Driver’s Ed at Last

Tomas is coming up on his seventeenth birthday, but COVID derailed his driving plans until just last night. He had been planning on signing up for driver’s ed right about when COVID struck, and then . . . 2020 happened. He got on the waiting list for the program, and they just barely caught up with him.

It’s interesting to see how Maine approaches driver’s ed differently than Pennsylvania, where I got my license. He has to get ready for a written exam at the beginning of May. Once he’s passed that and taken the driving course as well as had some online instruction, he’ll have 6 months to get 70 hours of driving practice in with his parents. (10 hours of that has to be at night.) Then he’ll be eligible to take the road test. So the earliest he’ll be able to have his license at this point is the beginning of November.

It’s been so long ago that I got my license that I’ve forgotten a lot of what I had to do. I remember going to a driver’s ed course at the middle school, but as I recall, that was mainly because if you did that, then you qualified for reduced insurance rates? Something like that. I remember practicing driving with my mom and about giving her a heart attack multiple times, but I’m almost sure I didn’t do anywhere near 70 hours of practice before I went in for my road test. (I passed that my first time. The trickiest part was parallel parking, but I somehow fumbled my way through it.)

I also found out yesterday about these miraculous apps you can have installed on your kids’ phones. They’ll track how fast they’re actually going when they’re driving. That might strike some people as a bit too Orwellian, but I remember driving at 16, and I remember some of the idiotic things I did. Driving too fast was definitely one of them. Fast enough that I remember thinking, “This is way too fast. I shouldn’t do this again.” If a sixteen year old brain can recognize that, you can only imagine how fast I was going. At night. On narrow Pennsylvania roads.

Ugh.

So we’ll almost definitely be getting that app for Tomas’s phone once he can drive.

In any case, it’s exciting to see him get to this point. Having another driver in the house will make a lot of things much, much easier, even if we’re not planning on getting a third car. (Because expensive, and also because by the time he’s actually driving, he’ll have less than a year before he’s off. Any other parents out there have any tips on what to do to prepare for a new driver?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? 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.

You’re Not the COVID Police

I get it. We’ve all been dealing with COVID (in one way or another) for well over a year now. We’re all getting very tired of this whole ordeal. (At least, I assume I speak for everyone with that statement. Maybe there’s someone out there who thinks this is all a blast?) But one thing that’s definitely not helping is to have people start sniping at other people over the things those people are doing when it comes to COVID.

This goes both ways. You’ve got people who are yelling at other people for not wearing masks and others who are yelling at them because they’re wearing masks. You’ve got people upset that others are going on vacations, and others who are upset because more people aren’t going out and living their lives.

I have plenty of friends on Facebook. My feed is filled right now with pictures of them out and about, having fun in different places. Some of the places they’re having fun seem like situations I personally wouldn’t go to at the moment. Anything in-doors, unmasked, basically. Most of the places are out of doors, and I wouldn’t blink at doing that, especially if you can stay somewhat distant from other people.

But what I’m not doing is wasting time worrying about what they’re doing. My friends are grown adults, capable of making their own decisions, and they certainly don’t need to clear their activities with me before they go out and have fun. So instead, I’m trying to assume the best. Assume they’re all vaccinated. Assume they’ve already had COVID and so are immune for at least 6 months. Assume the people they’re with are in their personal bubbles. Assume they’re making the best decisions they can with the information they have available to them.

Right now, there are a million different approaches to “what’s right” when it comes to COVID. I went out to play tennis with a friend Saturday. We were at the local high school in the morning. Sunny. Breezy. Gorgeous. Neither of us was wearing a mask, because everything I know about this disease says that outside playing tennis is not the way I’m going to catch it. We never got within six feet of each other. It felt very safe to me. But then someone from the high school came to inform us that we all had to be wearing masks to use the court.

I went and put my mask on. I didn’t complain. I didn’t protest about my rights or about this being America or whatever. I was grateful I could use the public courts, and I’m willing to do whatever I’m asked to do, even if I may feel it’s overkill. (I’ve been on the other side of that interaction, having to tell people they can’t eat or drink in the library, and that they need to put their mask on. When it comes to my building, I am the COVID police, because I need to ensure people are following the rules for using our space.)

