Let Sleeping Babes Lie

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My six-month old puts his head down for a nap; it’s one of the two he takes during the day. When his eyes close, I jump all over the house trying to get things done.

A part of me wonders if I will ever be a productive member of society again. Once a master of organization, now I try to content myself with getting all the bottles washed before he wakes back up. In those odd moments when I have time, I spend most of it trying to decide what to do with it.  Watch television? Read? Edit? Work on my novel? Take a nap myself? Eat every unhealthy thing in the house? Tackle one of the countless chores needing to be done?

Or perhaps I could make a blog post.

I never really understood the value of time until I didn’t have any.  If fatherhood is teaching me anything (outside of patience, diaper skills, and baby fingernail trimming), it is to focus on doing one or two things well, because there isn’t enough time for the renaissance man jack-of-all-trades nonsense anymore.


Roughly a year later…

One of the main reasons I started this blog was so it could serve as a time capsule for me. A lot has changed in the year or so since this post was initially generated. For one, Thor is running all over the place and causing mayhem. Indeed, Past Corey had no concept of how little time he would have.

The irony of the original post doesn’t elude me. Past Corey believed he was taxed for time. With Thor napping only once during the day now, and my amazing wife consistently being away on a warship, time truly has become a precious quantity. Here’s my takeaways:

  1. Be willing to tell people “no.” When time becomes a premium, then you have to learn to say no more often, even if it’s a project/job/task you think is awesome.
  2. Don’t stress about the small stuff. And man, it took my a while to figure out what the small stuff was. Figure out what you can control and focus on that. You must tend to your garden of f***s and not give them too freely.
  3. When it’s time to work, play, or chill, don’t get sidetracked. In a world where multitasking is listed on resumes, I strive to do the opposite. Multitasking usually means I’m half-assing something. As Ron Swanson would say, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

These lessons are about as deep as a puddle in the desert, but heck, I never claimed to be a philosophizer. I’m just a dad trying to sort through the madness one day at a time. That’s it for my blog time; I’ll update this post in another year.

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Hurricane Matthew: Evacuated & Safe

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Freaky skull hidden within Hurricane Matthew…

I wrote a couple days ago that we might have to evacuate due to Hurricane Matthew.  Many of you offered some really kind words, and I really appreciate the positive thoughts and prayers.  The good news is I am writing this from Georgetown, Kentucky—so obviously we did end up evacuating.  Here’s a brief recap.

Our governor, Nikki Haley, announced that evacuations would begin on Wednesday at 3 p.m. (EST).  We decided to fuel up our vehicles as soon as this was announced, and it’s a good thing we did.  We took the car to the gas station about 20 minutes after hearing the potential evacuation order, and it still took almost an hour of line-time to get gasoline.

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Image from the Miami Herald.  Linked to article.

After dealing with the chaos of simply getting gas, we decided not to wait until Wednesday to leave.  We got home and started packing.  Unfortunately, we still had to wait for the base (where my wife works) to give us permission.  Permission came at around 7 p.m. that evening.  Thor’s bedtime is 8 p.m., and we figured we should leave then so he would sleep for most of the trip.

Here are some of the things that were involved in the mad rush to leave.

  • We had to ensure we had all essential documents with us. We placed a special emphasis on having our home-owner insurance (we have a portable safe for documents).
  • Anything outside of the house (i.e. grill, metal firepit, flower pots) had to be brought indoors so they wouldn’t be tossed through windows.
  • Anything essential that could be destroyed by water, we moved to a center room with no windows and put them at elevation.  This probably won’t matter if we get nine feet of storm surge, but hey, you can’t blame us for trying.
  • As my desktop computer is pretty essential to my work, it came with us.
  • We didn’t worry about stockpiling water, food, and propane as we were going to leave.
  • We did bring diapers, baby food, cat food, and a small amount of food and water in case we were delayed during the evacuation.
  • Given my wife has been freezing excess breast-milk in the hopes of being able to stop pumping a little early, we brought that with us.  A prolonged power outage will ruin the contents of our freezer and fridge.

niblet-and-meThe drive from South Carolina to Kentucky usually takes us about eight hours.  In the first five hours of travel time, we had barely moved.  I wasn’t upset about this.  I was happy people had the sense to evacuate.  All told, it took us twelve hours to get to Georgetown (my mother-in-law lives there).

