Weekly Musings #7

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I came down with a cold this week so I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked, but I still met the small goal I had set for myself for the week so I’m satisfied with myself.

My WIP now sits at 86,608 words. As I near the end of my first draft, I decided to add to it more incrementally to make sure it packs enough of a punch and to breeze past the inevitable doubts and overthinking. I’m planning to make it 100,000 words but after I get to 90,000 I won’t restrain myself to a certain word count; I will end it when it feels right, when I have done the story justice.

I’ve been working on this manuscript so consistently that even taking a few days off to recover from my cold made me feel guilty and restless. I don’t like it when I don’t write these days. I have so much fun with my characters and my universe that I don’t like leaving it behind. It’s not always fun, sometimes it’s quite emotionally involved; but it’s still always something I have to keep coming back to, again and again, to get all my story ideas out of my head. Even if it’s not always fun, it’s usually fulfilling and therapeutic. At the very least, it’s a distraction from my very boring life.

Even when I feel like I’m stuck and I don’t have an idea for the next chapter, I start with a general setting or theme, and because I’ve been writing regularly and practicing that muscle, the words usually flow eventually and I’m not staring at a blank screen for long.

But even muscles need sick days and recovery days. If you’re trying to force yourself to write through a migraine, don’t. In my case, I had low energy, brain fog and fatigue for a couple of days, so I didn’t even try. (I took a covid test and it was negative, thankfully.) I felt better over the weekend so I added a few more words and my writing sessions were more productive because I had rested.

It made me realize that maybe I need to add in weekends to my writing schedule. My “weekends” happen whenever I don’t feel up to writing, but it might be good to schedule in time off to just do nothing or to work on my other hobbies, just as I schedule in 25 minutes to sprint after a weeknight dinner or on a weekend morning. Too much rest can make it hard to get back into the flow of it; but just enough rest can be just what our creative muscle needs.

I am already feeling better even though my cold’s not quite done. Another few days of taking it easy and I think I’ll be able to get back to the gym and do more of my normal activities. And back to writing – almost every day.

I also thought I’d mention, I decided to take down the first three episodes of my story on my blog because I plan to completely rewrite them. You can see on my Patreon how much my first draft changes from my final product.

My plans this week are to write two short stories, one to submit; get over this cold; and reach 90,000 words in my WIP. Happy Easter, Passover and Ramadan if you celebrate, happy Spring if you don’t, and until next week.

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Weekly Musings #6

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Apologies for my absence. Haven’t felt like blogging for some time. It doesn’t get the same kind of immediate interaction that posting to Twitter or Tiktok gets you so it can be hard to keep up with it sometimes, and frankly, I get so busy writing that I don’t leave as much creative energy for the marketing side of things. I have been writing almost every day though and making significant progress on my novel.

It’s also hard to figure out what to blog about on a weekly basis when I’m in the drafting process. Only so many times you can report on your word count. The actual act of drafting is pretty tedious stuff really; 30 minutes a day, 500-1,000 words pumped out. Then it becomes a habit. Like doing the dishes, or taking your medication. The same thing every time, even if the writing is exciting. But you can’t say much about the writing because spoilers. I’ve shared excerpts on social media but I don’t think these really say much about the story, just show people a taste of your writing.

I’ve hit 83,214 words in my m/m paranormal romance crime thriller, which makes it officially book length no matter how much longer it grows, and it continues to be the longest manuscript I’ve ever stuck with. I am in the home stretches of the ending so the words are coming more slowly now, 300-500 words a day versus 1,000-2,000. I feel a little bit of imposter syndrome kicking in, as I get nervous about wanting to build an unpredictable ending and to tie all the pieces together in a way that will satisfy my readers.

I decided I will look at Fiverr for my cover art; I don’t want to spend $300-500 on it, because I probably won’t make $300-500 in book sales (I’m a pragmatist here!), but I am willing to spend more than $50 for a good cover. Graphic design just isn’t my strong suit. I’ve thought about commissioning character designs too as a marketing tool. (I made the mistake of mentioning this on Twitter and I got mobbed by people using bots soliciting their services; if you send me one of these emails I will delete it without looking at it and block you. Just saying.) I want to see my characters come to life, though.

