Apr 082020

NIWA Blog Tour Guest Author: SUZANNE HAGELIN

Time for writing is limited.

We can’t let ourselves be distracted every few minutes with all those side tangents… questions nagging at the back of our minds. What is the word for that thing? Do they really talk like this? Are there mountains in that area? How far can a healthy person walk each day if the terrain is rough but there’s less gravity? What did I decide to call that ship… that guy… that creature…? On and on and on, sapping the vitality out of those precious hours.

But ignoring distractions within the project is smart, isn’t it?

Actually, no. There’s more to using the time wisely than just spitting out new sentences and disregarding the support work that happens alongside the storytelling.

A short story may not need much characterization or research, but problem-solving the plot and achieving a well-formed story arc takes thought. Thinking is an important part of the creative process.

A novel requires more. Characters don’t usually leap onto the page in 3D without some development to give them depth and dimension. Research is essential for painting vivid scenes, crafting plausible scenarios, and supporting facts and science. Concerted effort is needed to identify and tackle weak spots in a plot. And tracking all the names and threads to keep them straight is just common sense.

Sometimes, I accuse myself of wasting creative hours when what I’m doing is essentially valuable. In those moments, I’ve forgotten that good writing involves a number of key tasks.

After all I’ve invested in getting my mind organized (see the first post in this series), I shouldn’t clutter up the writing process with unattended side work.


The first step to organizing your time is understanding what deserves to be included. Some elements to consider giving status in your routine might be map-making, world building, naming tactics, character development, charting plot threads, outlines, research, thinking, and problem solving.

I always have a file called ‘Stats’ that’s a little different for each book. It can include anything from characterization to invented language, charts of character appearances by chapter, word counts, statistics on gases used in deep sea diving or space, gravity on various planets, nomenclature structures, and more.

Once you’ve figured out the components you plan to incorporate, you’ll be able to make better use of your time.

Writing Schedule

No matter how you fit writing into your life or how much you can do in one session or what your pace is, never doubt that it matters and it’s worth it. Some authors are able to work every day, and some can cram long hours into marathon blasts that consume all their waking hours until they’ve completed something. Some have to fit it in wherever they can and not let the slower pace discourage them. I fall mostly into the latter category with occasional bursts of intensive writing.

Organizing your mind and writing process frees you up to write full steam ahead when you have the chance. By taking the time to assemble the scaffolding that sustains your creative output, you streamline the work. Five hours of intense writing with separate slots for support tasks, is better than two days of juggling.

~ A week at a glance

One approach to scheduling your time for writing is to make an outline for the week that doesn’t specify when something will happen, but how much. If you’re focused on fitting in six quality hours, it won’t matter if that happens an hour a day or six hours on one day. This gives you flexibility to fit it in when you can and retains the weight of structure—the increasing priority of getting it done by the end of the week.

TIP: Try this for one week. Reevaluate the plan, adjust, and try it for another week. If it works, it becomes a flexible, easy to track habit.

~ Time slots

You can allocate specific blocks in the schedule to wordsmithing. Lunch break at work, commuting, waiting for a child at soccer practice or dance class, early morning, late in the evening.

Even if you can only commit to twenty minutes at a time, it will work if you always do it at the same time of day, making it a routine your body clock recognizes. There’s a decent chance that you won’t need to struggle getting back into the story because your brain will be preparing for that as the hour draws near.

~ Full time

Self-employment as a full-time author is like being the only musician playing all the instruments in an orchestra. Even working with other authors in a small press can be like that.

Someday, once I’ve mastered this process, I’ll be glad to share what I’ve learned. For now, my suggestions are pretty basic.

  • Schedule ALL your work hours, not just the creative ones.
  • Balance creative tasks with functional ones to avoid burnout.
  • Consider moving forward on more than one project at a time so when one hits a snag, you can make headway on the other.
  • Rest, nutrition, exercise—take care of yourself as seriously as an athlete would, because your mind doesn’t exist on its own apart from your body and it is your number one, most valuable asset.
  • People time. Most authors are introverts and connecting with people requires intentional effort. You need more than just readers and fans in your life.

~ Adding Incentive

Some of us are more productive under pressure. If you’re one of those, here are some suggestions for putting on the heat and squeezing more writing out of your time.

Set some deadlines:

  • Commit to an event where you’ll promote your current work in progress.
  • Pay for and schedule a promotion campaign for the finished book.
  • Enter a competition.

