Writing, first draft complete; Photography; Expat Life, it’s always something; Friends and Family

sunset-bwThe first draft of my newest book, the first in a series called Bone Gap, is finally finished. Now comes the really hard work. I have a friend whose been helping check for grammatical errors as I finish a group of chapters. After I finish those corrections, it will be time to print out the manuscript and go through it line by line, chapter by chapter and either cut or add portions to the story. It’scambodia labor intensive and with the minds propensity to auto-correct, one read through doesn’t necessarily do the trick.

I’ve been making notes in a composition book as I write when thoughts have occurred to me for improvements to the story. They usually insert yellow-3themselves into my thought process long after I’m finished with the chapter they concern. These will be added or tossed in the trash as I am reading trough for errors and holes in the story line whereas, new notes may be jotted in the margins for others that I hadn’t thought of. Although the first draft is done, we are far from finishing and getting it published.

I’ve finally started work on a photography project that I had made a few attempts at in the past. It concerns thailand-2using a black backdrop (preferably velvet but other materials will work), indirect sunlight, and ordinary subjects like flowers, food, or doodads you might have on a shelf. I’ve seen a couple of photographers whose work I admire use this technique and decided I would give it a try. Some of my first attempts are in this post. I still haven’t made it out for a walk with the camera but at least my conscious has let up on me a little.

white-2I’m not sure it’s worse as an expat or pretty much the same everywhere but it seems that as of late, I’ve been dealing with one disaster after another. From broken appliances, problems with the water, minor health issues, and other issues; we had not one but two flat tires on the car this past week. I’m at a point where I really need a break and am ready for the cosmos to send a little good luck my way.bowl-of-fruit

Summer here in Lima, at least as far as recorded temps are concerned, is no worse than the ones in the past, I think it’s me getting even less tolerant of heat and humidity than I was in the past. I’m ready for fall and winter, bring it on. I’d even be happy with a little snow and ice although I’m not sure Peruvian drivers could handle a disaster like that.

the-white-temple-thailand-2009Friday not cocktails with Mona and Kelly didn’t happen this past week. They still had family in town to entertain them. But, photos of Mona babysitting an infant seemed to indicate that she was having a great time. A photo of here with all her siblings was also a great sight. Saturday morning coffee and chat with the guys was a blast. We missed Dario though; I suspect he was training for his birthday blue-and-yellow-1though. There was the usual, “what did he do this week,” discussion as well as other topics of general interest. Mahlon finally received his citizenship papers so now he can officially pay income taxes in two countries. Let’s hope he makes enough money so that he has to. Sunday coffee with Kathy was nice. It had been a couple of weeks so we had a lot to catch up on. She will be heading up to Cajamarca soon to visit with a friend and take a little break from Lima. All lily-1others are doing fine and it seems that everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day.

Well, that sums up another post. I hope you have all been making an attempt to stay active mentally and physically. My total weight loss is now at 7.2 kilos after five weeks, that’s 15.84 lbs. I ‘m still getting up every morning with the sun and doing a 5.5 kilometer walk along with other walks on a few day of the week. That means I’m halfway to my goal. I repeat, if I can do this at my age, you can too – get up, get out – use it or lose it. Have a great week everyone.

Writing, the Last Chapter; Photography, am I becoming a slacker; Expat Life; Friends and Family

blueHere I am, almost nine hundred words into my last chapter. I am both excited and fearful at being here. When this chapter is finished, comes the first read through with editing comments. Something that I have always found to be a laborious process. It’s at his point where I personally start feeling a sense of insecurity in my writing. When this part is finished and I have added to, deleted, and corrected it will go off to my editors. It’s their opinion that matters to me at this point. I do my best to set my ego on a shelf and pay attention flower-gardento what they tell me.

