with the calendar definition of winter. I won't leave the property from December 21st to March 21st. I'm not going to bar the door against guests, and I'll make an exception for medical emergencies.

Last winter I had to pick up my father from the hospital a couple of times. That may happen again. I also care for an epileptic dog who may need to visit the emergency room. I won't hesitate to leave in those situations. Technically, one could argue that my mailbox is on the neighbor's property. I'm not going to split hairs over that. I will pick up my mail. Those are the exceptions. 

Why? I don't know. In my experience, nothing good comes from leaving the house in the winter time. The roads are questionable. It's cold out. I get all the human interaction I need from people who come by the house. I'm almost certain that I won't go stir crazy or experience any ill effects from this experiment. But, of course, I could be wrong. That's the most compelling reason to do this experiment. I want to know how well I know myself. Will these walls feel like a prison over the course of ninety days? I doubt it.

I often feel like I have everything I need right here. This is a good chance to prove it.

I've made a few concessions. I will miss lettuce and fresh fruit. I'm going to try to grow lettuce indoors. We'll see how that goes. I'll keep you posted about my progress for as long as I can. Eventually I might get paranoid and cut my connection to the internet with a big axe. We'll see.

Wish me luck!

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Subcategories

Reclusion - the state of being separated from society, but this word carries the connotation that the separation is a chosen way of life. 

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