Or, on a more congenial level:

  • Team up with another author and update each other regularly.
  • Join NaNoWriMo or something similar.
  • Put the first chapter of your next book at the end of the one that precedes it and let the expectations of your readers motivate you.

Final thoughts

Scheduling is very individual, and it changes as the demands of our lives alter.

Authors aren’t necessarily factories that meet production quotas. We’re word artists that weave mental tapestries with images, ideas, emotion, and action. On the other hand, putting out regular, well-crafted content means training ourselves for the business of writing. The art is honed to perform at the author’s will.

This quote captures what I mean.
When I’m writing I don’t dream much;
it’s like the dreaming gets used in the writing.
Ursula K. Le Guin

Keep expectations realistic so you can find satisfaction in what you accomplish. But don’t be afraid to push yourself and train for more.


The first post in this series is “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Mind”. You can read the third installment in this series, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Plot”, on Connie Johnson-Jasperson’s Blog when it comes out next week.


USA Today bestselling author of hard science fiction, Suzanne Hagelin, lives in the Seattle area where she runs a small press, Varida P&R, and teaches language on the side.

Her Books. The Silvarian Trilogy Book 1, “Body Suit” is available for 99c in April only and the audiobook is Downpour’s current Editor’s Pick at $4.95. Book 2 “Nebulus” just released on audio, and Book 3, “The Denser Plane” is in the writing stage. The Severance begins with “Cascade” and will be followed by “Eclipse”.

LINKS—Suzannehagelin.com, Suzanne’s Blog, Newsletter, Twitter, FaceBook, Medium

 April 8, 2020  Uncategorized 1 Response »
Mar 312020

So, You Want to Be an Author? Prepare to Be a Parent.

So let’s talk briefly about why you want to be an author. While I’ll bet you lust after Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, what really drives you is the images in your head. You have a story or world, unique to you, that is dying to get out. Maybe you read a similar book that got things wrong. Maybe your adventure has never been told. Or then again it may be a dream that comes back night after night. No matter your particular muse, the story in your head pesters you and nags at you like a small child wanting attention. So you have to birth it by writing it and becoming a book parent. I won’t kid you, it isn’t an easy or a short road.

Just like with a child, it will take thousands of hours of to take that first infant idea and turn it into an adult ready to face the world. The good news is the second child is easier, and the third one even easier. You grow with your offspring becoming better and more proficient. While my first publishable novel took over three years to be viable for print, I can now bring a baby from idea to ready to stand on its own in three months.

Again, like children, you will go on many play dates with your book. You need to share your work, complete or not, to get an idea of how others perceive your skills as a parent. Is your story grammatically correct? Is it entertaining? Does it have the social skills that make others want to be around it? Did you neglect some portion of its education such that they aren’t logical?  When you get these feedbacks from the others, especially those from other book parents, you must teach your child these new skills.

As with being a parent there will be ups and downs. There will days you just don’t want to write… “I just can’t adult today.” You will wince when a character has gone off on its own without your permission. And yet others where you wake up with the next scene in your head and while writing you don’t notice the time go by until your partner tells you that your dinner is cold. You will cringe every time your book brings home a one star on its report card, and beam every time a review shows you’ve touched someone.

What is the point of it all? With parenting of children, it is the survival of the species and passing on the values we hold dear. As a book parent it is about making the world a better place – positively impacting people’s lives. In spite of all the work and effort that goes into maturing your books, the reward is looking into the face of a fan who has spent all night with your child and is ready for the next step. In both cases the point is the sharing of love. If you can consistently give love, then you are ready to bring your baby into this world. If not, stay at home and write in the dark, alone and wash your hands afterward.

Founding TANSTAAFL Press in 2012, Thomas Gondolfi is the author (and book parent) of the Toy Wars series, the CorpGov Chronicles, and Wayward School along with numerous other writing and editing credits which can be found on www.tanstaaflpress.com. He is a father of three (real children), consummate gamer, and loving husband. Tom also claims to be a Renaissance man and certified flirt.

Raised as a military brat, he spent twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years giving him a unique perspective on life and people. Working as an engineer in high tech for over thirty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter, and the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.

 March 31, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 312020

I am part of a group of authors who decided we need to mix up our blogs a bit. We agreed to do guest posting on each other’s social media. Once a week we will be hitting topics of writing, organization, genres, marketing, resources for authors, and what makes the writing community special.

We will be hearing from Suzanne Hagelin, William Cook, Joyce Reynolds, Molly Hunt, and Connie Jasperson, not to mention yours truly. The tour will begin with the post after this and will continue through May 9.