I’m sure if I had posted a picture of my friend and I playing tennis, some would have seen it and been disappointed we weren’t masked. I in turn would be disappointed in them for thinking so little of me as to assume I wasn’t being careful. Right now, it feels like following COVID guidelines is a lot like being a good driver. Everyone sees the choices they’re making as being justified and necessary and right, and it’s too easy to see the things other people are doing as reckless or too concerned.

This is coming from a person who very much believes this pandemic is real, and who’s very much concerned that people are treating it too lightly, on the whole. That said, I don’t believe people are going to be guilt tripped into following “the rules,” regardless of what you may believe those rules to be. (And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We all have different opinions of what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and it’s pretty much impossible to “prove” your opinion is right.) And so since pointing fingers isn’t going to do any good at all, what use is it to waste all that time, energy, and goodwill on something that does nothing to actually help the situation other than (debatably) make you feel better for having “done something”?

It’s easier to assume the best, remind ourselves we’re all in this together, and just keep plugging away as best we can.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? 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.

Weekly Check In: April 9

I’m back for my weekly accountability check in with all you lovely people. This last week was far from my favorite. Sticking with the diet even over Easter proved a good way to make one grumpy Bryce. That said, I didn’t cheat at all, even with Peeps popping up everywhere I looked, it seemed.

And the good news is that all that diligence paid off. I’ve made it to 180 this morning, which means I’m down another 1.4 pounds from last week, and 8.6 pounds from where I started. Things were still looking grim even as recently as Tuesday, when I was still stuck at 181. But as I always try to remind myself, those plateaus are temporary if you’re sticking to your guns. (Seriously. If my body is burning more calories than I’m eating, then it’s physically impossible for me to miraculously just stay the same weight. Otherwise, we just might have found my superpower.)

I am definitely getting tired of this now. It’s been just over a month since I had anything really different to eat each day. It’s not the day to day that I mind; it’s the times when I’m used to having something different. Easter’s a good example, but there are others. What if I want to go out to dinner with Denisa? That’s tough right now. Have a picnic outside? Also difficult.

Thankfully, I only have 5 pounds to go, and I haven’t tried any tricks to monkey with my weight. Once I’ve lost a bit more, I might just skip my evening shake one day, which typically loses me about a pound just for the next day. I want to make my goal of 175, but at the moment all that’s keeping me stuck to that goal is grim determination. Once I’ve hit that number, I’ll be taking a dieting break. The big overarching goal right now is to stay below 180 . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? 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.

Denouements: My Nemesis

I love writing books. Don’t get me wrong: it can often be a frustrating process, and it’s definitely time consuming, but I love writing books more than I love reading books, and that should say something right there.

There are many things about the book writing process that I enjoy. Plotting the thing out in the first place is a lot of fun, and I have a great time figuring out plot snares that come up. I love being able to go back in time in the book and write my way out of a jam. Climaxes are always a pleasure. Beginnings are fantastic. Middles can get a little bit down now and then, but I can usually come up with something to spice things up enough to keep me pushing forward.

The one part of a book that I consistently do not enjoy writing at all is denouements. (For you non-literature folks out there, that’s the stuff that happens after the climax.) The action is all over. There are no more conflicts to really settle. And I’m stuck with a few thousand words left to churn through before I can get to the part I really want to be able to say: The End. You would think this would be the easy part. Maybe it is for some authors. But for me, the driving force behind writing the book is figuring out what’s going to come next. I have a hard time caring about what happens after that.

My typical approach is just to write something and then listen to me alpha and beta readers after they’ve read through the book. I fully expect them to say, “I had a real hard time with the ending.” That’s when I ask, “What were you really expecting? What was missing?” At that point, they tell me what they were looking for, and I revise to fit those expectations.