I plan to spend 2-3 months on editing after I finally type “The End” on my manuscript. I need to rewrite the first 30,000 words at least, and fix some continuity issues, and insert more action into some dialogue-heavy scenes. I’m good at self-editing so I feel pretty confident with this step. Then I’ll need to learn formatting but seeing as I do that for a day job on legal documents I think I’ll be able to figure that out too.

I’ll probably be looking for volunteer beta readers after I get it edited into a decent shape. Then comes the task of finding ARC reviewers; I’ll probably sign up for a site like Booksprout once that time comes around.

I also decided to turn this book into a trilogy since they sell better than stand-alones, I’m not quite ready to leave this universe just yet and I have a few more ideas up my sleeve. For the rest of the year I will be working on that as well as novellas and submitting short stories.

I have episodes scheduled out on my Patreon through May 10. Nearing the ending of a first draft is a whole slate of mixed emotions – fear, excitement, giddiness and nerves. But this one will happen, I can feel it in my bones. I haven’t finished a book-length manuscript since my creative writing thesis at age 23. Now, at age 40, I’m actually doing it. Just goes to show that you can start following your dreams any time. You just have to put in the work to make them happen.

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Weekly Musings #5

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Once again I’ve remained single-mindedly focused on my paranormal romance and haven’t gotten much of anything else done this week, but I met my writing goal, wrote nearly every day and I’m now up to 60,051 words in my main manuscript.

I have not been able to switch gears and work on short stories or blog posts as well, but hopefully I’ll be able to work on some of those in the next couple weeks. I did, however, force myself to get back into reading. I’ve found it difficult to focus on reading given the war in Ukraine and general geopolitics; but then again, I found it difficult to focus during the thick of the pandemic, too.

I am trying to take the lessons I learned from my year in 2021 of not really doing much of anything creative for sustained periods of time. People talk about forcing yourself as a bad thing, that the work will feel uninspired or bland. But sometimes you really do just have to sit down and do it, instead of giving into your excuses. There are always so many good excuses.

Then you show up every day, every week, and eventually, you start reading again, you start writing again, you start exercising again. If you can’t make yourself do it or if doing it becomes bad for your mental health, maybe it’s time you to admit you need help, or to do something else entirely.

I am not tackling anything light for my reading material either – I’ve got an essay collection by Wendell Berry and Homer’s The Iliad. I realized part of my boredom burnout is that I am starved for intellectual stimulation. I hope to change that by varying my reading and taking some classes.

I have also realized that my ability to crank out fairly clean copy is apparently rare among writers. It comes from my journalism days, I think; I thought fiction was harder because it is not as formulaic as journalistic writing, but turns out when I really put my whole self into it, I can crank out fiction too. I hear about other writers who take three hours to produce 500 words or take all day on some emotionally involved short story. Makes me wonder if my writing is somehow lesser than the writing of those other writers because I don’t necessarily slave away at it. It just… flows. But I’ve been doing it almost every day since I was 12. I did it professionally on deadline. I guess it is just a unique talent of mine, just the way my brain works. It’s not like I am emotionally divorced from the work either; couple scenes this last week made me cry.

I was the same way in school. I called it the art of bullshit. I was a terrible procrastinator and always cranked out my essays the night before the due date with copious amounts of Coca-Cola… and just the right amount of bullshit. And they would still get A’s. Perhaps it was because teachers are used to reading such poor writing from students that when they read good writing it blows them away. I don’t know. Maybe I’m biased and my writing is really terrible and could use some more time and concentration. Who’s to say. All I know is I can’t stop doing it, it’s like a compulsion. Something feels off whenever I don’t do it.

It’s not always like this; I gravitate between periods of despair as well. My horror novel took six months to write 47,000 words and it’s still not done. But my mindset was in a dark, angry place. I couldn’t think of writing. Writing just made me mad. This year I finally figured out that was my whole problem. That was what was making me more depressed – the not writing, the demonizing of writing. I had to show up to the page and just do it.

So maybe it’s not a drug. Maybe it’s more like a medicine.

My goals for this next week are my same exercise goals from last week that I never did, to get to 70,000 words in my WIP, to write a short story and a blog post, to keep practicing guitar and read for a half hour every day, and not just The Economist.

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Weekly Musings #4

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Things are progressing with my paranormal romance. I didn’t write for a couple days and it was stressful not writing, honestly; it’s become kind of addictive. I don’t see it like work anymore, I just see it as fun. Stress relief. A nice distraction from impending World War III and the terrible news in Ukraine.

