Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adventures in Dieting, Day Two

As you probably know, I started on Weight Watchers Sunday. This week I'm allowed 46 points per day. I finished Day #1 with one point leftover. Skinny here I come!

Day #2 started off great. I rode my bike for 15 miles which earned me a whopping 17 extra points. I only used three points for breakfast, and got by on ten points for lunch. I felt so good about my progress I splurged, burning up ten points to eat two cake pops. To make cake pops you bake a box cake, mash it up with a can of icing, form the mix into little balls, then after freezing the balls, dip them in white chocolate. I'm telling you they're great.

Friends invited us over for dinner last night. Unaware of our dieting status, they went all out. We had steak, a delicious floret salad (broccoli, cauliflower, bacon, cheese and mayo), a carrot and horseradish casserole (more sour cream and mayo and maybe some heavy cream), a baked potato casserole (still more sour cream, bacon, cheese and butter), and a good old-fashioned banana pudding with meringue on top for dessert (along with a couple of cake pops).

After we got home my partner took the recipes and went online to figure out how many points we'd eaten. Because I had seconds of the floret salad and the baked potato casserole, my total for just that one meal was (drum roll please)...56 points. Yeah, ten more than my allowance for the day.

Talk about eye-opening. I got to thinking that before Sunday there have been lots of times when I probably had dinners worth a good 50 or 60 points--like maybe five nights out of seven. No wonder I'm obese!

So yesterday I burned a total of 87 points. Fortunately, Weight Watchers allows 49 extra points for the first week plus any points I earn for exercise. I still have eight of my 49 splurge points and 23 points I earned riding my bike.

Today has gone a lot better. I got by on four points for breakfast. At lunch I ordered my usual Zaxby salad, minus the fried onion rings and with lite vinaigrette instead of honey mustard dressing. I refuse to give up the Texas toast. The changes cut the salad from 23 to 14 points.

In terms of points, yesterday I learned an expensive lesson. Giving up would have been a failure. I didn't fail because I started over today, wiser than I was the day before. Failing to lose weight is no longer an option for...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fat Man in the Bathtub with the Blues

My weight has bounced around since at least high school. Working at two different ice cream stores and a movie theater caused the first big uptick. These jobs were a doubly whammy on the old waistline because my activity level dropped at the same time my caloric intake went way up.

Due more to a shortage of guys than my talent or ability, I was recruited for several dancing roles in our high school's production of "Oklahoma!". Increasing my activity level helped me to get the weight off. I gained most of it back when I started college due largely to a dramatic increase in my consumption of pizza and burgers.

Coming out produced the next big drop. Going to Johnny Angel's six nights a week was good for my waistline in two ways. Dancing for a couple of hours pushed my activity level up. Low wages forced me to choose between going out and eating. In pictures from that era I look like a poster child for malnutrition.

Before moving to Georgia my activity level remained fairly high. I still went out dancing once or twice a week and spent most of every weekend working in the yard. Back then I bragged about being able to eat whatever I wanted. Bragging about anything is an invitation for Karma to intervene.

Here in Athens it's too damn hot to work in the yard other than for an hour or two early in the morning. Instead I spend the bulk of my time on my ever-widening ass watching television, chatting with friends on Facebook, and engaging in other equally strenuous activities.

High school reunions force me to action. In advance of our 30-year reunion five years ago, I started riding a bicycle. With our 35-year reunion just months away, I've started riding again. Only I fear I've waited too long to get the desired results by October.

According to the nasty Body Mass Index Calculator, I'm obese. Not just overweight. Obese. Karma can be a real bitch.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Yesterday I started Weight Watchers. In the past I've gone through phases of paying more attention to what I ate. But this is the first time I've ever gone on a real diet.

The Weight Watchers plan revolves around point values assigned to various foods. I can have a total of 46 points a day. I'm learning that many of my normal food choices eat up a significant portion of those points. The healthy salad I get from Zaxby's for lunch most days is a whopping 23 points (including two packets of honey mustard dressing and Texas Toast you can suck the butter out of).

Awareness is half the battle. Calculating the number of points (available as an app for my phone) forces me to pay a lot more attention. Paying more attention requires me to make better choices. Twenty weeks from now, I hope you'll see a much slimmer version of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Today in My Garden

Extremely dry weather this month has dramatically slowed progress in the garden. We finally got some rain Thursday night, along with severe winds. I had a lot of small branches down but no serious damage.