Come visit us on a regular basis to read shared tidbits of wisdom from writers who have been in the trenches, who have earned their title of author through success and failures.

 March 31, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 262020


To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

The total trip, counting side trips and assorted nonsense was 7108 miles.

<Beginning Odo>

<End Odo>

My initial plan for the total driving portion of the trip was 6600 miles plus maybe an additional 10% for misc. That would make about 7300 miles. I planned to leave 2/13/20 and return 4/13/20 for being gone a total of 60 days. While it didn’t last as long as expected (33 days), the distance is within shouting distance of the plan and I learned a great deal.

I’ve talked about some of them but what were my takeaways from the trip? (in no particular order)

  • Financial disaster (due to circumstances beyond my control)
  • Keep in close touch with partner is essential!
  • Successful proof of concept
  • Eliminating some of my romantic notions of RVing
    • If you fill up all of your space with perfectly packed stuff, you will find it doesn’t go back in the real world of RVing.
    • RVing in cities SUCK!
  • More carefully defining trip that would make it more successful in the future
    • Stay out of cities as much as possible
    • More capable vehicle
      • RAV4 can do it but strains
    • Slightly bigger RV space
      • Standing is important
      • At least two zones (bed and eating/writing/cooking)
    • Bathroom and shower NOT requires but N2H
    • Built in heating/cooling are almost essential!
  • Truck Stops are the BOMB for RVing
    • Flying J/Pilot for the win
  • Take more care with planning and distances between shows
    • Make sure there is down time or it becomes a grind rather than a joy
  • Don’t do it in the middle of a pandemic 😛
  • Comfort on such an trip is essential
    • Or it becomes a grind rather than a joy (yes, I’m repeating myself)
  • Think three times before bringing something.
    • Many items I had were moved and shuffled around and never used
  • Be prepared for being sick
    • Be ready to jettison a show to give you time to heal!
  • General Delivery works if well planned!
  • Take photos of sales and sign-up sheets in case they get lost
    • First time in 8 years this happened… lost two shows worth of data L
  • Shows that DON’T provide tables are few and far between
    • Maybe skip taking tables?
  • Travel pulling a trailer takes longer than expected
    • Make time for the important items
  • Listening to movies really makes the miles melt away
  • Doing non-show business on the road is possible, if a bit more difficult
  • Spares of essentials like keys and glasses are REQUIRED

So, bottom line, would I do this again?  Drumroll….. Yes! Despite all of the headaches and heartaches of this show I think that this is a viable thing, assuming a natural disaster doesn’t interfere.

Despite my intense need to be home at the end of The Great Road Trip, I attribute more than three quarters of it to my cold, and the stress of the pandemic and issues around it rather than just the rigors of the trip itself.

In fact, I’m so sure I’m going to do this again (when is still a question mark because of the reach of the pandemic), I’m already planning on selling my RAV4 and have decided what pickup truck I will buy (I do a great deal of research before any major purchase and it has already been done – Ram 1500 Classic for anyone who cares… Looking at a 2 year old model).

I’m still unsure about the trailer, however. I have two conflicting ideas, modifying current trailer to support my thoughts (dealing with the small size), and two, trading it in on a slightly longer, taller trailer that has more space inside. The first one is cheaper but more time/effort consuming with many potential issues (including the likelihood of being unable to resell it ever). Leaning toward buying a new trailer but sometime in the future.

I believe this is a final all on The (not so) GREAT Road Trip. Thanks for reading!

Tom Gondolfi

 March 26, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 252020

3/17  Weed, CA to Castle Rock, WA (HOME) – 410 mi

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

Don’t ask me why, but I woke up in Weed at 4AM and couldn’t shake a sense of foreboding. I think I worried about possible border closures and travel bans. Adding to that was my overriding desire to be home and close out this disaster of a trip.

I only had 6.5 hours left to drive. Why not right then instead of waiting for some mythical “wake up time”. So I bundled up and hit the road. Nominally I should have done laundry and a shower but home beaconed. My wife would forgive me being scrubby. And I’d have plenty of time to do laundry later.

I don’t remember ever being so single-minded about driving on this trip. No movie. Only a bit of music. I stopped for gas only. Bathroom had to wait for gas stops. I pushed my tank so that I only stopped twice (pretty good when you are only getting 15-16 mile per gallon on a 14.5 gallon tank). I ate stuff that I had in the trailer and gutted it out.

