Monday, January 22, 2018

Wonderful Weekend

We had beautiful weather here this past weekend. Neither I, nor my husband had to work, which is rare, so we enjoyed some family time. We went to a nearby park we enjoy that has a lot of pokestops, duck ponds, and a dog park. It's a fun place to walk. As we pulled into the parking lot, it was clear there was something more than normal going on, and it was our daughter who first caught made the deduction that there were an unusual number of people playing Pokemon Go, so there must be something special happening in the game.

She was right. There were large-ish groups of people standing together in areas we knew to be Pokemon Go gyms. Then we started spotting groups and families all wearing pokemon t-shirts, or hats, and even a kid dressed as pikachu. Maybe it's just the unusually beautiful January weather calling folks to get outside while they have the chance, I thought. My husband, however, Googled to find out what was happening, and sure enough there was some sort of special Pokemon Go event with special pokemon available to be caught only that day.

While we aren't the type to chat with strangers, it was still fun to be around so many other people playing while we walked and hunted pokemon. There were also slightly more folks out with there dogs then we usually see there - those ones probably really were just taking the opportunity to get out on a nice day. So we were surrounded with dog walkers and pokemon players. Our kind of people. It was a nice day.

As a side note - and a request for advice: my youngest has a fire tablet that we tethered to my phone via making my phone a wi-fi hotspot so that she could also play. Her tablet requires wi-fi to play Pokemon Go. But it didn't work very well. It kept either claiming no GPS signal, or placing her somewhere strange on the map that didn't look like anywhere we actually were. She got frustrated enough to give up playing. If anyone has tips on how to get that system to work better, I'd love suggestions. Thanks!

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 Plans

I don't feel the need to make a list of grand resolutions this year, something I usually enjoy doing. While I do want to lose weight, procrastinate less, sleep better, exercise more, etc., etc., all those things everyone wants, I feel I'm moving forward, slow but steady on these fronts without resolutions, so I won't mess with progress.

More time devoted to writing is always something I want to work on. I think I did better this year, but maybe didn't have as much improvement as in other areas of my life. Striving to post here three times a week was a good goal, one I enjoyed, and will continue. I also tried to have a new short story to post every Friday. I missed that goal a lot, but not as much as I thought I might. I deciding how I want to proceed there.

I'm thinking I might like to start submitting some short stories to paying markets again. That process was slow and frustrating, and time consuming to research, so I needed the break I took last year. Now, though, I feel ready again. One new story a week was probably too much for me, especially if I want to continue to make progress on my novels as well, so maybe I'll have a goal on one month instead. Two a month? We'll see.

The revisions on my first complete novel are going better than I expected. I'm not sick of the story or the characters yet. That's impressive for me. I will hopefully have that ready for critique readers on a month or so.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

As Promised - the New Kitten

Panther the kitten. photo by Kara Hartz
Her name is Panther. She was about 4 - 4 1/2 months old when we adopted her from the pound. She is perfect and delightful. Playful, silly, yet well behaved and cuddly. I thought I've give her and Meeko 2 weeks to start getting along before I worried about them. They were playing and sleeping together on day 3, and I'm not sure day 2 even counted since she wasn't home all day. (She was with me at work getting her check up from the doctor).

She is everything I said I didn't want in a new kitten. She was bottle raised, and she's a girl, and still, I don't think we could have found a more perfect fit for our hose than this fun cutie.

Meeko and Panther. photo by Kara Hartz
On a personal note, I may not have been actually ready for a new cat so soon after Bob. I thought, since we had discussed and wanted a kitten for awhile now, we were just holding off since Bob wasn't doing well and we didn't want to add additional stress to his life, that it wasn't as though she were replacing him. We had plans for a kitten anyway, and Meeko seemed lonely. Only when I found myself constantly worrying about her, thinking something was wrong, or I should be doing more to care for her did I realize I was transferring all my unused worry and care taking time for Bob and placing it on poor little Panther, who didn't need it.

Kara and Panther selfie

I'm far from being done mourning Bob. I think I'm leaving denial, and maybe moving into guilt and/or depression, but I'm coping. I may not be ready to bond again, but she is cute to watch and play with, and I keep reminding myself she's fine. She doesn't need medicine or trips to the vet. She needs playtime and cuddles, and we'll both be okay eventually. The kids love her and she loves them. We are going to do all right here.