During the trip, Niblet (our cat) would start meowing, then Thor would start making noise, and vice versa.  Basically, if one was awake, they were both awake.  They both slept like champs if we were moving, but much of our travel time was spent in stop-and-go traffic.

Some people evacuated to hotels, but with a baby and a cat, this would be pretty inconvenient. Also, if the coastline really gets thrashed, it would be costly to be in a hotel for a few weeks.

With 200+ people dead in Haiti and the Caribbean already, I really hope people are taking this hurricane seriously.  We can argue about the infrastructure of Haiti compared to the US, but if you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a serious weather event, you’ll know infrastructure doesn’t matter to Mother Nature.

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If you are staying on the coast, my prayers are with you.  Matthew has surged in power as it moves toward Florida.  Gaining in strength back to a Category 4.  From the National Hurricane Center, a Category 4 is described as:

“Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

My academic training in homeland security has taught me to not take these things lightly.  Also, my job a Navy journalist, photographer, and combat cameraman has shown me first-hand the destruction and loss of life extreme weather events cause.  I promise you, nothing in your home is worth your life.  Please be safe and don’t take unnecessary risks.

Regardless, I should be back on track for posting and work now that I’m safely in Kentucky.  I am going to still take a day or two to do maintenance. I will recycle older posts in the meantime.  Until then – stay safe.

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Update: What is QE Doing?

Photo for Human Legion.jpgI know it’s Wasteland Wednesday, but I wanted to take a day to share what I’m into these days.  I haven’t taken a day to talk about life for a while and Wednesday is as good a day as any.  Perhaps, in addition to wasteland updates, I will start offering some author/editor updates on Wednesday too.  As always, I’m tweaking this page as I go.

First off, some book updates.  My rewrites of Wastelander: The Drake Legacy will kick off here in two weeks or so.  I’m excited to get back into the mix, get the rewrites done, and start pushing the book out to my beta readers and my editor (yes, I pay an editor even though I’m an editor).

As for the novella, The Wastelander Survival Guide, it has been outlined completely and I have begun the first-draft.  However, I’m only getting about one hour a day (maybe two if I’m really lucky) of solid writing done toward that project right now.

The graphic novel idea is in its infancy.  The concept is to provide an origin story for Drake.  The current book starts thirty years after the fall of the United States.  So naturally, there is a lot of backstory I could condense into some graphic novels without repeating information from the main book.  This project is a lower priority, so I dedicate time to it when I can (mostly  when my wife has the day off and is spending some one-on-one time bonding with Thor).

As my digital artwork is slowly getting “better,” I am hoping to be able to dump a large amount of imagery on my artist for him to run with.  I know he can work faster when he has better blueprints to work from.  It’s rough, but I take a few minutes every day to practice and improve my artwork, or at least watch a video or two at Ctrl+Paint while I’m eating food (one of the best websites I’ve found that has free videos and content to improve your physical and digital art).  Here are some examples of things I have found on the internet for inspiration and digitally painted or sketched in Photoshop.

 

Also, obviously, I have been writing the content for the graphic novel.  This has been slow going as I have been reading a bunch of graphic novels to develop a style of writing to complement the imagery.  In the way of eating your greens (and really desserts too), graphic novels are perhaps one of the more enjoyable studies into writing mechanics I have embarked on.

The Editor

Now for some other projects I’m collaborating with as an editor (that the authors are okay with me mentioning).

M.L.S. Weech is currently busting through the rewrites of his new book, Caught.  We are old friends and have worked together on other projects as well (The Journals of Bob Drifter).  I know he is likely excited as he is closing down on the final stages on Caught.  For me, it’s really exciting to see how the book has improved with each pass he has made.  When he started, it was a great story.  Now, it’s even better.

Also on his horizon, we have been looking at his book, 1,200 (but that’s a book for him to introduce and talk about more when he is ready).  I’m also expecting to see a short story from him as he is collaborating as part of an anthology (good job bud). He wrote a post about that collaboration you can read about right here.

SleepingLegion_Book1_08.jpgI‘ve also just recently started collaborating with the Human Legion.  Tim C. Taylor and J.R. Handley are working on two separate military science fiction series over there (separate series, but in the same universe).  Currently, I’m working with J.R. and the Sleeping Legion series he is writing.  They were even nice enough to write a post about me and welcome me to their team.  (Thanks Tim!)