I focused only on getting home, counting down the hours. Each new town in Oregon was a milestone as was crossing the bridge into Washington. I knew it would only be a bit more. I came up our road at about 12:30PM feeling the tension in my body release (and oddly watching my wife drive past me on a post office run).

I will say I came close to crying with relief when I pulled in and shut off the engine. I just sat there for probably fifteen minutes. The end was here. My responsibilities for this trip could be dropped. Home.

I collected some essential items from the car and trailer and went inside for a shower, food, and sleep.  

My wife returned and caught me in the shower. She hadn’t been expecting me until late evening. Then, of course she hadn’t expected me to leave at 4AM or even make it to Weed.

Next: Wrap-Up

 March 25, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 242020

3/17  Barstow, CA to Weed, CA – 635 mi

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

Yes it is really named Weed, CA. For those who don’t know, this used to be the illegal capital of marijuana prior to legalization. Its remote local made it difficult to find pot farms back in the day. They are proud of this heritage. I reserve comment.

Ok, I’d planned on only going as far as Redding, CA but lo and behold, there weren’t any truck stops in Redding. It stunned me. I looked for the next available and found them in Weed (more on this later).

CA99 has always been an alternate to I5 through the California produce valley. I’ve driven it so many times (both up from LA and down from Sacramento) that I almost know every pothole. However in an attempt to make it more user friendly, CA99 is undergoing significant construction to add at least another lane to its width. This made for some ‘fun’ driving with my trailer.

In my hurry to get home, I bypassed my parent’s home. If for no other reason than they had already put up with me on the outbound leg. I also had some concern at this time that a travel ban might fall into place. If I have to weather any long term issue, I want to do it in my own home with my loving wife and partner. Onward!

So I got to Weed late in the evening, well after dark. Weed is high up in the mountains and actually still had snow on the ground. Probably the coldest place I stopped at the entire trip. But this isn’t what worried me. In the truck stop parking lot I found a pile of auto glass near where I would be parking. Someone had broken into a vehicle sometime in the past. This didn’t give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  I parked with some trepidation. It was the only time on the entire trip I felt even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Truck stops may be a bit noisy but I never worried about my personal safety or that of my possessions. Too many of the truckers carry guns and everyone knows it. People generally don’t mess with them.

My concern didn’t turn into reality whether it was founded or not. I slept with my heater blasting away all night to keep me warm.

Next: The Long Voyage Home 3

 March 24, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 232020

3/15  Albuquerque, NM to Barstow, CA – 675 mi

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

So for those followers of the blog, I apologize for my long delay in this post. I didn’t realize that I still was more ill than I thought (no, not C19, just a good, old-fashioned head cold). I got home and for the next few days my mind was so foggy I couldn’t do much of anything but sleep and watch movies… I even did that without much thought or mentation. As of 3/22 my brain cleared and I’m ready to go again (in a weak, limited fashion).

The last three day speed run home was surreal. I realize now that a good deal of that had to do with my illness, but there was more. The C19 pandemic has people doing different things. It’s not quite apocalyptic out there, but people are on edge like they are waiting for everyone to go crazy on us, or that a real life zombie is going to come around the corner at any time. Let me give a couple of examples.

Normally in a store people will edge their way past you to get to an object on the other side of you in the aisle. I was seeing people going around several rows to come back in to the aisle I was in so they didn’t have to get so close.

Or, how about the young man who questioned me about my trailer art. He seemed excited. When I handed him my business card, he surreptitiously slipped it into the trash while my back was turned EVEN THOUGH HE WAS WEARING GLOVES!

I want to be clear that at that time all of my symptoms were internal. I wasn’t coughing or sneezing. I wasn’t blowing my nose constantly. My nose wasn’t cherry red. I didn’t look feverish. I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t have bloodshot eyes or even blood tracing down from the corner of my mouth.   

Salt shakers, napkin dispensers, jelly, sugar, etc all were removed from tables at restaurants. In fact the number of people in each were maybe 5% of the normal patrons. When you come in on a normally busy morning at a truck stop and you see only ONE other customer, one waitress and a single cook, you wonder. Worse, the waitress treats you like a leper and only comes over when you demand her presence.

Now with all of the updated data, these folks were probably doing exactly the right thing, but it is surreal to experience.

Drivers, on the other hand, became more aggressive and drove significantly faster. I was cut off more on these last three days than in probably the last year. I should qualify this… Non-Commercial drivers. Truckers and their brethren all were just as friendly and courteous as always. To them this is a minor blip. They will continue to haul.