Once I have read their comments and suggestions, I sit them aside for a short period of time. I need to let all of it sink in, time to digest what they are telling me. Then and only then, do I go back and look at the areas, sentences, or grammar and make a decision on whether to make the changes or not. In reality, I usually end up agreeing with 95% of what they are trying to tell me and adjust the writing as necessary. If you, as a writer, are lucky enough to have friends or a writing group that will take the time to look over your work, be appreciative. Even if you don’t agree with their assessment.

two-tonePhotography, thank goodness that when I do go out with the camera or phone I take a lot of photos. Another week has passed with me not making it out for one of my photo-walks. I guess I’m going to have to pay a friend to beat me with a stick till I get out of the apartment with my camera. A few photos from Barranco done with my phone are all I accomplished again this week. It’s certainly not a lack of time or motivation. I can only surmise that laziness is the main reason. Am I becoming a slacker? Only time will tell.

Last week I mentioned the flooding that was occurring in the mountains that had affected some areas of Lima. This week, the health ministry here sent out another warning. Apparently, the mosquitoes that carry Dengue Fever have from-the-bvspread to all areas of Lima. Normally the skeeter population in Lima is very low but I guess the floods have carried them into the city and now we have another thing to worry about.

We were also surprised with a monster water bill this month. It seems, a little used bathroom stool on our second floor decided to start leaking. A new stool has been purchased and installed. Shortly afterwards, a plumber, hired by the landlord came through to check all the plumbing. It seems we are OK for now. For those who haven’t heard this before, in Peru, the tenant, not the landlord is responsible for repairs and replacements in the place you are renting. I’m not sure if this is true for all South America but I do know it applies to several countries down here.

hibiscus-2Friday evening cocktails with Mona and Kelly, although entertaining as always, delivered some sad news. My dearest friend Mona’s mother passed away the day before. Although expected, the loss of a parent always hurts and it pained me to see the loss in Mona’s eyes. Family and friends were coming in for the service from all over the country. Although they are all gathered, I’m sure this will be a difficult time for her family. My love and support goes out to them.

Saturday coffee and cocktails was fun again. Only Carlo and Larry were able to come this week. Mahlon was getting ready to participate in a Pisco Sour contest and Dario was off on one of his athletic events. We’re hoping loads-of-pinkthey will be able to rejoin us this coming Saturday so that we can hear all about their adventures. Kathy had to cancel Sunday’s coffee and chat. An oral surgery procedure on Friday still had her out of commission. All other friends seem to be doing OK, at least that’s what FB tells me.

That another post under the belt. My re-commitment to exercise and weight loss is paying off. I’ve lost 6 kilos (13.2 lbs) in the four weeks I have been on my self-designed program. A five kilometer walk first thing every morning and a restriction to 1860 calories of healthy food are the two pillars for now. At a point in the future, I will add another walk in the afternoon and trips to the gym for weight training. Get up and get out, it works people.

Writing, nearing the end; Photography; Expatlife; Friends and Family

20170128_073440It’s been a decent week for writing and I am now a chapter and a half away from finishing the first draft of my book. I fully admit that I use the Henry James style of writing when it comes to editing. I always read my previous day’s work and make changes or edits as needed before starting on the new section. This time, I’ve also accepted my friend Mona Stevens’ offer to do some grammatical editing as I finish each ten chapters. I’m hoping this will cut the time I need to do a full read the-islandsand edit after I finish the book. We’ll see how that works out and as usual, I will keep you informed on how well that goes. Naturally I will still accept the gracious offerings of help, if given, from my friends Larry Pitman and Amanda White on a final edit and review of the work.

Reaching the end when writing a novel always presents me with the natural fears of a writer. Is it any good? Will people like it? Is the plot interesting? lima-skylineWill the mystery keep the reader intrigued? Plus, all the other questions that batter at a writer’s self-confidence. These last passages of dialog, sentences of descriptive text, and statements of actions are the ones that will influence the reader at the end of his or her journey through the adventure that you have written. Will they close the book and say, “Wow, that was really good. I can’t wait for his next book.”

Again, this past week, my photography was relegated to the time I spent in Barranco artificial-flower-2between writing and meeting my friends for coffee. That means that all the photos posted here and on my Facebook page were done with my cellphone, a Samsung S7 Edge. Considering the quality of the photos, I’m beginning to wonder why I need my cameras at all. The only reason I can think of at this point is that they make me feel more like a photographer.