Wrote 2,106 words this morning to make up for it and scheduled out Patreon posts three times a week through April 5. I have reached the point in the story when I have hit the second act and I need to deal with the villain element so I have been introducing suspects. Trying to cast just the right clues and misdirection in this puzzle I am building.

My latest episode will probably piss off Mal/Eamon fans if there are any of those. Talk about a heart wrencher though. I don’t know why this is so fun to write when I put Eamon through a lot of pain and introduced his backstory more. I could have made everyone polyamorous in this I suppose but I decided monogamy added more drama. Wolves mate one at a time after all.

I am now up to 54,224 words total so I am pleased with my progress. More than halfway through my first draft. I think I can finish a first draft in another month.

As I was looking at graphic design courses for book cover design I decided I would splurge on cover art for my main investment up front. It’s going to take a lot of work to learn cover design and that’s still something I want to do. But I don’t know anything about color theory and white space, just general ideas of what I think looks good visually. However, a good cover is a better advertisement than buying an ad on Amazon so I think it’s worth it to make that investment, and that’s what my day job is for anyway. It funds my art. Trying to invest as little upfront as possible though because even though I have the money it seems like a waste of money when you only expect to sell 10 books.

So, I’ve been a bit depressed and haven’t done anything else but write, but I’m happy I have my werewolf universe to escape into. Another thing that I think is interesting to explore is I’m not doing any research into werewolf lore or tropes; I want something totally fresh and different, so I’m inventing my own mythology and creature design. It might piss off some purists but maybe the controversy will help sell books, who knows.

Looking forward to the coming week, my goals are to get to 60,000 words, keep writing every day, plan out a photo shoot with a model, sign up for a gym again and go back to swimming in the morning. Also need to plan out some more blog posts for the coming weeks; a blog post I wrote last fall about running keeps gaining traction so I’m considering more fitness and wellness content. We’ll see.

Weekly Musings #3

Image from Pixabay

I have reached 45,523 words in my WIP, CRY WOLF, and am starting on the 31st chapter. This is generally the point in a manuscript when I tend to give up but I am determined to see this one through. I find something compelling about doing it in an episodic format that makes me want to stick with it; it’s like writing a string of interconnected short stories.

Although I have again slacked on self care, I have written every day this week again except for Friday. I got stuck and I realized I needed to figure out the bones of the middle of the story even though I knew who the killer was and what the end would be. That could always change. On Friday I made a, gasp, outline. I realized I didn’t want to introduce the killer too late, or have a predictable mystery. I have reached the point in the story where I need to deal with the murder mystery subplot and introduce the suspects. Until now it’s been hovering in the background as the romance has taken precedence.

Previously, I was scared of outlines, finding them too constraining. I like the thrill and adrenaline rush of discovering the story as you go. But I also don’t want more continuity issues, and I needed to figure out if the story had legs for a longer book.

Some scenes I come up with organically are worth keeping, though; I do not have to follow my outline exactly. And I realized there are many different types of outlines you can do. You don’t have to prepare a detailed spreadsheet with your characters’ backstories down to their mother’s maiden name and their favorite way to cook an egg. What I did is I started a process notebook in a spiral college-ruled notebook, and I wrote out each chapter and what the total word count would be after each chapter. Then I summarized the chapter to make sure I could build the plot into my desired ultimate word count. The goal is 90,000, but if it needs to be shorter, then it needs to be shorter. The story is driving it. Since I’m indie publishing it, I don’t need to worry about arbitrary industry standards for word counts.

Trick here is not getting too predictable, nor getting too melodramatic. This is not Magnum PI. Building a mystery is like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. I feel a bit intimidated by it but I’m also excited by the challenge.

I also realized that at this point in the book I basically have to write another 40,000-50,000 words to finish this manuscript. So it’s like I’m starting a second book with a new inciting incident, raising the stakes and adding more conflict. That has helped me attack the midpoint with fresh eyes.

My goals for the week are to keep writing every day; by the end of this week I think I’ll be able to easily reach 50,000 words. And to work on self care again. No more rice and cheese for lunch and I need to start exercising again. Swimming or yoga in the mornings, running at lunch, hiking on the weekends. At least I have proved to myself that I can write every day no matter my mood or stressors, if I am excited about the story.