Enough about the pandemic, let me talk about the trip.

My plan was to go from Albuquerque to Needles, CA. Eight hours or so. An easy jaunt, especially as I’d found out that my poor gas mileage was due to two factors I’d never considered:

  1. I’ve always found that cruise control is my friend, especially the adaptive CC I have in my RAV4. I put it at the speed I want and it gets me the best gas mileage AND I don’t have to worry about folks that just happen to be going slower than me (unlikely but it happens).

Not now. I found that my CC would bring me up to the edge of my set speed with the engine winding at high RPMs and hold me there, not quite taking me to the set speed. If I would tap the gas with my foot it would get there and then the rpms would drop (and save gas).

As an experiment, I drove without my CC for most of this day. Even going through the mountains I increased my gas mileage by about 2 mpg!

  • The RAV4 comes with two settings: Eco and Sport. When you power on it starts in Eco as default. And even though my wife (who has a Mazda CX5) says mine doesn’t have ‘zoom-zoom’, I find that after a Prius, even the Eco is plenty of power. Well, I found that Eco exacerbated the problem above and caused the car not to maintain speed well. In Eco setting I might have a set speed of 65. Even on a slight hill, my speed would start dropping until it hit about 58 before it wound the engine up and struggled to get to 65 again. By popping my car into Sport mode, I’d say that my resting RPM was just a bit higher but I didn’t see the up and down speed thing nearly as much. It also helped keeping things steady when I drove without cruise control. This alone probably saved me another mpg. 

Neither of these sound very large, but when your normally 28+mpg car only gets 15mpg (or less) towing the trailer, 3mpg increase is about an 18% reduction in fuel cost!

The improved gas mileage allowed me to spend that bonus mpg to travel faster. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I’d planned on taking the entire trip at 65 (to even get that 15MPG). When I learned 1 and 2 above, I jacked it up to 75 and still increased my mpg to close to 16.

Back to A to Needles. Bottom line, I messed up. I planned at staying at a truck stop 20 mi short of Needles (closest I could find) in Arizona. Well, I missed it. Scratch that. I saw it but didn’t think it could possibly be the one I wanted as I wasn’t close enough to Needles. I was in Needles before I realized my mistake.

Worse the mistake compounded itself. Because of the desert around there, the next real stopping point was Barstow, over two hours further. I had three choices, none of them appealing. I could go back to the truck stop (half an hour back). I could try and find a place to sleep it off in Needles. I could push on to Barstow. For many, many reasons, I chose the latter. But to do that I needed to top off my gas tank in Needles.

Let me just say that Needles is the largest rip off of all places I’ve ever been. They aren’t even polite about it like a Las Vegas casino is. The last gas station I’d passed in Arizona the gas was circa $2.50 a gallon (a far cry from the cheapest I ever got it at $1.66/gal in OKC I believe). In Needles, every station charged within a nit of $5.00 per gallon. Note that this is in the middle of an oil glut. I mean I’d driven through CA on the way down and it was higher but not THAT bad. Fortunately I only needed about 3 gallons to top off and make sure I’d make Barstow. Worst rip off of the trip. A pox on Needles!

BTW.. Barstow gas price… $2.61

I made Barstow and crashed hard.

Next: The Long Voyage Home Part 2

 March 23, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 142020

3/14  OKC to Albuquerque  – 543 miles.

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

I’ve spent the better part of a year planning and organizing for this road trip. It was planned to facilitate TANSTAAFL Press’ breakout year. It is hard to see it as anything but an abysmal failure, something that is gnawing at my soul as I drive the seemingly endless miles back home.

As they said in Apollo 13, “You can forget about the flight plan. From this point forward we are improvising an entirely new plan.”

Based on the number of conventions being cancelled, and the fact that I make most of my gross at shows, this year will not be a breakout year but maybe a breakdown year. It will be difficult to keep things moving and I will have to make some cutbacks somewhere as a result. My initial thoughts include: No anthology this year or maybe next. Limited book releases (even if I may create the content for future releases).

But for its failures financially, the great road trip also provided some valuable data. I try to keep these things in mind as its other disappointments peck at my psyche.