Life in Peru has presented a wide range of interesting and strange situations this week. On the more normal side we experienced another 3.9 earthquake last night, which I red-bougslept through. The mini rumbles are a part of daily life here in Lima. I’m just hoping that these are helping to keep the big one away. It’s also the rainy season her in Peru although, as I’ve said in the past, Lima never sees any of it directly. So, it was strange to see reports of flooding here in this desert city in the news this past week. There are some rivers running through Lima that feed into the ocean. The heavy rains in the mountains have caused them to overflow here. None of that has affected me directly at this point but there are worries about the sludge that flowed into the streets drying up and becoming airborne.

Finally, we have the yearly UV warnings for all of Peru. Apparently, Peru and Bolivia have orange-1the highest UV ratings in the world. For now, the warning merely asks that we stay indoors, if possible, through the hours from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Also, sunblock of 30 of higher is recommended at all times. In the past, the warning has been extended to include all daylight hours. I fully expect that to happen again this year.

Friday evening cocktails with Mona and Kelly via Facetime proved to be delightful as always. We talked a little politics, some sports, family doings, and other things of interest to us. the-macThat led into Saturday morning and coffee and chat with the BV crowd (Larry, Carlo, and Mahlon). We met at the MAC again in the hopes of escaping the oppressive heat that is daily life in Lima for the summer. A pleasant breeze comforted and cooled us through the entire time and it was decided that it would be our summer residence. To be clear, they have a second Bodega Verde there at the museum so we are still supporting our favorite place. Sadly, Dario was unable to join us again due to his artificial-boquetvigorous running/biking schedule. Hopefully he will return this coming Saturday. Sunday morning coffee and chat with Kathy was interesting with a sprinkle of fun thrown in.

Azaad and Natalie appear to be settling in nicely at their home in Capetown. We are all glad to hear they are doing well. Ada’s art class is producing some stunning work by her students. I hope her school will become immensely successful. Jamie’s fantastic burgers are being sold at a local hangout in Miraflores now. They have become very popular. My friends Bob and Silvia are hanging in there. Bob is artificial-flowerhaving a tough time and we all hope he comes through it with flying colors. My family back in the US seem to be having a great time. One of the things I love about FB is being able to see and hear from them almost every day.

Well, here we are at the end of another post again. The exercise and diet regimen that I started on has been working. I’ve taken off 12.1 pounds in three weeks. My goal is to lose 30+ before reevaluating the goal. I’ve done this by cutting calories, eating healthy, and walking for an hour first thing in the morning. So, if at the age of 70 I can do it, so can you. Get up, get out – move it, use it, or lose it. Simple as that. Have a great week everyone.

Writing, Starbucks saves the day; Photography, Expat Life; Friends and Family

roses-and-churchMy dry spell lasted until Saturday morning last week. Thoth failed me but Starbucks saved me. I was able to write my way into a path that would lead to the next chapter. A character returns here at the end of the novel and explains his actions while he was missing. This will lead to a change that not everyone will be happy with and another character’s action will cast deep doubts into the mind of my protagonist. Writing is so much fun when it comes easily and smoothly. Struggling through the dry periods can be tough but they will always end eventually. Although, according to a movie I just watched, F. Scott Fitzgerald´s dry spell never did. stone-artFitzgerald bemoaned the fact to Wolfe towards the end of the movie that his last royalty check for “The Great Gatsby” was only $2.52. I sympathize with you friend.

I enjoy watching movies about famous writers and their lives. My most recent was one titled, “Genius.” It starred Colin Firth and Jude Law and was about the sunflowershort but brilliant career of Thomas Wolfe. Cameos by the characters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway spiced the movie up nicely. In the movie, Thomas Wolfe was asked how many words he wrote a day on average. 5,000 was his answer. I was awed by that number. Still, his editor had to help him whittle down his first novel from 1100 pages. I guess with an output like that you would need to write at that pace. Personally, 2,500 in a day is the most I’ve ever achieved.

