Back from the Beyond…August 29, 2020

Yeah.

It’s been quite a while now since my last blog post, and after I had said that I’d be making a better effort to keep up with my blog. My bad.

Last time I told you about some upcoming changes with my work life that were going to affect me to a significant degree, and I figure I should update you all on how those changes played out. But I do have some other, more important news.

Those of you who are Facebook Friends of mine may already know, but this past Friday evening, August 21st, at 10:28 pm, while at work, I finished writing the first draft of my latest Novel Attempt, Captain Canuck – Renegade.

I had to wait until I got home after midnight to type what I’d written at work into my Chromebook, and then back it up several times and print out the final bit to put in with the rest, but after nearly ten months of working on this project, it’s finally done.

Like my last novel attempt, this one was also a Nanowrimo project. For those who don’t know what that is, Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month is an online writing challenge where you challenge yourself to write 50,000 words towards a novel in 30 days. From November 1st to November 30th, you have to write an average of 1667 words each day to finish the challenge. You post your progress on-line and offer and receive encouragement to and from others who are also participating in the challenge.

It’s difficult, but certainly not impossible to “win” the challenge, and honestly, the only thing you really “win” is bragging rights and the satisfaction of knowing you can actually write that much in that little time.

You also end up with a good chunk of a nearly written novel, so why not just go ahead and finish it?

This was the second time I participated in Nano, and the second time I’ve “won”. It’s also the second time I’ve gone on to finish my Nano project. This time out it took me about a month longer to finish writing a draft than my first time, even though my first novel attempt came out being over twice as long as this one.

My first Nano project, a Space-Opera adventure story titled HMCS Bonaventure, came in at over 250,000 words, which is about more than twice as long as a sci-fi novel should be. Captain Canuck – Renegade, on the other hand, came in at a much trimmer 130,000 words, and though that’s still a bit long-ish, it is a much more reasonable size for a non-epic adventure story. I’m hoping that means that I’ve learned how to say more with fewer words this time out.

Despite this draft being only half as long, it still took me longer to write, about a month longer in fact. You’d think that with all of the time off of work I had during the COVID Lock-down from mid-March to mid-May (for me, anyway), I would have been done long ago, but I’m coming to realize just how much the pandemic-scare affected me, though I didn’t see it at the time.

Throughout that time, I became very withdrawn, pulling away from contact with family and friends, isolating myself in my office or my move theatre, spending most of my time just falling do    wn You-tube holes. A lot of the home-reno projects I had on the go languished, as did personal projects like my writing.

Those of you who know me or have been following me for a while know that I’m normally a very active person, always having three or seven projects on the go, but during that lockdown time, my activity level slowed to a crawl, as did my interaction with people in general, even those I was living with.

It was also then that I had a rather intense health scare and ended up having to go on daily insulin injections. All of that combined did not make for an atmosphere conducive to writing, or for much else truth be told.

I did eventually manage to pull myself out of that funk. Having to go on daily insulin was an obvious wake-up call, both for my health and for the way I was living my life day to day. I made active attempts to get up out of my office chair and do something, or if I was going to sit in my chair, to do something productive.

It took time, but I gradually got back to something closer to my previous, more active self.

So, now I have two completed First Drafts of two, very different novels. Each one is it’s very own special brand of a Giant Pile Of Shit, but they’re my Giant Piles of Shit, and that in itself is an accomplishment. I still have to go through the editing process for both, giving them a read-through and a liberal pass with the Red Pen of Doom before starting on a Second Draft, which is something I have yet to learn how to go about doing.

Editing is something I’m going to have to figure out soon if I’m ever going to turn either of these manuscripts into something remotely readable. That’s a project I should really get on, but summer is winding down, and fall is waiting in the wings. Soon enough, it will be November again, so I’ll have to set aside some time soon to start planning and researching my next Novel attempt.

I’m hoping to write a novel each year until I retire from work. That will give me at least seven novels, each one hopefully better than the previous until I can consistently write something that people will enjoy reading. That’s the goal, anyway. We’ll see how that turns out.

I’m thinking I’d like to try writing a Gothic Horror/Romance this next time out, but I’m likely to change my mind by then. I wouldn’t mind revisiting the crew of the Bonaventure again either and fleshing out that universe a bit more. I’ve got a couple of months to decide.