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Weekly Musings #2

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I was out of town this holiday weekend visiting friends in Portland and completely forgot to post this column, so I have renamed it to “Weekly Musings” so I am still in the clear. It was a fun weekend. I’ve felt rather socially isolated lately working from home, so I feel out of practice being in a group these days. It was good to get my social juices flowing.

On Sunday, we had fondue and taco night. Couldn’t decide between the two, and both sounded good. Saturday evening we made pizzas in a portable clay-fired oven. Both days we went on hikes. I even brought my computer and got some writing done.

That’s my biggest takeaway from this last week. I can’t not write every day these days. It’s become like a drug to me, and I have to have my fix. I keep thinking up new scenes for my paranormal romance and then I have to get them out of my head and pound out the words on the page. I didn’t always feel this way about writing, so I don’t know what has gotten into me.

I used to be one of those “Writing is hard, stressful and full of emotional pain” type of writers. You know, “It’s open a vein and watch it bleed” or however that saying goes. Maybe it’s just that I have found my genre and hit my groove, I don’t know. Maybe it is that I have released all attachment to the outcome of this book. I literally do not care what happens to it; I don’t care if no one else loves it as much as I do; I know I love it and that’s all that matters.

I at first was going to publish it to Kindle Vella, but then I decided to self publish it. I still question myself on my decision of course; you hear so much about querying that it’s impossible not to be influenced. But this book in particular is made for indie publishing. I can always query other novels. I don’t even care if it’s a success. I don’t even care if I only sell 5 books.

I just love writing it. I feel joy in the process again. I feel like I’m addicted to my couple and I have to know what happens next. I’m completely discovery writing this so when I look back over it I notice some continuity issues that will need to be edited. It will definitely be going through a few different versions, I’m sure, but I doubt a total rewrite will be necessary. I love it too much. Every time I read it over I love it more. I know, I know, I may have a conflict of interest in that assessment.

Next I plan to take some Udemy courses in book cover design for Photoshop. I know I can probably outsource all these things and people should do that to improve the standards in indie publishing. But then I start adding everything up. You pay $1,000 for developmental editing, you pay $200-500 for a good cover, you pay x amount for a good formatter, you buy ads, et cetera, and soon you are spending $3,000 to make $50.

I mean just take editing. Every writer needs quality editors, but editors also need to make a living and deserve to get paid. But you do the math on 25 cents a word for 90,000 words, which is hardly a living wage on an hourly basis, and it doesn’t make much sense for an indie publisher. Think too carefully about the economics of the market and it can completely ruin your desire for creativity. So I’m not thinking too much about that yet. Just trying to write the best book I can.

Even though my day job funds my writing and creative efforts and I think nothing of paying for studios and hiring models for making no money at photography, I still want to think like a business about my books. I also want to have a quality product, which will help you stand out amid a crowded field. And I know hobbies can be expensive and sometimes you just have to eat the costs, but something about that business model of hiring your own team with no guarantee of even making your investment back strikes me as too much of a risk. So my goal is to invest as little upfront as possible so I can still end up in the black.

Maybe one day when I am successful with these books and have a fanbase, I can run a Kickstarter campaign to fund those sorts of things.

I’m a photographer though and I like to think visually and have always wanted to learn book cover design, so it’s something I’m going to put some real time into studying. I’m excited about it and I have definite ideas of what I think looks good graphically.

All in all, it’s been another successful week in the writing world, even though I’ve slacked on exercise and all my other self care activities. I learned I can still get myself pumped up about writing even when I am feeling moody and exhausted. Even today I have to get this blog post done so I can get my ideas out of my head and onto the page. I now feel fairly confident that next week I’ll be able to hit 40,000 words in my paranormal romance. So this is what NanoWriMo is like when you’re actually winning at it.

Until next time.

Sunday Musings #1

Image from Pixabay

I’m starting a new column on my blog called “Sunday Musings.” This is where I will share insights into my publishing and writing journey this year and these will publish every Sunday. I hope to avoid focusing in granular detail on my emotional state and my word counts and instead offer useful and engaging posts about creating with mental health issues, creativity and productivity in general, publishing, marketing and the like.

This last week I learned the importance of sleep for your creative mindset. After having an extremely productive week I guess I just needed a week of laziness. But seriously, it’s difficult to be productive when you’re tired all the time. You have to force yourself to get to the computer and the excuse of “I’m too tired” becomes all the more compelling.