Friday, December 29, 2017

New Short Story Collection Availble



My second collection of short fiction is available now on Kindle at Amazon. It will be available at other online retailers and in print soon.

These stories were the ones I wrote special for Free (sometimes Flash) Fiction Fridays here on my blog, so if you care to delve through the older posts, you can read all the stories for free right here. If you don't want to do the digging, or you just want to support my writing, then you can buy the book by clicking the link above.

Thanks!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I Now Know What I Want to Say About Bob

A story:

When Bob was brought in by Animal Control to the veterinary hospital where I was working he was badly injured. They said he had been trapped 'under something'. His tail was dead - he couldn't move or feel it, and he would step on it because he didn't know where it was. It was also degloved, meaning the skin was all removed, as if removing a glove. He was also saturated with urine from the waist down.

Now, when Animal Services brought injured pets to us they were not doing so so that we could care for them. The policy was that we were to examine them and make sure they were stable enough to go to the pound until their person came to get them, or they moved into adoption after the holding period. So we were not allowed to take xrays or give him any sort of treatment. Naturally, we still cleaned him up as best we could without funds, and fed him.

He was, of course, very distressed. When alone in his cage he would pace and yowl, and appear miserable, tripping over his own dead tail. It was sad. But if I sat next to his cage, he would calm down. If I opened his cage and pet him, he even started to seem happy, despite his injuries. So I sat with him a lot, and I fell in love.

Later in the afternoon, when the Animal Control officer came back to get him, I asked what would happen to him. He explained that he would be held for five days, then if no one claimed him he would go up for adoption. He told me that if I wanted him, that I should call each day to check in because he might be considered unadoptable due to his injuries and euthanized unless they knew someone was waiting for him.

So I called every day. I asked if he had been claimed. I told them that when his hold was up, I was going to come take him. When could I come get him? They told me to call tomorrow.

Until the fifth day. I asked if he'd been claimed.
No.
OK, I'm going to come adopt him today.
Oh, no you can't. He isn't neutered, and he's too sick to neuter now, so he can't be adopted. Only a rescue organization can take an unneutered pet.
But I've called every day - why am I just learning this now?
Not my problem.

I had until the end of the day to get a rescue organization to vouch for him. I made so many calls. I don't remember how many. I hate talking on the phone - but I was mad, and I was afraid. Only two rescue organizations ever bothered to call me back. One, the Contra Costa Humane society and a wonderful woman whos name I am ashamed I don't remember, but it was maybe Lori, or Lauren, drove up from Lafayatte to Martinez to meet me at the shelter and get Bob out for me. After she helped me, she stayed to look around the pound to see if there were other animals she could get out while she was there.

We took Bob straight to surgery. Needless to say, five days sitting in a cage without care had not done him any favors. He did need another follow up surgery, and as anyone who has ever met me knows, he still had a lifetime of medical problems, but he was greatly loved, and made my life better, and much more interesting.

So, for anyone looking for end of the year charitable donations to make, might I suggest supporting the fine work of the folks at the Contra Costa Humane society? I am making a donation to them in Bob's honor and memory, and would not be upset if you were to join in.

I feel like I should add, here at the end of my story, that all this took place over 18 years ago. I have have had numerous dealings with both the Animal Shelter and various rescue groups over the years, and they have all improved greatly on all counts. Our new kitty, who I will be posting about soon, came from the Shelter, and looking through her history, I see she received excellent care in their hands.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bob has passed away

Bob the Cat ?/1998 - 12/2017

Bob passed away early in the morning last Saturday. We are all still adjusting to his absence. He has left a hole in our home and our hearts.  Bob had more than his share of physical problems, and limitations. He must have been in pain much of the time. And yet he was always happy, always purring, always wanting a lap and a head scratch. 

When someone was upset, or crying Bob would find them and try to offer comfort. It usually worked.

Despite his many health problems, he outlived several other cats in this household. His doctor put this down to his pleasant nature, his calm personality, and that he never worried or got stressed no matter what he was going through. 

I still catch myself looking for him, or worrying about him, or just wanting to hold him. I don't expect those feeling to go away very fast.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Not going to make it

I'm not going to win NaNoWriMo again this year. I had a very solid start, I thought this would be my year, but then life came along and expected me to do things other than write. I was nodding off at my computer, not hitting my words for the day, and as this state of affairs wore on, the finish line not getting any closer, I knew I had too much to make up to be able to get there.