Otherwise, life hasn’t bee too bad. The area in which I live, Windsor, Ontario, finally made it into Phase Three” of the Provincial Re-Opening Plan, pushing things a little bit closer to the pre-COVID normal, which has helped my mood a great deal. It means I’ve been able to go out again and enjoy a few of the things we all had to give up during lock-down.

I still take precautions, both mandated and recommended, and I’m very respectful of the staff of the few places I’ve gone, but it’s been very nice to be able to sit at a pub’s patio and have a cold pint again during these sweltering August days, eating in a restaurant even though every other table is empty, shopping at the local mall again, or going to the gym.

As I said, I’m fastidious in following all the mandated and recommended guidelines for doing all of those things right now – wearing a face mask, social distancing, etc, so it makes me extra angry when I see people still flaunting those mandates, either out of ignorance or obstinance. If we do see a significant Second Wave that drives us back into Lock-down, those people will undoubtedly be a big part of the reason why.

But I don’t want to go off on that tangent here. Those of you who follow me on Facebook probably already know my (strong) feelings on that subject.

So, beyond all of that, what have I been up to? Well, in my last post I mentioned that I had taken a new position at work, something off of the Assembly-Line proper and in more of a “leadership” position. This move also coincided with my having to switch shifts from permanent midnights to a days/afternoons swing shift, as the company had decided to reduce the number of shifts at my plant from three to two.

I’ve actually been doing really well with both of those changes. I knew the shift change was inevitable – they had announced it over a year prior and kept postponing it until this past July, so I had ample time to mentally prepare for it. When the day finally came to switch over I was kind of ready, and the shock of going from living like a vampire to an actual human being was minimal.

The day I switched shifts was also my first day at my new position, so that may have distracted me somewhat from the fact that I was now working when I’d normally be sleeping. As for the new job, I’m really enjoying it, and glad I took the leap. I’m usually a very quiet person at work, keeping to myself and only interacting with others when absolutely necessary. This job requires just the opposite of me, so it was a bit of a big deal. Also, it involves a lot of running.

The position is called “Team Leader”, and I essentially over-see a team of 6-10 people (7 in my case), making sure each of them has everything they need to do their jobs. I also cover them when they need to use the rest-room, or if they need to go to first aid. I’m also responsible for any repairs that come from the jobs in my team if there’s an issue with parts or with the job’s operation.

There is also quite a bit of paper/computer work I’m responsible for – tracking defects or line down-time, filling out training reports, quality checks, etc. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but I’m a quick learner. I’ve had to pretty much learn the job on my own as I go, despite a week of rather slip-shod training during the plant’s summer shut down. The people who were supposed to provide me with my “on the job” instruction have been unavailable for one reason or another (which is not surprising, given who they happen to be, trust me), so I’ve had to try and learn how to fill out all my reports and where to find the data I need on my own or by asking for help from other Team Leaders nearby.

I’ve managed, though, and have gotten my team running pretty well. Everyone seems to like me and things I’m doing a good job. I help them out as much as I can, giving them extra breaks when I have some free time, and so far no one has tried to take advantage of me. Everyone seems really appreciative of my efforts. So, the whole work transition thing went/is going pretty well.

Beyond all of that, I’ve been managing to keep busy by working on some projects around the house, and some fun, personal projects on the side.

The big project I tackled this summer was replacing the eaves-troughs on the house. The old gutters were getting rather leaky, especially in the corners, and I’d been meaning to either re-do them or have them re-done for a few years now, and so I finally decided to get to it while I was on my shut-down from work.

Our plant shuts down every summer for two (sometimes more) weeks for model-year change-over and large maintenance projects. I had to go in for training during one of our down weeks, so I only had the one week off. In lieu of the second week, I get an extra week of deferred vacation time that I can book whenever I’d like.

I rented a couple of 12-foot step-ladders (I hate extension ladders), picked up everything I needed from the Home-Box store, asked my son for a little bit of help and got to work. It took me nearly three days to do the whole thing – we have a split-level home with essentially two separate roofs at two different heights, and the roofs slant on all four sides, so it required a lot of gutters.

I don’t think I did too bad a job – there are no leaks anymore, and things look pretty good from the ground level. By doing it myself (with my son’s help), I figure I saved about $3000, which is great.