Sleep and the creative mindset: Check. I need to be better about having an evening routine and winding down electronics before bed. I am experimenting with writing for an hour after dinner in the evenings; sometimes it can be overstimulating, as I go to bed with my mind racing with ideas for my stories.

Meditation and reading essays, short stories and poems would help with that.

I turned things around and wrote this weekend, mainly focusing on a story I am serializing to Patreon before releasing it on Kindle Vella in my grand experiment in web publishing for 2022. It’s the tale of a werewolf reporter who moves back home to help his pack investigate a series of murders, only to find himself falling for the local homicide detective. Added about 3,000 words yesterday and 1,566 today, meaning I was able to schedule posts out for three episodes, significantly reducing the pressure.

I actually am really enjoying this web publishing game; I find it’s not really that much pressure, in fact. I’m having loads of fun with it. I’m still editing myself and giving it my best, of course; but it’s different than publishing a book. Got its own special magic. It’s part of my efforts at building a platform this year and attracting new audiences for my writing.

Speaking of platforms, I also need to think some more about reinventing my newsletter. Everyone says email marketing is where it’s at, but I’ve found more success with my blog than with my newsletter. People just don’t subscribe. I skipped doing a January update because I’m dreaming up some changes for more engaging content. I just read Mary Oliver’s essay collection Upstream and I’m considering doing something like that. Creative nonfiction expounding on the creative life and nature sounds interesting to me.

I’m feeling good about the week ahead on this Sunday, now that I have written all weekend. My goal is to keep working on my horror novel, which I have ignored far too long, and finally hit 50,000 words. I have an idea for the ending at last so that’s not what’s stopping me. Guess I just get distracted by all these shiny other projects and ideas. Curse of the writer, eh?

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Book Review: Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

I had such mixed feelings about “Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez. On the one hand, it’s a beautifully written book, with simply gorgeously crafted sentences, an interesting protagonist, and important insights into the Puerto Rican independence movement as well as the immigrant experience. On the other hand, I felt as if the plot was trying to do too much and grew muddled from the middle onwards. 

This is the story of Olga Acevedo, a wedding planner for wealthy clients who has reached a certain level of celebrity in her hometown of New York, appearing on morning shows giving lifestyle advice; and Pietro, her brother, a Congressman who’s done important work for his people but also made questionable ethical decisions. 

It is also a love letter to New York, the New York as second-generation Puerto Rican families experience it instead of the New York you most often see in movies and musicals. Through Olga’s eyes, I saw all the sights, smells, changes and joys of her neighborhood, a New York where you could still find yourself in a small town among a tight-knit community that stood by you no matter what. 

At first you think it is going to be a contemporary women’s novel or romance, with the single Olga unlucky in her love life and lost in her career journey. But then the plot complicates, converging on a backdrop of political intrigue. This is also the story of Olga and Pietro and their complicated relationship with their mother, who abandoned their family when they were teenagers to pursue independence for Puerto Rico at any cost and becomes radicalized toward the violent kind of revolution. We never actually meet their mother, except through passive-aggressive, manipulative letters that she sends them throughout their lives to let them know she’s still watching. 

I think in the end we were supposed to admire Blanca, the mother, and all the sacrifices that must be made for resistance and revolution, but I did not. I liked her the least out of everybody in the book. I found her to be an interesting villain, a character I hated for the way that she used everyone she encountered in order to further her own agenda; which, though a worthy cause, didn’t necessarily make her a good person. That’s the kind of villain I like, though, someone who’s not complicated simply because they’re sympathetic. 

I loved maybe the first half of the book, which I found joyous and prescient; and then I felt like it lost its thread and tried to do too much with too many themes. It became not just a book about Olga and Pietro and their awakening as people independent from their mother’s psychological tricks, but the Puerto Rican-American experience as a whole. I’m still giving it four stars because I did think it was well written even so, but I have some complicated feelings about this book. An intriguing debut to say the least. 

What I Learned from Participating In Bloganuary

Image courtesy Pixabay

I participated in Bloganuary this January as I thought it might be a good way to revive my blog and to think differently about how I blog. This is a challenge from WordPress that provides you with daily prompts to inspire you to write blog posts, usually something personal about your life and your inspirations to get to know you better.

I really enjoyed the exercise; although I did not blog every day, it helped me to blog at least once or twice a week and I am definitely thinking differently about my blogging content now. I also gained 17 new followers from participating in the challenge, as well as 293 total views for the month, 159 visitors, 17 likes and 7 comments.