Day lilies are one of the big bloomers this week. I only have three kinds (yellow Stella D'Oro, solid orange, and yellow with a red throat), but because I keep dividing them have lots of each kind. Not sure where this one came from as it doesn't look a thing like any of the others.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has become one of my favorite flowers. Heat and dry weather don't faze them, and the bright orange flowers last for weeks. I might have to try some of the cultivars that bloom in different colors.

It wouldn't be a southern garden without magnolias. The first few years I was lucky to get one or two blooms from the three-foot tall plant I bought. Now it's probably teen feet tall and blooms continuously for weeks. I love the lemony fresh fragrance.

Hopefully we'll get more rain in the next week or two. If not, we may face watering restrictions (again). Drought has become the new normal in the garden of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good News, Bad News

I've blogged before about the advanced macular degeneration in my left eye. The six weeks in-between treatments passes too quickly. Today I had my sixth appointment with the retina specialist.

My vision has deteriorated over the last three visits. Today my left eye couldn't even make out the letters on the top row of the eye chart. I was shocked and more than a little concerned.

Paralleling the deterioration in my eyesight, the retina scans I get every visit show my condition has worsened. Linda, the delightful "little girl" who does the scans showed me the images from today and my last two visits. Even my untrained, nearly-blind eyes could see the progression from bad to really bad. I knew I was about to get another shot in the eye.

The retina specialist explained that after an initial positive response, some patients stop responding to the Avastin injections. Apparently I'm one of those patients. A subset of these patients have success with injections of Lucentis. Hopefully I'm one of them.

Except for the one time I didn't have to have an injection, each visit to the
retina specialist costs about $2,000. Of that, $75 is the Avastin. Lucentis costs nearly $4,000 per dose. Like that's not bad enough, I'll need the treatment every four weeks instead of every six.

Thankfully I have good insurance. Still, I had to fill out a ton of paperwork, including an application for assistance from the Chronic Disease Foundation which will cut my $400 per injection copay in half. I have to send them a copy of last year's tax return, too.

Increasing the frequency of my visits is upsetting. But the idea of losing my vision upsets me even more. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Lucentis treatments will work.

I've been asking my partner and others to either drop me off or pick me up from the appointments. I really hate putting people out, especially as often as the appointments roll around. Everyone I know works during the day.

Today I drove myself home from the appointment. I took scotch tape with me and taped two pairs of the freebie shades available from the office inside my giant, old man sunglasses. It worked well enough to get me from the doctor's office to the home of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, May 23, 2011

My World & Welcome To It

Saturday the writer's group discussed the first 5000 words of Addicted, my first work of fiction. By and large the comments were positive. Especially considering it's my first attempt at fiction, I was very pleased. Since Saturday I've been working on revising the manuscript based on their feedback.

Except for me, everyone at this meeting was female. They said they needed to know more about what Josh (the main character) is thinking and feeling--especially during or immediately after the one sex scene they read. Adding his reaction to the situation never would have occurred to me and I'm grateful to the group for pointing out specific paragraphs where more insight is needed.

The group gave me a lot of minor edits and pointed out my tendency to go overboard describing action. They offered several specific suggestions to strengthen or tighten up specific scenes. To the best of my knowledge, all their suggestions have been incorporated in the revised draft.

The biggest criticism was that Josh comes across as more than a little whiny. I tried to show how devastated he was by the recent (bad) ending of his 17-year relationship. Since almost everyone felt the same way, I was forced to agree I'd probably gone too far. Again, I'm grateful for the input (and equally glad they didn't see the earlier versions where even I thought he was too whiny).

They also encouraged me to eliminate the first chapter. The purpose when I wrote it was to lay-out all the back story. Essentially it's written like my memoir, Glass Houses--all telling and no showing. Once I got past the first chapter I felt a lot more comfortable writing fiction. Tossing out the first chapter made sense. It took a lot of effort but I finally managed to incorporate all the important parts into the second chapter (now Chapter One) and cut the rest.

Some found Josh unlikable because of his behavior. He smokes pot like crazy to fill the void in his life since the break-up and in the opening chapters has a couple of drinks. The clincher for some was Josh driving while stoned and drunk. I'm sticking to my guns on this one but did go back and add more about his motivations for the behavior.

A few readers outside of the group have been upset about Josh having unprotected sex. Again, I'm not backing down. However I did add more about what he was thinking and feeling to cause his reckless behavior.