As I’ve just dipped my toes into that universe, I’ve been reading to familiarize myself with the content.  I’m about halfway through The Legion Awakes (Book 1 of the Sleeping Legion series), and I can say with confidence, if you like military science fiction, you are going to enjoy these books.

On the homefront, Thor keeps me on my toes and my atom splitting wife is on 12-hour rotational shifts.  Depending on what happens in the next few months, we could possibly be relocating to Virginia, Washington, Hawaii, Japan, California, or who knows where else.  While we are a Navy family, the Marines say, semper fidelis (always faithful).  I like to say, semper gumby (always flexible).  As such, I’m ready for every eventuality.

thor and me.jpgWith all this being said, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who find the time to stop by my page and give it a read.  I really love when we get to exchange some comments, and I’m always learning from all of you.

Given all the projects I’m currently working on, and the stay-at-home daddy daycare (which is highest on the priority list), I haven’t been able to comment on as many blogs as I would like.  I’m sorry for that.

When I find the time, I make every effort I can to browse and read all of your content.  Just know if you see a “like” from me, it isn’t a “spam like.”  I probably am reading your post on my phone while feeding Thor a bottle or juggling some other task.  Trying to write a comment of meaning on my iPhone is nigh impossible (my fingers are too big and clumsy).

Also, the days of me being able to reply to comments as they roll in have unfortunately come to an end.  Thor is only taking two naps instead of three, and that reduces my daily work time by about 1.5 hours.  I still am replying to all the comments I get on my posts, and I love getting them, but I am doing it all at once now.  So if your comment sits for a bit before I respond to it, just know I was likely managing some kind of diaper mishap or blistering my fingers on a style guide.

Did I mention semper gumby…

That’s the update!  Again, thanks for swinging in.  I’ll try to pepper in some of these author/editor updates from time-to-time so you don’t all think I’ve become some kind of cyborg blogging construct (not that I would divulge it if I was).  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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A Writing Dad: Managing the Madness

Discussing Fatherhood.jpgSince I started doing this blog, I’ve been getting emails/messages from friends (new and old ones).  Some of the messages are really encouraging, and others are laced with hidden sarcasm.  Many of these exchanges, while on the surface are kind, hide this sentiment, “Oh…you’re writing a book, editing, and doing a daily blog.  Dad life must REALLY be busy.” *insert sarcastic eye roll*

Now, I know my friends and family love me.  I also know they aren’t intentionally trying to bust my proverbial balls.  But the truth is, dad life is busy.  Those of you who are parents (past or present) know it to be true.  So to save myself from explaining my process over and over again, I thought I would compile it here.

To preface this, it should be noted I am a stay-at-home dad.  My wife Heather is in the military and works as a Navy Nuclear Engineer.  She wakes up before Thor does , and usually gets home as he goes to bed (not easy for her at all).  Like I said, I’m a real deal stay-at-home dad.

So here’s an average day.

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Thor – my alarm clock.

I get up at six or seven.  Thor is my alarm clock. During the day, Thor takes three naps.  He’s still only eight months old so he is supposed to get around 3.5 hours of nap time a day.  This gives me three blocks of time to actually accomplish tasks like: write blog posts, editing, work on my own novel, clean bottles, scoop cat litter, laundry, engage in battle with the growing forces of dirt, eat, sit down on the couch and stare up at the ceiling fan.

Heather usually gets home around 7:30 pm.  We spend time together until she crashes out at around 9pm -that’s when I start working in earnest.  I usually go to bed around 1-2 am.

If you think about it in these terms, I have roughly 8.5 hours to accomplish everything I need to accomplish.  It’s comparably to a normal working day.  It’s just that around half of that time is split between everyday life tasks.  Also, if Thor is throwing lightning bolts and beating on his anvil (not napping well), time is even shorter.

The Workday.jpgI think what makes it seem like I have a lot of time is the fact I use all of it.  I’ve read studies where people who have normal 9-5 jobs only spend a fraction of that time doing actual work.  I know from my own experience in past jobs that I have easily wasted away days accomplishing little to nothing.  I would get one “big” thing done and say, “That made this day productive.”