Lots of people say blogging is dead, but compare that to my email newsletter, which has had 15 signups since May. Granted, I need to reinvent my newsletter as well and produce more engaging content there.

Participating in this challenge made me realize that blogging is not dead after all, but it is different than it was 10 years ago. People have been saying it’s dying for about the last 15 years. Ten years ago people would document their lives and overshare, vent and complain in their diaries to the world, and a robust community would comment and engage with all the other bloggers in the blogosphere doing the same thing.

This has been supplanted by social media; this sort of blog is dead, I think. But I think blogs are still useful for certain things. As with all content, blogs are about your ability to build an audience, and they take a lot of work, shouting into the void and consistent posting – much like social media. But I find they are useful for authors still because they tap into an audience that doesn’t necessarily use your social media platforms.

They also give you good SEO and keep your website current in search results. That really is the main reason I blog; that and to build an audience for my writing. Besides, as a former journalist, journalistic-type writing comes easy to me; I can pop off a blog post in about 20 minutes, whereas it might take someone more comfortable with fiction much longer to write. Journalistic writing is second nature to me.

Creative nonfiction, though, is somewhat harder. Different style entirely. More personal.

I’ve struggled with the direction I wanted to take this blog. Like I say, back in the 2010s, what was popular was a long diatribe about your horrible experience at Costco. But people don’t want to read that any more; it doesn’t make you relatable, it just turns people off if they don’t know you. People want useful, inspiring content; they also want to feel like they know you.

I’ve drawn back a lot from social media these days and value my privacy more. I no longer want to document my life or whine about my day or use my blog as an outlet to vent my anger about the world. I have a journal and friends for that.

I’m also not an expert in anything; I don’t want to provide you with writing advice, as there is plenty of that online. I don’t want to be your therapist. I also want you to get to know me and how I see the world. Writing is about how we process our emotions and our interactions with the world, and how we do that as people often says whether someone will like our writing.

I also don’t want to spread myself too thin. I’m experimenting with several platforms this year and I do not want to get content burnout. And no, before you ask, I don’t want to hire you, this is just something I do for fun.

I plan to keep going with my book reviews, and blog here at least once a week. I am thinking of starting a Medium page and posting more “article” type content there on topics like productivity, health, fitness and creativity.

Bloganuary made me realize blogging is worth keeping up with, because it is a way for you to get to know me beyond the shrillness of social media noise. That’s what it is all about as an author. Building an audience and a platform for your work. You just have to pick and choose what you can do with joy and consistency or you’ll never build that audience, no matter what it is in today’s crowded landscape for content creators.

With that, I’m finding myself excited about what I can offer you on this blog in 2022, and I realized I was overthinking it all along.

Just write, that’s all. Just write.

Bloganuary Day 27: Solitude

Photo by Denise Ruttan

Bloganuary Day 27 Prompt: Where do you go when you need solitude?

I go to the woods. Maybe this is not true solitude as I always have my partner with me when I go hiking, but I always feel calm around him so I think it counts. I’ve been out there alone, too. I am lucky enough to live in a city called Corvallis, Oregon, just an hour and a half drive southwest of Portland, in the heart of the Willamette Valley. It has a swathe of wonderful, uncrowded hikes just a five minute drive away. It is one of the best perks of living here.

Just five minutes and I can reach world-class beauty that people travel around the world to see. One of my 2022 goals is to go on a hike somewhere new every weekend; or even if it’s a favorite trail, to just go get exercise, fresh air and be among the trees.

I get some of my best story ideas while hiking, too. Just that meditative action of walking along a trail and avoiding tripping on tree roots puts my brain in story mode. I just keep thinking “What if?” and drive my characters to impossible situations in my head, then I must race home and write it down in my process notebook so I do not forget it.

I even got new hiking shoes to make my new goal more tangible. It not only gets me out of the house in a covid-safe way, but it gives me a sense of adventure, gives me an excuse to do photography, and helps my mental health. Hiking is great on many fronts.

Following are some photos I took from a hike last weekend on a trail called Vineyard Mountain. This is a trail through a vast wilderness that is owned by the local land-grant university. Unfortunately, it is also used as an experimental forest for forestry programs so it is not entirely pristine. But it is beautiful and I am glad a small section of it has been preserved for local residents to enjoy.

The rest of my photos will speak for themselves.