Addicted is a work of fiction. The characters and the story are made up. But the world where the characters live and in which the story takes place is real. The things that happen may not be pretty or moral or politically correct, but they reflect a certain reality. I know that reality is foreign to many potential readers, but once upon a time it was home to...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ready for the Rapture

According to Harold Camping and his followers, the rapture will take place tomorrow with a ginormous earthquake. He cites his extensive research of the Bible and guarantees the date. He has since added the big event will occur at exactly 6:00 p.m., Eastern time.

Mr. Camping is a Christian radio broadcaster and President of Family Radio. Unlike the Westboro Baptist Church which is composed mostly of Reverend Phelp's family, Camping has followers across the United States and around the world. I searched but was unable to determine whether his followers number in the hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands.

You don't have to be one of Camping's followers to be raptured. Good Christians and 144,000 Jews will apparently make the cut. Since I'm neither Jewish nor Christian, I'm absolutely certain I won't be among the elect.

I'm not upset. Having been excluded from all things Christian for most of the last thirty years, I'm used to being left out. I do, however, have some concerns.

How will I know which of my Facebook friends were among the elect? If the rapture occurs I'm sure several of them will go. If so, will they disappear from my list of friends?

Same for Twitter. I'm now following more than 1000 entities resulting in more than 150 followers who I'm sure read every Tweet. Will the elect vanish from Twitter, too?

I also worry about the impact of the rapture on my blog. I'm up to 33 followers, including several who never read it because I pissed them off a long time ago. Will the elect disappear from my list of followers?

Will the rapture cause a big drop in my blog stats? My numbers have dropped lately because I've been working on my second book, Addicted, instead of writing blog posts. A bigger fall-off in my numbers would make blogging feel like an even bigger waste of time than it already does.

What about my writer's group? We meet at 5:30 tomorrow. I submitted the first 5000 words of Addicted for review and discussion. I'll be totally pissed if at 6:01 the only person remaining is...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today in My Garden

I see a lot of people trying to take garden pictures on sunny days. Too much light washes out all the colors. Cool, cloudy weather today means it's a great day to take pictures in the garden.

Lollipop Lilies are the first of the lilies to bloom in my garden. They multiply like crazy and should probably be divided after blooming this year. We'll see if I remember!

My hydrangeas are doing great this year. Here is a close up of Forever Blue Hydrangea. With a little lime around the base of the plant the flowers would be almost purple.

This hydrangea is better than seven feet tall and at least as wide. I call it Big (Forever) Blue Hydrangea. Go Big Blue!

Something keeps eating the goldfish out of my half-whiskey barrel fountain. Yesterday I got six more goldfish and a Guard Owl. We'll see if it works.

Most the hollyhocks you see in gardens today look like the pompoms cheerleaders use. They seed everywhere and the offspring have reverted to singles. I like them better than the original plants.

And that's what you'd see today if you were walking through the garden of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Six Sentences Sunday

The following is my second excerpt for Six Sentences Sunday from my work in progress, Addicted. After meeting friends for cocktails, Josh Freeman has a little too much to drink. Sexy Michael DeLuca volunteers to walk him home.
Inside the apartment the pair embraced again. Josh untucked the t-shirt from Michael’s jeans, pulled it over his head, and ran his hands over the furry, muscular chest he had uncovered. Michael yanked Josh’s shirt over his head in a swift motion, kissing him thoroughly while he, too explored Josh’s naked chest with his hands.

Josh moaned, caressing the muscular arms and tracing his fingers down Michael’s spine as the two kissed like teenagers at a drive-in movie. Pulling away, Josh looked Michael in the eye and saw lust equal to his own. Taking Michael by the hand, he led him through the apartment to the bed.

Inside the apartment things get too hot to share here on...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On Becoming a Writer

Nearly a year ago I started writing my first book. It was a memoir because the only thing I knew was to write about what I know. I finished Glass Houses in a matter of months and after submitting the manuscript to the agent of my dreams, less than two weeks later received a rejection.

After receiving the rejection I joined a local writer's group. We meet twice a month. I've been going to the meetings since March and have really learned a lot from the other writers. I submitted Glass Houses to a publisher and am waiting to hear back from them.

Because of what I learned from the group I started writing my first work of fiction. I'm still writing what I know, which means my book revolves around gay characters. One of the people in my group invited me into a couple of Facebook groups; one for writers of male/male romances and the other for people who write erotic romance novels I'd describe as kinky.

