Chinese Illustrations for THE MEMORY THIEF

I know I said I was taking a break from blogging, but imagine my surprise the other morning when I got an email about the upcoming printing of THE MEMORY THIEF in Chinese. I’d posted the cover a few months ago, which was exciting and different. Unknown to me, my Chinese publisher also decided to commission a series of illustrations for the book as well.

Better yet, I get to share them with you . . . now!

Illustrations THE MEMORY THIEF by Bryce Moore

I think these are beautiful. So cool to see their interpretation of some of these scenes, noticing how they depicted details, from the ghost of Louis to Genevieve’s tattoos.

I can’t wait to see the edition in print!

Anyway. I’m now going back on hiatus. Thanks for reading!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Family is a Solar System

Today marks the last full day I’ll be at home without my family. That’s definitely a good thing. A house is a very empty thing when you’re used to having four other people living in it. It’s not been too much fun to be by myself all this time, though there have been a few things I’ve observed in the week and a half.

First off, families take up a lot of time in ways you just don’t notice day in, day out. There are expectations in a family. It’s a team sport, so to speak. There are bedtimes to orchestrate, dinners to arrange, chores to coordinate, and personal goals to achieve. In a way, a family is like a solar system. Each planet has its own set of moons, its own orbit, its own climate and troubles. When things run smoothly, then all is in its right balance, and it all works out. When some of that goes off in an unexpected direction, it can upset everything else.

(Which leads me to wonder, of course, what the family revolves around. While I’d love to say “Me,” that wouldn’t be accurate at all. I think the family revolves around the shared idea of what the family goals are. In our family, it’s a shared sense of responsibility and love. Those are the things that keep yanking us back to gravitational center whenever one of us starts heading off in a new direction. A family that revolves around any one person is more of an entourage than an actual family unit.)

When all those little planets are gone, it’s amazing how easy it is to do whatever you want. It was 8:30, and I needed something from the store, so I just hopped in the and got it. I didn’t need to check with anyone. Didn’t need to worry about abandoning any obligations. I was wholly in charge of my schedule, so I knew what needed doing and when.

I’ve gotten a lot done in the week and a half. I’ve basically done it by making a huge To Do list and then crossing things off it one by one, rewarding myself with video games. I could play another 15 minutes if I got another item on the list done. That sort of thing.) But I’ve also been able to do so much because there’s so much more time available to me. Dinner has been really easy. I just eat cold oatmeal every night. That meant I didn’t have to cook, and I didn’t have to do any dishes. Normally we eat dinner as a family, taking time to watch something together or talk together. But I just ate whenever I felt like it, usually pairing it up with a quick video game session.

So many of the obligations of a family come on you one at a time, spread out over years. Marriage. Children. Home ownership. When I go away for a conference I don’t notice those obligations being gone, because there are plenty of other things there to keep me busy. The same is true on vacations. But when the whole family leaves at once, you can’t help but notice it.

It’s pretty lonely.

But that’s done now, for the most part. I’ve got a ton to get ready before I leave. This is likely my last blog post for a while, as I’ll be off gallivanting around Europe. There’s a chance I’ll pop in here and there to say something, but it’s doubtful. Have an excellent rest of your summer, and I’ll see you toward the end of August!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Wood Stacking Your Way Through Life

When Denisa left last week, I knew I had several things I wanted to get done before I had to head over to Europe myself. Near the top of the list? Stack two cord of wood so it can season properly for winter. It had been dumped in a big pile in front of one of our garage doors, and I wanted to be able to park the car there before I left, as well.

Stacking wood isn’t a glamorous job. It’s not particularly difficult, and you have a very good idea of what it will take to complete it before you begin. Each piece of wood in the pile needs to be picked up, moved, and stacked somewhere else. Hardly rocket science.

But starting a chore like that can be a real pain, especially when you know you’ll be doing it by yourself. (Typically I have children around to set to the task.)

When I’m in a situation like that, I used to let it overwhelm me. I’d look at the amount of work that needs to be done and feel like it was was far too much for me to handle just yet. Procrastination would kick in, and before I knew it, I’d be under the gun and scrambling to finish the job in time.

These days, I approach it the same way I approach writing a novel.