Now, the wonderful thing about NaNoWriMo, and the reason I keep doing it year after year, after year despite losing almost always, is that even thought I'm going to 'lose', I have 28,453 words written as of today. I hope to at least get over 30,000 by the end. My normal monthly word count is probably 1/10th of that. That's nothing to be upset about.

From pushing myself to write more each day, I've learned what a comfortable amount of writing is for me in a sitting, and in a day, and it is much more than I've been doing prior to NaNo. I'll report in in another month, but I have a new system I'm going to try out for myself to make my writing more consistent based on what I've discovered about my process and what I think works for me and what does not.

Basically, I think daily, or at least almost every day daily writing does work better for me than letting days and days go by with nothing. I get more excited about my story, it stays in my head, and new ideas pop up when it stays in my head. However, forcing myself to write while exhausted, or drained from a hectic day produces stupid writing that is also tired and dull. So while I need to push myself, I need to stop short of force.

That's how NaNo went for me.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Respawn - Flash Fiction Friday

Act more casual she told herself. Stacy fiddled with the slip of paper in her pocket, folding and unfolding it with her fingers until she forced herself to stop. She took a deep breath, trying to relax.

The numbers on the paper were a clear message to her. In code. She recognized it at once. It was a code she and Hillary had used for fun for months now. But Hillary had gone missing last week after confiding in Stacy that she thought she was being watched. Now the code shows up.

It would be easy to decode, but Stacy had to get in the game. She arrived at the gaming cafe and walked in, not allowing herself to look around too much to see if anyone was following her. The cafe was less than half full. That was good. Enough people to blend into, enough open spaces to grab a terminal and get in and out again.

She ordered peppermint tea and took it to an open terminal where she could see the front door without turning. She logged in as a guest and created a new user registration for the game. Every dat that had passed since she last saw Hillary made her more paranoid. She didn't want to leave a digital trail of her own account info.

Once in the game though, the code didn't work. The numbers were in pairs, coordinates on the game map. Each should be a named location in the game and she should use the first letter of the location for the message, but the first five locations were in the middle of nowhere. No name to use.

Stacy sat back in her seat, staring at the screen and thought. What was wrong? Then it clicked. The cafe used the game's local server. Hillary was probably using the one for their home location, which was different. A different map.

Stacy glanced around. Was this the sort of place she could get away with hacking into to change servers? Would they even notice? It was a nice place. Upscale compared to the places she usually hung. There were only two employees, one was behind the counter and seemed to be keeping busy with orders, and the other moving around the cafe busing dishes, wiping tables, and such. She looked at the ceiling. Two black domes which were likely video cameras. Yet there were partitions around each terminal, so she didn't think the cameras were there to see what people were playing. The cameras would have a tough time seeing any screens. The benefits of an upscale place – they wanted customers to feel a sense of privacy.

If anyone wanted to see what she was doing they could always check this station later. She was sure it kept a log of activity, but no one would look until after she had gone, and there was a little she could do real quick to cover her tracks before she went.

Halfway through this train of thought, she had already started hacking into her home region server, and five minutes later had deciphered the code. Hillary was safe. She'd learned it was her ex, Todd, who had been following her. Although he never seemed to accept the 'ex' part. So Hillary had disappeared. Not the first time she had had to do so, Stacy knew.

She also knew that when Hillary disappeared, she had left everyone she knew behind unaware. She had to. Todd could get to anyone and if anyone knew where Hillary had gone, Todd could find out. Stacy knew what it must have meant for Hillary to send her that code. To let Stacy know, to stay in touch at all. It was a risk.


Stacy did what she could to erase her tracks from the rental computer, finished her tea, and left. She thought she should find a way to respond, but she would have to find a safe way. After such a show of trust from Hillary, she would be damned if she would risk bringing her danger. She couldn't let Todd get anywhere near Hillary. But how? Perhaps she just had to wait, and trust Hillary would contact her again when she felt it was safe to do so. It was so frustrating to was to much to help and feel so powerless to do so. Maybe a better plan to keep her friend safe was to find a way to make sure Todd couldn't threaten Hillary ever again.