Photography took back seat to other projects this past bridge-of-sighsweek. Still, I managed to get a few good shots while walking around Barranco between writing at Starbucks and my meeting with friends at Bodega Verde. My morning walks for exercise have proved bad for photography. Keeping up a good walking pace does not allow for stops to take photographs. My plan is to try and schedule some in the evening about thirty minutes before sunset. The heat and humidity are simply too intolerable in the afternoon now that summer is in full swing here in Lima, Peru.

tiny-rosesTaking up a walking program to lose weight here in Lima, Peru has been an enlightening experience to say the least. Although I am in a nice neighborhood, half of the streets do not have sidewalks. Plus, there is barely room for the cars so walking on those streets at the same time people are trying to get to work or back home is a frightening experience in avoidance. I splendid-purplestarted out taking my walk at nine in the morning but quickly changed to 06:30 in the hopes that there would be less traffic. That worked out fine for the first half hour but still left me with the drivers leaving at 07:00. Fortunately, by that time, I have progressed to the streets with sidewalks and all I need to worry about is crossing at the corners. Drivers in Peru are generally intolerant of people walking the streets for exercise. On a sad note for those of us residing out of the country, when the new president of the yellow-rosesUS dropped out of the TTP trade deal out favorable exchange rate dropped from 3.39 to 3.27 making everything more expensive for us down here. The vagaries of the global market and its effect on expats around the world.

Meetings with friends went well this past week. bajada-re-banosAs usual, I met with Mona and Kelly on Facetime for cocktails. Nothing new and exciting came up but I imagine they will have a lot to say about the new president and congress after this week’s events. The whole gang was at the meeting at Bodega Verde this past Saturday. It was a bit stifling sitting in their garden with its high walls. As a result, we are going back to the MAC this coming Saturday. Our conversation though was lively and wide ranging as always. Then, coffee and chat with Kathy at flowers-in-a-vasethe Starbucks in San Borja was fun as always. We always have interesting discussions about things pertinent to our lives. It appears that I will have visitors come visit me again this year. Friends from Arizona may come down in the next few months. This will make eight years running that I will have had company come. All other family and friends are doing well. My sister and her husband are back home from a recent trip to the Keys in Florida.

Well, that’s it for another post. I’ve been getting up and getting out, so, I know you can do it too. Exercise body and mind, you want to stay sharp for as long as possible. Have a great week everyone.

Writing, Thoth help me; Photography; Expat Life; Friends and Family

brick-wallI originally thought that my new exercise regimen would help me dedicate more time to writing and less to couch surfing. It is with deep regret that I am unable to report a lot of success on my word counts this week. I did manage to finish chapter 31 and get a small start on 32, but the last few days have been relatively dry in the writing department. As a result, I’ve invoked the ancient 20170107_064830Egyptian God of writing, Thoth, to aid me in my journey to finish my fourth book. I only managed to get the candles lit and incantations done this morning so I’m not expecting results till tomorrow.

I think my problem really stems from the fact that I’ve written myself out of the pathway that I had planned for this newest chapter going into the face-in-the-flowernext one. Now, I’m having to wing it and a viable sequencing into the next chapter has been playing hide and seek with me for the past few days. If Thoth fails me, I always have my Starbucks session as a fallback.

My photography walks have increased along with my exercise routine. If not the camera, I always have my Samsung 7 Edge with me and since it is now Summer here in Lima, Peru, there is no end to the wide variety of flowers I have to choose from. Sadly, once again, I must report that I haven’t taken the time to set up a session to do some studio work. I still want to do some still life sessions with various 20170110_095514objects, food, and flowers with a black background and some side lighting. It’s not like I don’t have the time, I can only pass it off as laziness on my part. I’m hoping to have some to share with you next week.

Living, or even visiting for an extended period of time another country allows you to reevaluate many of your life’s preconceptions. As a result, it can help you to expand the view of the world and shed some of the tribal leanings you might have acquired before. My parents instilled the love of travel in me at a young age. Something that I didn’t appreciate till I had 20170107_064755time to actually assimilate the wanderlust into wanting to learn about other peoples and cultures. That lead me to wandering the globe both alone and with friends for many years. Now, actually living in Peru, I have come to appreciate even more deeply the differences that make all of us up. To see how other people view not only me but the country I come from has been eye opening to say the least. There is one aspect of the Peruvian identity that I admire above others. That is the pride they have yellow-rosein the deepness of their historical culture, something that the Spanish and Catholic Church tried to take away from them. They were building pyramids here in Peru at the same time Egypt was starting theirs. Over millennia, multiple advanced cultures sprung up throughout the area. The Chavin, Sechin, Paracas, Nazca, Lima, Inca, and Mochica are just a few examples. They built huge temples and the-grouplarge cities rivaling anything built on the other side of the world. Come visit if you have the chance. Peru is an amazing place.