The first step is to figure out how much time I have. If I’m under a deadline, things change a fair bit. For this, I knew I had about nine days to stack the wood. So a deadline, but nothing insurmountable.

My next step is to do a bit of the work and gauge how long it takes. What’s a good amount I can do easily, without having to worry about it too much? For wood stacking, I have a lawn cart I use to get the job done. I fill it up with wood, pull it over to the new spot, and unload it. I did that once and estimated how big of a dent that made on the stack. Nothing huge, but then again, it hadn’t taken me more than 5 minutes to do. I did it four more times, doing a bit of quick math in my head as I progressed.

Experience had taught me a cord of wood is around 18 loads of my lawn cart. Two cord would be 36. Five loads took less than a half hour, and while I was a bit sweaty, it was nothing I was too worried about. 9 days, 5 loads a day, would equal out to 45 loads. Well over what I’d need.

So that was what I did. Each day, I’d go out for 25 minutes or so and do 5 loads with my lawn cart. Sure, some of the days I didn’t feel like doing it, but even on those days, I could tell myself it was just 5 loads. What’s the big deal? And I’d get them done. I finished the job yesterday.

I’ve been doing the same thing as I clean the house while they’re away. It’s the same thing I do when I’m writing. I know from experience 1,000 words isn’t too terribly much for me to get done in a day. (It used to be 500 words way back when, but I increased it a long time ago to keep pushing myself.) Sure, there are days I don’t want to do it, but even on those days, I can tell myself it’s just 1,000 words. Sometimes I’ll even break that down further. It’s just 100 words, ten times.

I find that when I handle big jobs like that, a piece each day, I am much more effective than when I get overwhelmed by a task all at once. Sure, sometimes I don’t have that luxury. There’s a deadline that needs to be met. But when possible, this is the one trick I use to get just about anything done.

Tiny bites. Little loads. They add up over time.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Does That Make Sense?

When I was teaching my fiction workshop a few weeks ago, we were in the second class, critiquing each other’s works. I was giving my impressions of one piece, and a student commented, “You say ‘Does that make sense’ a lot.” It didn’t really have a lot to do with the critique I was giving at the moment, so I didn’t think too much about it, but then I started to catch myself saying that phrase a ton. She was right.

I *do* say “Does that make sense” a lot.

So of course the question I asked myself was, “Why?”

And as I’ve thought through it for the past week and a half or so, I think there are a couple of reasons for it. The biggest one is that I feel a continual drive to be a sensible person. One who thinks things through and makes reasoned decisions. I’m not typically obsessed with being right or wrong, so long as the arguments I make have a solid foundation. This is in large part due to the fact that I don’t believe there’s often a right or wrong answer to a question. There are multiple viewpoints, some of them more valid than others, based primarily on the issue of whether those viewpoints can be justified.

If I’m not making sense, then I like to know it. Or even if I’m perceived to not be making sense. I still reserve the right to evaluate the criticism and decide if it’s justified or not, but it’s important to me to hear it in the first place.

The second reason I think I use the phrase a fair bit is in an attempt to be polite. Asking “Does that make sense” allows me to rephrase a statement if it comes off in a way I didn’t intend. It gives the person I’m speaking to a chance to feel comfortable objecting to something I’ve said. Since I was in a situation where I was critiquing a series of fiction submissions by high school students, I was on my best behavior, trying to walk the line between being too nice and being too critical, and that overloaded my “be nice” vocabulary, so I just fell back on the ol’ “Does that make sense” approach.

There are other phrases I catch myself overusing. “Bluntly put.” “Jiminy Christmas.” I’m sure there are more. I suppose we all have our go-to phrases. When I write, they’re easier to catch, and I go through and mix things up more. But when I speak, I fall back on familiar words in an attempt to communicate as quickly and easily as possible.

Does that make sense?

What are some of the phrases you over-use? Have you ever had someone call you out on one?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Adventures in Freezer Jam

When we moved into our house, Denisa immediately looked at the property and thought “fruit trees.” Not that we had any fruit trees at the time, but she bought some saplings and planted them, and in the intervening 11 years, she’s faithfully pruned them (or had someone help her prune them some years), cared for them, and watched them. The one thing she generally hasn’t been able to do is harvest them. We’ve got apple trees and a cherry tree and a couple other trees that I’ve been told are fruit trees, but I haven’t personally seen any real fruit come off them, so I remain unconvinced.