Now I work for myself.  I also believe in what I do with a full heart.  When your passion aligns with you work, amazing things start to happen.  You find ways to weave those passions into your “free” time.  Work becomes habit, because it’s no longer a dreadful task to accomplish.

For example, I read to Thor everyday.  We don’t watch tv.  I don’t just leave him sitting in a playpen drooling on toys and plotting my demise.  I read to him.  We read about everything.  He has probably listened to me read more books on writing than most people have ever read.  We both benefit from this.

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Thor helps with the blog.

I blog everyday.  I blog about writing.  Even this “escape” guides me closer to my goals and aligns with the craft.

I talk about writing everyday.  Many of my friends are writers.  We talk about my projects, their projects, doubts, hopes, life, and everything in-between.  When my wife gets home she asks me how the book is coming along and what is happening in the blogospace.

So yes, I do have time as a stay-at-home dad.  However, it’s time I carve out with my own two hands.  I had to cut away the frivolous little things, and make space for the big things.  And honestly, it was easy.  This is the important takeaway.  When you key into the one thing that truly makes you tick – it should be fulfilling to build your life around it.

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Thor and I analyzing literature (picture book).

Are some days harder than others?  Heck yeah.  Do I have doubts?  Sure.  Do I sit down and have to punch the voices in my head who say, “You are wasting your time with this Corey.  Writing isn’t a real job Corey.” Yep.  My knuckles are always bleeding.  But deep down I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing.  That’s a good feeling.

More of a rant than a writing tip today.  But honestly, the more time you dedicate to the craft (whatever your chosen one is), the more the muse will sing for you.  Time dedicated to the craft of writing offers you many escapes.  There is much fulfillment in the act of writing, studying the craft, and reading other authors’ works.

Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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On Writing, Blogging, and Fatherhood

Thor Born.jpgNovember 23rd of 2015 is the day my life shifted into a new (and frightening) gear.  My son Thor Alexander Truax was born.  I knew this new addition would change my life, but I wasn’t entirely sure just what this meant.

Before Thor came I was a police officer, before that a Homeland Security scholar, and before that eight years of military service.  My entire adult life, up to this moment, was spent making myself better, smarter, stronger.  My identity and self-worth orbited around my work.  I remember driving my police cruiser to work on my last day and turning in my gun, badge, and gear.  At the time, turning my back on this job and explaining I was going to be a stay-at-home dad, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done (despite how much I hated that job).  I felt useless.

Even in the hospital when I saw Thor for the first time I didn’t have that “ah-ha” moment.  It’s horrible to write, but it’s the truth.  I wanted that moment so badly, but all I could think of was all the things that needed to happen.  Double check the car seat, make sure documents are in order, check out of the hospital, help Heather walk to the vehicle.

me and thorIt was a few weeks before the moment came.  Thor was crying, I was trying everything I could to calm him down, and nothing was working.  I put him down on the bed in his tiny swaddle and just stepped back.  I was absolutely defeated.  He just continued bawling.  Then for a few seconds he stopped.  He blinked his little mole eyes and squinted toward me.  Then it happened.  The moment.

He needed me.  He needed me more than any job, or title, or position could ever need me.  He needed me to be there, to protect him, to guide him.  If my life was a book, this moment was my paradigm shift.  I picked him back up, and of course, he continued crying.  It was okay, because the more I think about it, if he would have stopped in that moment, I probably would have started.

The weeks following this epiphany really made me examine my life.  Was I living a life based on the prestige of my current job, or based on the joy  I derived from it?  It was the former.  This needed to change.

This brings me to writing and blogging.   For me, they are one in the same.  I blog about writing, because I enjoy learning and sharing what I find out.  It solidifies the information in my brain housing unit when I write about it in my own words.  Writing has always been a passion, but it was a passion repressed.

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Just a single piece of my history.

As a child I wrote essays that won academic awards, and in the military one of my duties was as a journalist.  Despite my skill and ability, it wasn’t something I was particularly proud of.  If someone asked me what I did in the military I would give them the cool version (the version I felt gave me the most prestige).  I was a Combat Cameraman.  I deployed to Iraq with Army Special forces.  I did important work.  Respect me.