This past Friday evening was spent in the company of Mona and Kelly via Facetime again. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails and caught up on stuff that happened in the past week. Mona, along with a few yellow-bloomothers, helped me select the flowers that I want to replace my dead rose bushes with. Saturday morning I met my friends Larry, Dario, Mahlon, and Carlo at the Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art (or the MAC as it is affectionately known here) for coffee and chat. The discussions on a wide range of topics was even more lively than usual and it made a nice change of 20170107_065019pace from our other meeting place. On Sunday I met up with Kathy to do some more catching up. Sadly, the Starbucks where we usually meet here in La Molina has shut down permanently so we ended up across the street drinking gas station coffee at a convenient store. That didn’t dull our conversation on a multitude of subject though. All other friends and family are fine, at least according to their entries on FB.

Phew, another post is in the books or I guess on the web would be a better saying. I hope all of you are staying active physically and mentally. Remember, use it or lose it, it’s do true.

Writing, the rabbit and the turtle; Photography; Expat Life; Friends and Family

sunrise-2It seems that over the course of the past few months, my writing resembles that old parable about the race between the rabbit and the turtle. I have days where the words pour out and it seems the race to the finish is so near I can almost touch it. Then, the turtle takes over while the rabbit naps. Slow and sure the words fall bw-firehydrantonto the page with slow regularity, just enough to make me feel that I’ve accomplished something. In the parable, it was the turtle who won the race. When it comes to my writing, I believe it will take both of these critters to get me to the finish line.

I’ve sent the first thirty chapters off to my first line editor to check for grammatical errors and make comments on the progress of the storyline. While she’s doing that, I’m still working on chapter 31 and will in all probability finish it pink-against-greentomorrow and get a start on 32 before my Saturday morning session at Starbucks. My energy levels are up thanks to a new diet and exercise program I’ve started. I’m hoping that will get me to the final chapter at a faster pace than the one I’ve been maintaining recently.

I’ve been out several times with the camera in the black-and-whitepast week. With those excursions, I’ve added over one hundred photos to my collection and processed seventy of them in the last couple of days. Most of are of the latest blooms in the parks and yard near my apartment. A few are from Barranco but I have yet to get set up to do some studio work, in particular, still-life’s. My work has been receiving great marks on all my social media pages. The praise is enough for now, but one of these days I’d love to have an exhibit.

fiatWhen I retired and moved to Peru, I swore that I would never allow my life to become sedentary. That I would work hard to stay in reasonable shape and keep the creative juices flowing. Over the last few months, since we moved to La Molina, I have allowed myself to fall into the couch potato trap. Something that can sneak up on you with deadly results. As a result, when I casually berriesstepped on the scales this past Monday morning, I was in for quite a shock. Thus, I have reinstituted my original pledge to, at a minimum, go for a long walk every day, and watch what I am eating. I hadn’t realized that I had allowed my caloric intake to jump to over 3500 calories a day. Now I’ve started a regimen to sunrise-3lose the weight and get back in shape. A brisk long walk every day, do a workout at the gym three days a week, and limit my caloric intake to 1700 calories until I’ve lost the extra weight. It will be a long battle, I’m figuring six months, and I’m sure temptations will start trying to derail my goals the entire time. Wish me luck.