Up until last year, the apple trees put out maybe 5 apples total. The cherry tree fell into the “I don’t think that’s actually a fruit tree” category.

Until this year, when the cherry tree when crazy. Cherries all over the place. And cherries are one of Denisa’s favorite fruit. Naturally, that meant she ended up leaving the country right as the cherries were getting ripe. She had time to pick a few and make a single cake with them, and that was all.

I’ve always been quite clear with my intentions for our property. I mow the lawn, and that’s about it. I’ve been known to rototill a garden now and then, but I don’t think Denisa would ever say anything like “Bryce does a lot of yard work.” It just doesn’t happen. That’s her department. And so when she was gearing up to head off to Europe, she didn’t even really ask me to do anything with anything. Which was fine by me.

But I’ve been out stacking wood. (Two cord this year. Not much. I’m doing five carts a day, which only takes like 25 minutes. Easy.) And that meant I was out next to that cherry tree day after day. Noticing those cherries. Thinking about all the years Denisa has waited for those cherries to actually exist.

Which is how I found myself up in that cherry tree two days ago, picking as many as I could reach. I’m such a sucker.

In the end, I got about two gallons of cherries. There were still a number up high that I couldn’t get to, but I figured the birds could handle those. The next question was what to do with all of them. Even I realized these cherries would be no good if they just stayed in the fridge for a month.

Denisa makes freezer jam all the time with all sorts of fruit. Would that work for cherries? A bit of googling, and I found out I had sour cherries on my hands, and that yes, they make good freezer jam. But I had it in my head that I needed plastic jars for freezer jam. I had no plastic jars. So at 9 o’clock two nights ago, I went to Walmart. It’s a big store. They had to have those jars there, right?

Wrong. No plastic jars. I tried the grocery store too. No plastic jars. So I bought stuff to make regular jam.

At that point, I figured it was time to call in the experts. I mentioned it to Denisa, and she said she just uses glass jars. Go figure. I had plenty of those. Last night, Operation Cherry Jam began.

I know a lot of you do stuff like this all of the time. You could probably make freezer jam while you danced the polka. I, on the other hand, have never made any sort of jam. There was a lot of me looking things up online and checking the recipe. I needed 5 cups of cherries, finely diced. Do you measure the cherries before you dice them, or after? I started with before, but then I switched to after. I’m still not sure which is right.

Pitting the cherries was a big pain at first. Supposedly you can take a bobby pin and do it “easily.” I couldn’t find a bobby pin, so I tried a chopstick. It sent juice everywhere. In the end, I went with the brute force approach. I was going to chop these cherries up anyway, so what did I care what they looked like? I just squeezed the pits out, one at a time, using my hands to keep the juice from going everywhere. It worked. (Mostly.)

But those cherries had a lot of juice in them. Especially after I did 5 cups’ worth. Was I supposed to include the juice in the jam, or not? I ended up including it.

The actual jam recipe was pretty easy. You just mixed sugar with this powder stuff, then added the cherries (and juice?), stirred for three minutes, and stuck it into jars. No need to even heat anything up. In the end, I had 4 jars of “jam.” It was pretty liquidy, and I had no idea if it would set or not. You’re supposed to leave it out of the fridge for a half hour, then put it in the fridge for 24 hours, and then into the freezer.

This morning when I checked the jam: success! It had set. So at the very least I made a jam-like substance. I have no idea if it tastes good or not. I have my doubts. But the cherries were used.

As for the remaining cherries? I stuck them all on a baking tray and froze them. Doing another batch of jam just wasn’t in the cards for me.

Will I make freezer jam again? Possibly, I suppose. The whole process took about an hour and a half, including clean up, which isn’t terrible. But the big thing for me is that you can go to this place called “the store” and buy jam there. I would rather buy the nicest jam I could than do that freezer jam thing again.

But for Denisa? For those cherries she’s been wanting for so long? I guess I’ve got a soft spot there.

Here’s hoping it actually tastes good. And that next year, we get cherries again, and Denisa is here to jam ’em up.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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