It was the lie I used to bolster my precious ego.  To maintain the illusion I was creating of the professional bad ass.  It was the murder and betrayal of the little boy who grew up as an only child in the deep country.  A boy who read Calvin and Hobbes underneath the blankets with a flashlight when he was supposed to be sleeping.  The boy who imagined himself throwing the One Ring into the mouth of Mount Doom.  The boy who would would trace comic books and rewrite the dialogue bubbles.

If I could have been honest a long time ago, then I would have written multiple books by now.  I love the craft, the work, the feeling of looking at something and saying, “I made this.”  There is a tangible product afterwards.  A feeling of completion.

It took the birth of my son to realize how important this sentiment is.  The ability to do what you love and revel in the fruits of your labor is admirable.  The strength to honestly assess what it is you are passionate about and pursue it is even more noble.  In this way, Thor saved me.  Even as a helpless little bundle who needs me to do everything for him – he saved me.  With tiny baby fingers he hacked away the illusion and left me bare.

carpe diem

So today my writing advice isn’t about writing at all, it’s about life.  Don’t wait until you are almost 30 to pursue what matters.  Don’t let a job define who you are.  Do what you love.  Do what makes you happy.  Shed the titles.  Enjoy the process.

That’s it for today.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Father’s Day: A Hallmark Holiday?

Me and Thor

Me and baby Thor.

Today is my first Father’s Day – at least my first as a father.  Facebook is churning away tagged father posts and I can never keep up with it all.  My wife made cheesecake last night (which I ate for my Father’s Day breakfast), my seven-month old was especially fussy, I called my dad, and life is going on.  I’ve always been wary of things like Father’s Day.  The cynic in me thinks it’s just a trick for Hallmark to sell cards.  I wanted to see where this particular holiday tradition came from.  A few google searches later I had my answers. (I found this on the interwebs, so it has to be true!)


Monongah DisasterT
he first origins story comes to us from December 6, 1907.  Location – Monongah, West Virginia. Circumstance – “the worst mining disaster in American History.”  An explosion rocked a coal mine killing 361 of the 367 men working within.  Of the fallen, 250 were fathers.  This left approximately 1000 children fatherless.  A thousand fatherless children.  I read it twice, I’m writing it twice.  The following year the Williams Memorial Methodist
Episcopal Church South (their sign must have been long
to fit this name on it) had an observance for the lost fathers, marking the first “Father’s Day.”  They did it on July 5th, 1908.  This was an issue because the day before was Independence Day, thus, the Father’s Day didn’t really get traction beyond the city of Fairmont, West Virginia where this first observance was held.

The second origins story comes from the daughter of a civil war veteran.   Sonora Smart Dodd’s father was a single parent who raised six children in the early 1900s. Dodd was sitting in church in Spokane, Washington during a Mother’s Day service and thought it was ridiculous fathers don’t get the same deal – after all, her dad did it all alone. She spoke with her clergy and on June 19, 1910 Father’s Day services were held throughout the city of Spokane.  She kept the tradition alive with the clergy until she went off to school and Father’s Day fell away once again.

fathers-day-kaywoodie-pipe-54-swscan06305-copyDodd came back to Spokane in the 1930s, started cracking clergy skulls, and pushed Father’s Day into the national spotlight.  Much of the nation discounted the holiday as a cheap trick to create a commercial holiday and sell stuff.  Help came in the form of the Father’s Day Council, which was headed up by various men’s retailers.  They ran advertisements in major publications to push the idea of this holiday, hocking their various wares as well.  If mom gets flowers on her day, dad should get a nice new tobacco pipe on his!

NixonUltimately, from 1913 to 1972 multiple politicians and presidents attempted to turn Father’s Day into an actual federal holiday.  Every time there was resistance from Congress.  They feared it would become a commercialized holiday.  President Nixon, with a fist of fatherly love, signed it into law in 1971.  He may have been a lot of things, but Tricky Dick obviously loved his father.

And here we are.  What have I learned from this?  Yes, Father’s Day is a commercialized holiday.  Hell, what ones aren’t anymore?  However, the catalyst that created this day was love, loss, and remembrance.  It is a holiday highlighting the concept that we will never forget those people we love and how they impacted our lives. So, in short, happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there.  Past and present included.  May the lessons you teach and the love you impart echo through eternity.

More of rant today than anything, but hey, thanks for reading.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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