Since joining these various groups I've been reading a lot of blogs, excerpts, and posts on Facebook written by other writers. It's been a real education. I had no idea the market for erotic romances about other than traditional male/female couples was so vast.

I had to leave the group for kinky writers. Frankly, much of the discussion either freaked me out or gave me the creeps. Whatever floats your boat and to each his own but swinging, group sex, and kinky scenes are just not for me.

I don't think I'm a male-male romance writer, either. Many of the writers in this group seem obsessed with gay sex. The irony is that most are women, including many married women.

My manuscripts do contain gay sex scenes. However, the stories are not about sex. I write about people who happen to be gay and sometimes have sexual encounters. In every case the sex scene is supposed to show something about the main character.

The biggest surprise is the quality of much of the writing I see from published authors. I'm not talking about a typo here and there--we all make mistakes. Many of the errors are just sloppy or careless while others reflect a limited knowledge of grammar I had to learn in middle school. Some of it is just awful.

For better or worse, exposure to all these different writers has helped me to see what I've always known. I was born to write. It may not happen next week, or next, month, or even next year--but one day you'll be able to buy a book written by...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today in My Garden

The calendar may not say so but summer has definitely arrived here in Athens. Highs this week in the 90s will likely mean the demise of pansies, violas and other winter-blooming annuals. Daffodils and other spring bulbs have already gone dormant for the summer.

Hydrangeas like this "Forever Blue" are just coming in to bloom. I bought one a year or two after I moved in. A vase full of blooms sprouted roots so now I have several.

Because weeding it became a full time job, I put Preen in the butterfly garden which will likely mean an end to the larkspur, silene, and California poppies seen here. The Stella D'oro Daylilies are just starting to bloom. The silver stalk is Lamb's ear.

My neighbor gave me a bunch of red hot pokers two years ago. They've done really well and are now approaching full bloom. You can also see a hollyhock approaching bloom and a groundcover rose I'm sorry I bought because it wants to sprawl all over the garden with 12-foot long thorny stems.

Lilies are budding up all over the garden. Normally the deer eat the flower buds. Thanks to Deer-Off, this will be the best year yet for lilies. When they start blooming, you can count on seeing a few pictures right here on...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Verdict

Yesterday the Athens Writer's group met. Since we meet on the first and third Saturdays of each month, everyone had three weeks to prepare. At long last, Glass Houses made it to the agenda for discussion.

To my surprise and delight, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The group really liked the story and offered some very constructive criticism. As anyone who has read the manuscript knows, they also felt like they really got to know me.

One of the bigger problems they pointed out I've heard many times before. Except for my family, readers have trouble keeping up with all the people. The group suggested cutting out and/or combining some of the less important characters. It's a great idea that would be a lot easier if they weren't real people who played significant roles in my life.

The group also pointed out specific problems; some I knew about, others were new to me. What I considered to be foreshadowing sometimes went too far. There are also lots of times when I confuse the reader bouncing back and forth between a specific occasion and what was typical for that occasion in other years. I get what they're saying and agree.

I also tend to treat minor and significant events the same. This equal treatment makes the turning point of the book (my discussion with Aunt Judy) fade into the background rather than stand out as the pivotal moment it was. They would like to see me spend more time writing about my feelings and reactions to some of the most important events--especially coming out. Again, I completely agree.

The final recommendation was to submit the manuscript 5000 words at a time for discussion by the group to enable more specific suggestions for how to resolve these issues. At two meetings per month, it would take eleven months to get through the 110,000 word manuscript. Everyone agreed spending the time would help me turn a good read into a great read.

Again, I agree. However, I'm reluctant to follow this advice because Glass Houses is currently being considered by a publisher. Given the publisher's promise to have at least two editors review every manuscript, I remain optimistic about my chances of getting a contract.

Until I hear back from the publisher, I'm not doing anything with Glass Houses. If accepted for publication, the publisher will have their own suggestions for edits that may or may not align with suggestions from the group. If that were to happen I'd feel like very busy people had wasted time they could have spent on their own manuscripts.

The bottom line is that my time for writing is limited. Unless and until something changes (i.e., I get a rejection or a contract), mentally I'm done with Glass Houses. I'd rather spend my writing time working on the next manuscript, including sending it to the group 5000 words at a time. It's a gamble, but one I'm willing to take. Besides, taking big risks is nothing new for...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Who's Side Are You On?

I'm not optimistic about the future of our country. Never mind what passes for politics. I'm more concerned with the breakdown of civil society.