Some of the problem stems from there just being too many threads for me to keep track of sometimes when it comes to the plot. I get lost in all the different balls I have to keep up in the air. I know I need to not drop any of them, and I get so focused on that I begin to lose sight of which ones are more important than the others. So at the end, I forget which to highlight and make sure I wrap up properly.

The good news is that I’m complaining about this right now because I’m about to finish the first draft of my 19th book, still tentatively titled THE AXEMAN. It looks like it’s going to clock in around 78,000 words, which is 3,000 longer than I was shooting for. Not bad, though I realize there’s a lot of fluff in there that’ll need to come out, and my writing group has already identified plenty more that needs to come in.

Though then again, I really enjoy the revision process too. (I’ve always felt like I’m a better reviser than I am a first drafter, so once I can get the first draft out in front of me and look at the whole thing, I feel like I can do a lot to it to make it much better. That’s a good feeling.) But before I can get to that revision, I have to finish the denouement.

Tell me: does anyone out there really love denouements? Has anyone read a book and said, “I loved this whole thing, but the denouement was so terrible it made me hate the book.” Since I know I’m just going to revise it anyway, maybe I should just make my standard denouements for all first drafts, “And then everything you figured was going to happen happened. The end.” Think I can get away with it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? 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.

Retro Star Wars Movie Review: Caravan of Courage

Look. Things were different when I was growing up. We didn’t have fancy things like a whole Star Wars universe. We had Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and then we finally got Return of the Jedi too. (I was five when it came out.) There were rumors of some kind of Christmas special that had appeared at some point, but other than that, that was the extent of our Star Wars options. If we wanted lightsabers, we could use the cardboard tubes from wrapping paper. And we were happy, dagnabbit.

Later on, other things came out. Things like the Timothy Zahn sequel books to the movies. Prequels. All that jazz. Until we arrive to the present day, where Star Wars is a veritable force in the universe.

But if you’ll come with me back to when I was a kid, I can highlight another Star Wars movies that was a personal favorite. Caravan of Courage. It was all about some kids teaming up with Ewoks to take down a huge monster thing. There was magic. Action. Adventure. No romance. And Ewoks. As a kid, I thought it was great. We had a copy we’d taped off TV on VHS, and I watched it multiple times.

So imagine my excitement when Disney brought Caravan of Courage to Disney+. Finally I’d get a chance to relive the glory days, when anything Star Wars was better than nothing. I gathered the family around a couple of nights ago, and I gave them a disclaimer. I hadn’t seen the movie in decades. It might be terrible, but I remembered really liking it as a kid. They were game, so we watched the movie. (It’s under 90 minutes, which made it a pretty easy sell.)

So . . . how was it?

Well, MC liked it a lot, so it’s got a target audience that it still plays well with. But everyone else (including, sadly, me) saw that it left a whole lot to be desired. The acting is bad. The special effects are . . . not great, even by made-for-TV-in-the-80s standards. (A few times it was just all too clear the Ewoks were people dressed up in teddy bear costumes. Once you stop being able to view them as real creatures, it turns the whole thing into a comedy.) The pacing was glacial. The writing was really bad. (Though it did introduce a few Ewok terms back into my vocabulary. “Feech” and “Lurdo” being my two favorites.)

It still had a bit of the nostalgia factor going for me, but I was amazed at just how much of the movie I had forgotten. I think all I remembered of it was “kids and Ewoks teaming up against a monster.” And that definitely is what happens in the movie. But it’s all really episodic, with the kids constantly making really, really stupid decisions without any other justification than “kids do stupid things.” As a writer for children and young adults, that was perhaps the biggest let down. The kids weren’t really allowed to make any good decisions and solve problems on their own. Instead, they were the source of most of the problems.

So should you watch this movie? It depends. If there’s literally any other new Star Wars thing to watch, or the hope of watching, in the next five years, I would wait and watch that instead. But if all you’ve got is Caravan of Courage, then . . . beggars can’t be choosers? Don’t look a gift womp rat in the mouth?

I gave it a 4/10, and it probably deserved worse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? 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.

%d bloggers like this: