Writing updates! (Part 2, aka The Real writing updates.)

This morning, I looked at where I’m standing with my main project, and I thought I’d put the conclusion here to share with you who may be interested in such a thing. Consider this a “writing updates part 2” post, since Tuesday’s “writing updates” post was about my office.

For me, this is a major reassessment/self-evaluation/progress report. I knew from the beginning that I’d one day take stock and then adjust my targeted word-count accordingly. That day has come! My updated word-count target is 80,000.

The break-down goes as such:

  • According to my hitherto targeted word-count of 60,000, I’m now 83% finished; I currently have around 49,823 words.
  • Based on my word-count average for completed chapters, I’m fathoming I still have somewhere around 20,000 words left to write.
  • Hence, my targeted word-count of 60,000 becomes 80,000.

This new target puts me at 62% finished at this moment. Thinking broadly of the material I have yet to cover (numbers aside), this seems more realistic.

Incidentally, a finished count of 80,000 words would place my project at the low end of a minimal word-count range generally accepted for a novel, and at the highest end of a word-count range for a novella.

I’ve been walking the line between novella and novel all this time. If the project does indeed end up at 80,000, it could be accepted as either. This wouldn’t be for me to decide. If anyone who could publish this work actually wants it, they would make that call.

The idea of a novella pleases me. Some of my favorite works are novellas: Albert Camus’ The Stranger. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. There’s also Animal Farm, Billy Budd, Heart of Darkness, Ethan Frome, A Clockwork Orange, A Christmas Carol, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I Am Legend, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The War of the Worlds – all of these and many more popular titles are novellas.

Mind you, I’m not comparing the stature of my project to that of the above-mentioned fine literary titles! I offer these titles as examples because they’re well-known.

At any rate, my project will be done when it’s done, and it’s not really my business to predict when that will be. It’s my business to tell the damn story. (The story has become something of a beast, therefore warranting strong language.) These projections help to keep me on track, but the work will get done, regardless.

And so the writing continues.

How am I feeling about all of this? As indicated in this selfie I took on the freeway last night:

 

Blurry, yet determined.

 

Blurrily determined, yes. That seems about right.

On that note… Happy Friday!

New office aesthetic. (Writing-related update!)

Recent major changes to my work environment prompted a request for pics, so I’m here to oblige! I’m on version 5 – my fifth office change over the last 14 months.

I always had an office in this house, but I didn’t always use it.

When I started writing full-time, I used the desk in the guest bedroom (v1). Then I  started working in my actual office (v2). A few months later, a situation arose that required kitty management, so to accommodate that, I moved my office set-up to the dining room (v3). Callaghan eventually moved his computer work from his office to my office, also because of the kitty situation. Then the kitty situation changed again, and we had houseguests, so I moved my office set-up into Callaghan’s office (v4). He stayed in my office. That was fine for both of us, but it was also temporary. Now, almost a year later, we’re finally back in our respective offices (v5). That’s what this past weekend was about.

It was an opportune time to overhaul my office. The theme I had in mind was no theme at all, so I stripped the room. I wanted as close to nothing as possible in here, and no color or décor. My behemoth of a desk went with Callaghan to his office (the desk was working really well for him) and only kept the futon, the cat tree, and the console table (because it bolsters the cat tree). I’m using my old German trunk as a desk.

I took almost everything down from the walls; I only left the small white shelf by the cat tree. My two plants remain on the side table, because they like it there. I removed the red futon cover and replaced it with an old sheet. It’s a queen-size futon, so our sheets fit perfectly.

In short, office version 5 (haha!) is neutral, minimal, and functional. My new work environment aesthetic is a non-aesthetic.

 

office work corner

 

Yes, I now work sitting on the floor. I’m in the corner, so I have eyes on both the window and the door. I’m still burning this particular candle because I like the ambient noise of the crackling fire produced by its wooden wicks.

 

office from behind the desk

 

That’s Nenette’s string toy on the floor to the left. My laptop and keyboard don’t quite fit on the surface of my old German trunk, but it works, and it’s very comfortable… until it’s not. Then I’m forced to get up, walk around, and stretch. That’s the idea!

 

office from the doorway

 

office – closet wall

 

I use that (hanging) black tote for writing-related dashes around town, when I need to carry papers, books, notebooks, etc.

 

office – Nenette in her crow’s nest

 

Nenette sleeps in her crow’s nest at the top of the cat tree most of the day.

 

hummingbird through the office window

 

I also have a good view of the hummingbirds as they come to drink from the feeder hanging from our patio awning.

There you have it! We’ll see how long this version of my office lasts.

 

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. (And Gen-X. And okayness.)

Man, I’m in a dark and strange mood this morning. I shouldn’t be. It’s gorgeous out there.

I live in Arizona and it’s May 19 and we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. It’s been like this for almost two weeks. The bedroom air is slightly chilly in the morning, so I reach for a light robe. This bizarre behavior can only mean one thing: we’re entering a new Ice Age.

It’s not just at night, either. After I get up, I go around the house and open one or two other windows and the front door, and leave them open for a good half-day, if not longer. I open them again in the evenings. This, my friends in other places, is paradise. We desert-dwellers love the desert, but we also love an unseasonably cool breeze through our security screen doors.

For posterity, here’s me this morning:

 

May 19, 2017 – in a light sweatshirt. In Arizona.

 

At the same time, awful things have been happening in the world, including the recent and tragic departure of Chris Cornell, whose widespread fame was launched with his Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. His death was not only shocking and sad, but also somewhat alarming for we “lost ones” of Generation X.

When you spend your childhood in the 70’s, your teens in the 80’s, and your twenties in the 90’s –and when the 90’s was your favorite decade, and Ten is one of your all-time favorite albums – the untimely deaths of icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell are sobering. It makes you want to watch Singles (older Gen-Xers), Reality Bites (younger Gen-Xers), and Office Space all day, kicked back on the couch eating chips and not looking for a job, all of us stereotypical, slovenly losers and slackers of Generation X.

Should I complete my own stereotype as a Gen-X writer and install a coffee pot on my desk?

Should I stare off into space and then write a letter? (“Dear Eddie Vedder: please don’t.”)

But I’m lucky. My depression is under control. I’m okay. We’re okay. Everything is okay. Everything is fine, despite global shenanigans at the highest levels of power, shenanigans of which there’s no need to speak. It’s like that one meme… that one where the dog is sitting in a house that’s burning down around him, and then he perks up and says, “This is fine.”

That’s a sign of our times, though, isn’t it? “Okay” and “fine” have long since been code for “things aren’t exactly hunky-dory.”  

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“JUST okay?”

Commence questioning all of your life choices as you’re prompted to consider why you said just “okay.” You can’t be okay if you say you’re okay, because okay isn’t good enough. To tell the well-meaning inquirer that you’re okay is to send yourself an invitation to spill all of your not-okayness right there in the office hallway on your way to the water cooler.

Is this the product of a society defined by extremes? If we’re not flying high on the vaporous joy of life at all times, then something is wrong?

I’ll take “okay.”

Maybe this entire post was a sort of tangent. Maybe I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

 

 

Remembering the Four-Four-Deuce. (The U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team in WWII.)

My parents had wanted to see Hacksaw Ridge, but they weren’t able to catch it in the theater… so we all watched it together in our living room when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Callaghan and I were eager to see it again, and we liked it even more on second viewing. Mom and Dad also enjoyed the movie.

Hacksaw Ridge is a World War II film, and it’s an important one for an unusual reason: it tells the true story of a young American man who joins the army as a conscientious objector, refusing to touch a weapon, but determined to make it to the front line as a combat medic. He was eventually allowed to complete basic training without rifle qualification. After finishing skill training, he was sent to Japan with an infantry regiment. There, the regiment fought the Japanese in the Battle of Okinawa atop the treacherous Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the extraordinary story of an extraordinary man whose extraordinary valor saved many lives.

As I watched the scenes of Americans fighting the Japanese, it brought to my mind, as a Japanese-American, another WWII story: that of the United States Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion. This infantry regiment was also extraordinary, and also for an unusual reason: the unit was comprised mostly of Nisei, second-generation Japanese-Americans, mostly from Hawaii.

I say “as a Japanese-American” because I’m not sure how many Americans in the general population are aware that there was a United States Army infantry regiment of Japanese-Americans fighting during WWII. As a Japanese-American, I’m aware of it, as it’s a part of our history in this country.

And it’s an important part of our history… not just in Japanese-American history, but in United States history, and in Hawaii’s history: the WWII Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd went on to become a key factor in Hawaii gaining statehood. As intoned by narrator Gerald McRaney in The History Channel presents Most Decorated: The Nisei Soldiers, “On August 21, 1959, largely because of the Nisei soldiers, Hawaii became the 50th state.”

*****

American Desmond Doss (subject of Hacksaw Ridge) wanted to serve his country in wartime, but almost wasn’t permitted to do so because of his refusal to touch a firearm. Second-generation Japanese-American men also wanted to serve their country during the same wartime, but almost weren’t permitted to do so because of their Japanese ancestry.

It was a time when Japanese-Americans on the mainland were forced into incarceration… because of their ethnicity.

*****

The only ethnic Americans are Native Americans.

To say that we’re “American” is to describe our nationality – who we are as a nation. Americans are Irish-American, for instance… or African-American, or Japanese-American, or German- or Italian-American. Americans are Polish-American, Franco-American, Korean-American. Americans are Arab-American. And because of the ethnic diversity that characterizes our country, we’re a nation with a proud “mutt” population: many of us are of mixed ethnicity.

Our ancestry does not define who we are nationality-wise.

But during WWII, Japan was our enemy, and Japanese-Americans had the misfortune of looking like the enemy. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that led to the incarceration of west coast Japanese-Americans, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans removed from their homes and placed in the internment camps. Houses and businesses were confiscated. Families were broken apart. Living conditions in the camps were poor to horrendous; many internees were forced to live in horse stables, and all of them behind barbed wire fences patrolled by armed guards.

Not a single Japanese-American was ever found to be guilty of espionage.

Now, today, there are some amongst us who would like to repeat this shameful part of American history. They would like to round up innocent Arab-Americans and imprison them, just as Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during WWII.

*****

My parents are from Japanese-American families in Hawaii, some of which moved to the mainland to settle in California. While parts of these earlier branches of my family in California were incarcerated in the internment camps, two* of my uncles from Hawaii volunteered to fight in the United States Army as members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion.

When one of those uncles passed away in 2006, a retired veteran found his obituary, read that he was a WWII veteran of the 442nd, and contacted his son, my cousin. The gentleman told my cousin he would ensure that his Dad was recognized with the appropriate ceremony: a military funeral service. And so my Uncle’s casket was draped with the American flag and carried to his gravesite in the presence of an honor guard, and a bugle playing “Taps.”

*****

In 2011, Japanese-American WWII veterans – more than 19,000 of them – were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in a mass ceremony.

In the article “Unlikely World War II Soldiers Awarded Nation’s Highest Honor,” Barbara Maranzani details the extent of the Nisei’s wartime achievements:

“The 442nd became the most decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. In less than two years of combat, the unit earned more than 18,000 awards, including 9,486 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 21 Medals of Honor. Upon their return to the United States, they were praised by President Harry Truman for their brave stand both home and abroad, and were even the subject of a 1951 film, “Go for Broke”; the film’s title was derived from the unit’s official slogan. Many members of the 442nd went on to distinguished careers in science, academia and government, including nine-term U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye from Hawaii, who lost an arm due to World War II combat injuries and was among those attending Wednesday’s event.”

 

 

*****

Many Japanese-Americans were already serving in the armed forces when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. When the attack occurred, Japanese-Americans were as horrified as any other American, and in Hawaii, especially, Japanese-American men wanted to join the armed forces to fight for their country.

To this day, Japanese-Americans serve in the United States Armed Forces. I’m proud to have been one of them.

My Dad directed me to the above-mentioned documentary from the History Channel. If you’re interested, watching it will be worth your while:

The History Channel presents Most Decorated: The Nisei Soldiers

 

 

Japanese-Americans’ wartime service didn’t begin and end with the 442nd: in addition to the 442nd, thousands of Japanese-Americans also had roles in the army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) during WWII. These Japanese-Americans “provided translation and interrogation assistance to the war effort. The MIS is perhaps best known for the crucial role it played in deciphering a captured set of Japanese military documents, known as the ‘Z Plan,’ which outlined plans for a final, large-scale counterattack on Allied forces in 1944. The discovery of the Z Plan has been hailed as one of the most important military intelligence successes of World War II.”

[source: http://www.history.com/news/unlikely-world-war-ii-soldiers-awarded-nations-highest-honor]

*****

Valor comes in unexpected forms. It comes in the form of a young man who wants to serve unarmed on the front line of a bloody battle. It comes in the form of men who want to serve despite looking like the enemy, thus feared, maligned, and betrayed by their own country as Japanese-Americans were incarcerated because of their ethnicity.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion in WWII was the face of Japanese-Americans’ loyalty to their country. It was a loyalty they proved in bloody campaign after bloody campaign, national pride a stronger force than the racism that tried to oppress them.

*[Editing to add: since posting this piece, my family has remembered at least two more uncles who joined the 442nd. Two of them were incarcerated in internment camps in California when they volunteered.]

“Be the best version of yourself.” (And other stories.)

I have a confession to make: I don’t like the phrase “Be the best version of yourself.”

The phrase has become one of my pet peeves. When I hear it, I immediately think of that Batman slapping Robin meme. You know the one.

Mind you, you don’t annoy me. I’m not judging or making fun of anyone who uses the phrase in any of its derivations. If it’s helpful to wake up in the morning and think, “Today I’m going to be the best version of myself,” then that’s awesome. It’s awesome because it works for you, and what’s more, what works for you is none of my business. Sometimes, catchy self-help adages are motivational. Whatever works!

If I may ask again, though – at the risk of sounding like a broken record – why do we insist on pressuring ourselves with all of this honing in on the self?

We’re constantly analyzing and judging ourselves, and often feeling not good enough. “Be the best version of yourself” seems counterproductive. It’s a command that could readily set us up for failure. We could end up feeling worse if, at the end of the day, we conclude that we didn’t live up to our own expectations.

Because that’s what “be the best version of yourself” means, I think: “Live up to your potential.”

“Potential” in terms of being good human beings: we don’t always have to be the hero risking our lives to save everyone all the time. It’s just as good to smile genuinely at someone to make their day a little brighter. Maybe that’s how you save someone.

“Potential” in terms of achieving excellence in everything we do: we don’t have to expect perfection of ourselves in everything we do all the time. 

Being the best version of yourself can mean that you smiled genuinely at someone, and you also made sure to not miss any spots when you cleaned the table.

Sometimes, it’s too much to try to be the best. Why even put a superlative on what “version” of yourself you’re going to be on any given day?

If you make it a personal policy to be a decent human being, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to be the flea market version of yourself, or the mix tape version of yourself, or whatever version of yourself you need to be that day… whatever version lifts your spirits. Whatever version makes your smile genuine, so you can pass it on to someone else.

 

Simple advice on a tank top (from my friend in France)

 

Nenette is full of surprises. (Kitty updates!)

I would’ve posted this earlier today if I wasn’t spellbound by the creosote scent in the air. The creosote plant’s ability to intoxicate is sorcery, I’m telling you. Rain brings it out. Creosote isn’t a fragrance you catch as you walk by the plant… it’s a fragrance that saturates the air completely. The Sonoran desert is magic.

Admittedly, I’m also late because I went to the gym this morning, but that’s another (awesome) story.

Getting on with it – as you can tell from its title, this post is about Nenette. I’ve got updates for you… man, do I have updates!

My parents flew in at the end of last week to stay for a four-day visit. Callaghan and I had high hopes that they would be able to see Nenette… at least once, if only in a flash. As you may know, Nenette hides when people come over. We wanted her to prove her existence to Mom and Dad.

WELL. Nenette did hide herself, but she also came out… and when she came out, she stayed out.

Dad was sitting on the couch and she went to him and head-butted his hand so he’d pet her, and then the little minx turned around and stepped forward with that flirty arch in her back that’s kittyese for “pet my butt.” It was elevator butt in the living room with someone she’d never seen before.

She did the same thing with Mom in the hallway. Also, she talked to them with her conversational trills. Also, she dropped to the floor and rolled around. WHAT’S MORE, she did all of this several times throughout their visit.

Callaghan and I were looking at the spectacle like WHO is this cat, and what did she do with our Nenette??!!!

You could’ve knocked us over with a feather. I’m very happy to be able to use that cliché in this context.

The only explanation for Nenette’s unprecedented behavior is that she knew that these were her Grandparents. It’ll be interesting to see what happens the next time we have people over. That will tell us something! Will she do the same with others?

At any rate, I’ve got a few pics here that I’ve accumulated over the last few weeks. Here’s Nenette modeling some facets of her personality. Enjoy!

 

Nenette in the library shadow

 

Nenette in vintage filter

 

(I love how that filter emphasizes the bronze of her Abyssinian coat.)

 

Nenette sleeping

 

Nenette playing

 

Nenette in beastmode, ready to face her opponent

 

That’s it for this wondrous kitty update. Nenette is full of surprises! Time will tell if real changes are happening, or if her behavior was specific to the people involved.

Change of scenery. (Writing life updates.)

I figured it’s time for a writing update!

Since last time, the writing life action over here has mostly involved changes in the house… namely, the migration of my office again. Some rearranging’s been done chez nous.

I’m now set up in Callaghan’s former office/current art and supply room. Callaghan is still in my former office – basically, we’ve switched offices. The dining area has resumed its original purpose, but The Americans poster still hangs on its wall. We’ll leave it there for now. The house is having an identity crisis. In the midst of the room-switching, we painted the kitchen wall red (no more graffiti wall – all good things come to an end). After that, we ripped out the carpet from the living room and hall and installed flooring. Then we painted the large, main wall in the hallway bathroom black.

As for my writing progress? I’m currently working on chapter 18 of the project. I’ve got about 200 pages and 45,298 words. The writing is on hold until Monday, but things are moving along!

In the most frivolous of writing news, I took the customary selfie at my desk on my first day in my new office:

 

May 3, 2017 (first day in my new office!)

 

The main thing to note here is that the lighting is better than it was in the dining area. As usual, there’s no filter or other shenanigans going on with this pic; the lighting comes from the window on the west wall to my left. This makes the room a wonderful place for writing. It isn’t aggressively bright – no direct sunlight – but my laptop sits in the path of the illumination, and it’s perfect. Funny how little things like that make a difference!

The most important part of the office-switch, though, is that now I’m in one of Nenette’s favorite rooms, so she’s in here with me pretty much all day! Furbaby in the office – ideal office.

Happy weekend, All!