When I was in college if a police officer stopped me for any reason, my response was to be as polite and respectful as possible. Anything else was asking for trouble I didn't want. Yes sir, no sir, thank you very much sir.

To see how much things have changed in the last thirty years, check out Campus PD. Or maybe just watch your local news. The standard now is to become as belligerent and uncooperative as possible.

If cussing at the police doesn't work, go ahead and hit them. Make sure you have a friend with a cell phone nearby to record the incident. You could be the next Rodney King.

Last week the Atlanta cops were in the news for hitting a woman in a restaurant. Never mind that she was uncooperative and combative and that she hit the officer first. The assumption was that the cop was out of line.

A couple of weeks ago one of the blogs I follow posted a video of two women beating up a transgendered individual at a McDonald's in Maryland. Instead of breaking up the fight, the employees egged on the thuggish girls as they kicked the victim in the head. Toward the end of the clip, as the victim is having a seizure, the employees warn the women to leave because the police were coming.

Somewhere along the way police officers got an undeserved bad reputation. The police are not the enemy. They get paid near-poverty wages to protect us from criminals. I'm not saying they are all saints, but there are many more good cops than bad cops.

The ghetto-rati claim the cops are racist, even when significant portions of practically every police force in the country are minorities. Racism isn't the problem. The issue is a flagrant disregard for authority and the idea that it's OK to assault another person or take property that doesn't belong to you.

Don't break the law and you won't have run-ins with police. It's just that simple. And if you do for some reason get stopped by a police officer, show some respect.

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another Epiphany

Writing Addicted continues to be a lot of fun. I've written about 13,000 words in twelve chapters. Even I'm surprised by the direction the story has taken.

Addicted is the story of Josh Freeman, a 39 year-old gay man who finds himself suddenly single after a twelve year relationship ends. Josh assumes his life is over and that he'll never know love again. The three sex scenes in the first 13,000 words are not gratuitous--they serve a purpose in advancing the story.

Earlier this week I shared the first ten chapters with two of my most trusted straight female friends. I warned them about the sex scenes and worried they might be offended by the graphic content. I've been on pins and needles waiting to hear back from them.

They e-mailed me today with their reviews. They love it. In fact, though both are big fans of Glass Houses, they say Addicted is much better. One admitted to a blush or two and said she might never read Danielle Steele again. You could have knocked me over with a feather!

Upon further investigation, turns out that something like ninety percent of the people who read male/male romances are straight women! I had no idea. I figured the only people with any interest in reading gay romances were gay men.

If I'd have thought about it for even five minutes I could have figured it out. Gay men don't read romances--they watch porn on the Internet. Straight men don't read gay romances either, and until their wives find out also watch porn online. I don't see lesbians panting over male/male romances either. Straight women are the only group left.

I mentioned a few posts ago that Adrienne Wilder, future New York Times bestseller, invited me to join a Facebook group for people who write male/male romances. Very few members of the group are men. The majority of members are women.

When it comes to sex scenes in gay romance novels, I can ALWAYS tell if it was written by a woman. The good ones get 99.9 percent right...enough to fool the straight women who read this stuff. But to perhaps most men and any gay man, that .1 percent gives them away every time.

After sharing the reviews I received from my friends with her, Adrienne told me male writers of male/male romances are in high demand. In fact, many of the women who write in the genre use male pseudonyms and otherwise try to mask their gender. Nice to know the advantage goes to...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Six Sentences Sunday

Every Sunday various writers from the Naughty Romance Writers Facebook group post six sentences from a work in progress. I searched through Glass Houses last week and couldn't find six sentences to share. The problem was finding six sentences to make the reader interested in reading more.

This is my first stab at Six Sentences Sunday. The excerpt comes from Addicted, my new work in progress, about 39 year-old Josh Freeman who, after splitting with his partner of twelve years feels like he's over the hill and his life is over.

After a hard day moving into his new big city apartment more than 500 miles away from his ex, Josh calls one of the many massage ads featured in the Washington Blade for something to sooth his aching muscles. The scene picks up after a surprising massage:

Josh thought about what had just happened. He couldn’t believe he had paid for sex. Getting an anonymous blow job in a bookstore was one thing. Paying for sex was in an entirely different category. In truth, he hadn’t really paid for sex. He paid for a massage—the blow job was not part of the deal.

And that's six sentences from the first work of fiction from...

The Crotchety Old Man
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