I also got into some fun, personal projects. A few years ago, while doing some research on prop-making for cosplay, I stumbled on a website about making custom action figures. Essentially, you take an action figure that has a similar body shape and styling to the character you’d like to make it into, file away the bits you don’t want, add on the bits you do want but it doesn’t have by adding and shaping bits of craft polymer clay onto it, bake it so the clay hardens to plastic and then repaint the figure to match the character you like it to look like.

Many of you know that I’m a big Captain Canuck fan, which can be frustrating at times because it is very difficult to find a lot of cool merchandise that’s Cap’n related. I’ve got t-shirts and coffee mugs and all of the comics, old and new, that I can get my hands on, plus some creator/artist autographs and posters, but other than the 8-inch “Mego” style figure I have, there are no action figures. So I finally decided to make my own.

My son had an old Flash figure he gave me, and I found a usable Batman at a flea-market, so I customized both into the original Cap’n from the ’70s, and the newer modern version from 2014. Both came out great.

I posted pics in a Canuck Fans Facebook group, and a gentleman named Martin Boruta from a website called First Comic News saw them and thought they were so good that he sent me a bunch of great Captain Canuck swag, including variant-cover comic issues, trading cards and even a sketch of the Cap’n signed by creator Richard Comely. I was very appreciative of all of the unexpected loot, and I thanked him publicly, but I really should get around to sending him something back.

I also got it into my head to make a few small but cool projects for my Zoom-based D&D game, which is still going on. I made a giant 20-sided die out of scrap plywood that I had lying around the shop, which was a fun project to figure out, and I made a new, more stable top for my once-rickety old card table that I use for my gaming nights.

My latest side project is building a custom computer desk for my son to replace the old press-board one that’s starting to show it’s age. He recently bought himself a new laptop, so I figured I’d make him a new desk to co along with it.

This summer, my daughter gave us quite a surprise (not that). She’d recently graduated from University, for which we are obviously very proud, and she got a very nice promotion at work. Until recently, we were providing the kids with a car to get back and forth to their school and work, but on her own, and without our help, my daughter went out and bought herself a very nice new-to-her car.

She bought herself a nice 2016 Jeep Cherokee Sport in very good shape, with low-ish mileage and for what I would say was a good price. While she did come to me for some advice after she’d found the car and had already started some negotiations over it, I do kind of wish that she’d wanted me to be a bit more involved with the deal.

Not that I’m certain I could have done any better than she did, but still, as her dad, it would have been nice to have been a bit more involved. I am very proud of her, none-the-less, and am very glad that she is happy with her new car.

Speaking of the kids, I’ve been actively working to try and improve my relationship with both of them since things soured a bit after Father’s Day and the stress of the Lockdown.

My son and I have gotten much closer, as we’ve each made a more concerted effort to try and relate to each other. While I do have some anxiety issues, my son’s are more pronounced, and we each deal with our separate issues differently. I’ve made a real effort in trying more to understand and support him in his ways of handling his anxieties, rather than trying to get him to deal with things the way I would. He’s also made an effort to understand that when I’m offering suggestions, it’s not meant as a criticism of how he’s handling things, but an honest effort to try and help.

So, things with my son have been improving. With my daughter…

She’s at a point in her life where she’s itching to move on on her own, without her parents holding her hand, and the current situation with the pandemic isn’t exactly helping. Though it, of course, makes me sad, and of course she will always be my little girl, she’s also her own woman, and I have to accept that and try not to interfere in the way she wants to live her life.

I can only love her and hope that someday we’ll stop drifting apart and start drifting closer again. Either way, I’ll always be here for her whether she needs me or not.

Since my last post, I’ve been doing pretty good health-wise. My blood sugar has been consistently good-ish, but I really should go and get an A1-C test done soon, now that the medical labs are open again. I’ve been good with taking all of my meds when I’m supposed to, been “mostly” good with sticking to a healthy diet, and I continue to exercise five times a week on average, and now that the gyms are open again, I can get a bit more variety to my workouts.

So, I guess that’s about it for my very late, very long-winded update. I can say that I’m going to try and do a better job keeping up with posting regularly, but by now I think we all know how likely that will be.

I will check in semi-regularly at least, I promise that. I do want you all to know, though, especially those of you that I haven’t been able to see in person since this whole pandemic thing started, that I miss you all.

For all of you, I hope you’re doing well, not just surviving, but thriving.

Best,

Rob the Writer 😉

 

 

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