Friday evening cocktails with Mona and Kelly were entertaining as always. Mona always makes the most delicious snacks for the occasion. But all I can do is drool from afar at the scrumptious fixings. I will be having my healthy dinner with them here on out. Saturdaybw-plants morning at the Bodega Verde was interesting as always. Larry and Mahlon were the only members of the regular group in attendance. A friend of Larry’s was in town and stopped in to join us. Larry and I talked a lot about writing while Larry’s friend regaled Mahlon with stories we had already heard. Carlo was at a wedding and Dario was out for one of his runs with his friends. I haven’t seen Kathy since before Christmas but next Sunday we will resume our weekly meetings. My sister and the rest of my family are all doing fine. It seems that they and all my friends back in the US made it through the holidays fine. I’m enjoying their tales of freezing weather. As for the rest of my friends here in Peru and throughout the world, all are fine.

That’s it for another post. Don’t let what happened to me, happen to you. Get up, get out, every single day at least go for a walk. Read a book, write a poem, paint a picture; exercise the creative side of your brain. Use it or lose it folks, unfortunately the maxim is true. Have a great week everyone.

Writing, breaking through the block; Photography; Expat Life; Friends and Family

pink-2As I predicted, my writing block with chapter 30 came to an end in Starbucks last Saturday. It always amazes me how conducive cafés are to writing. The ambience, the perfect noise level, the coffee, who knows? But, it almost always seems to work for me. The minute I had my lap top up and running, the document loaded, and the first words of a sentence written, I was off, fingers blazing across the have-a-seatkeyboard. I managed 700+ words before I had to shut everything down and head over to another café for a meeting with friends. I still had to round out the chapter with another 300+ words this past week but it was easy. I stopped myself in the middle of a sentence, which gave me a lead into finishing the chapter at home.

I’m now working on chapter 31 and plan to get most of it written by the end of the week. Not only can I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I can feel the breeze. Two to four pinkchapters more and I should have the story wrapped up and ready for my first editing attempt. I already have a list of things I want to do to improve the story even before reading it through. I’m excited to be near to the finish line and ready to start on my next novel.

I only managed to get a limited amount of photography done this past week and all of it was with my cell phone. Still, I hadn’t downloaded photos from the Samsung since December 11th so I have a lot of new photos to post with this writing. I do need to get out for a photo-walk soon. blue-bullThey always relax me and since I am wandering through the neighborhoods of Lima, knowing that I’m looking for something new to shoot, I tend to see more than I do on a regular walk. If, like me, you enjoy taking photographs I highly recommend that photo-walks become a regular part of your weekly routine. It also gives you a little exercise.

New Year’s Eve, another noisy holiday in Peru. Here, if you’re not invited to a party, it’s the custom to go to a Karaoke or similar place, pay a cover that includes varying amounts of things depending on the quality of the nightclub and dancing the night away. About thirty minutes before the New Year, the blue-sky-in-chorrillosfireworks start and this year Lima went all out even surpassing the ones that lit up the sky on Christmas Eve. The rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air, lasted till 2:30 in the morning, a constant barrage of explosions. I stayed home this year and watched the show for a bit from my terrace. Sleep was out of the question. Earlier, I had a drink with witty toast to bring in 2017 via Facetime with my friends Mona and Kelly. So, the evening wasn’t a total bust.

The men of Bodega Verde met New Year’s Eve morning for our regular coffee and chat. new-years-groupDario, Larry, Mahlon, Carlo, and I were joined by our good friend Jim who was in town on business. It’s always great to have him join our little group. He definitely livens up the conversations. In addition, we got caught up on his comings and pink-rosegoings since his last visit. Friday evening I also had my regular cocktails on the patio with friends Mona and Kelly. I got to hear all about their Christmas along with our usual talk of retirement, basketball, and weekly routines. My dear friends the Mohammads (Azaad, Natalie, and daughter Nadia) are now official back home in South Africa. I believe their plane landed New Year’s Day. They will be sorely missed here in Lima by their many friends. But, we are all happy that it’s so easy to keep up with eachhoneysuckle other using the various social media site available to all. My friends here spent their New Year’s Eves in various ways and from the photos and comments, all had a fantastic time.

Well, that sums it up for another post. Hope all of your New Year’s Eves were all that you hoped they would be. It’s another new beginning, so make good use of it. Make sure you exercise body and mind. Be physical, be creative, get up, get out and do what you can. Even the smallest amount activity is better than none. Happy New Year everyone.