  1. Travelling with my “hotel room” strapped to my back is totally viable. This was mere conjecture prior to this trip.
  2. I find my current trailer a bit too limiting, but it is doable. I’d like to upgrade to a point where my kitchen is inside and it has a toilet/shower. The first is more important than the latter. Heating / Cooling are a must as well.
  3. Truck stops are my friend, especially Flying J and Pilot (the cleanest and most consistent services).
  4. Travelling long distances is totally doable (for me this was a huge question mark) as long as I make frequent stops to stretch and break up the fatigue.
  5. SLC is not my demographic (sorry, folks of this region but three failed conventions tell me a great deal)
  6. My RAV4 is just not quite good enough to pull my trailer. Oh, it performs but strains like a toddler trying to pull a loaded wagon up a hill. The gas mileage is also abysmal. If I’m going to do this in the future, a pickup truck (something I said I would never do) will be in my life.
  7. My ability to successfully engage with customers isn’t diminished by the locale (SLC as an exception).
  8. Cooking out of the back of my trailer is difficult at the best of times (see kitchen inside above) for two reasons, weather and lack of time to dedicate to being out there cooking. If it is inside I can do other things while I cook.
  9. Be more prepared for failure cases such as colds or cancellations or both.
  10. Most importantly, that I can enjoy the life on the road (with the exception of not having my wife able to participate). I don’t get quite as much content created on the road because of driving hither and thither to set up my “hotel room” but I can still make it work.

On the whole, I planned well. My successes here way outstripped my failures. I’m pleased with what I accomplished as a proving ground for this type of trip in the future. But I sincerely hope my next trip (whenever that may be) will not be interrupted by another pandemic or similar natural disaster. It literally could be the end of TANSTAAFL Press. The only saving grace of this trip is the money I won gambling in Vegas – not a thing to base your business on.

Next: The Long Voyage Home

 March 14, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 142020

3/13  Dallas to OKC – 195 miles.

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

I didn’t blog about my trip to Dallas. Only one thing of note came up, I received my first ever “General Delivery” package. I needed some more cat toys and my wife made them and shipped them to me. I expected a great deal of hassle but it was quick and easy.

Thursday was a long day with a 9AM load in and open until 7PM. Thursday was disappointing in sales but it was the first day of a four-day con. I got a lot of “I’ll come back later” lines. Unfortunately for many of those folks, there wasn’t a later. Friday morning I showed up to find a note in my chair stating that a federal judge had ordered all gatherings of 500 or more to cease and desist as of 11AM Friday morning. The show had no recourse but to shut down.

Thursday night I found out that my big Chicago show had cancelled and likely the Gov of Illinois was going to put a similar moratorium on gatherings as Dallas had which would cancel the second Chicago show as well.

Looking at it, I decided not to risk Memphis cancelling on me. I turned tail for home, cancelling the rest of the NOT SO GREAT Road Trip. I figure 5 days of reasonable driving will get me back home.

My decision ended up to be very wise. Memphis cancelled this afternoon, as did Norwescon, one of my staples in the PacNW. At this rate I won’t have any business at all after this year.

Next: Learnings of TGRT

 March 14, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 122020

3/10  Monument, CO to Amarillo, TX  – 400  miles

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

Well, I planned to visit with ADB today. As such I got up early and made haste. I wanted to get to Amarillo before close of business. My hope was a quick tour and then dinner with old colleagues. Where do I start with my mistakes 😊  First, I’d forgotten I would transfer into the central time zone and thus lose an hour (oops). I also hadn’t touched base with Steve Cole in several weeks.

I did call Steve when I was about 90 minutes from his office, only to find out he had some significant surgery earlier in the week. It had been scheduled for several weeks ago but got postponed. As I didn’t wish to cause any issue by imposing where I would cause pain, I told him we would cancel and maybe we could do it another time.

This left me with two options. Stay in Amarillo anyway, or press on further toward Dallas. I originally wanted to do the latter, but I began to think of the things I should get done and I was already tired.

The calvary has a saying – The horse, the saddle, the man.

The horse: As I’d already done 3500 miles, over the great divide while pulling a heavy trailer, I chose to take the time to get an oil change for my darling RAV4. It required removing the trailer, but I’ve become adept at connecting and disconnecting it. Two minutes, no more. I took a look at the old oil. It didn’t look any worse than after a normal oil change. Good news. Reconnecting the trailer, counting testing the lights, five minutes.

The saddle: Batteries need charging. Laundry needed done.

The man: Oh, I needed a good meal. I saw something on the map called the Big Texan Steak Ranch. When I drove up to it, I almost ran away. The outside looks cheesy at best. But hunger and fatigue drove me inside instead of searching for something new. The inside was even cheesier than the outside with a carnival shooting gallery and gift shop but I persisted.

The menu had great items but I decided on something simple: Medium rare 12 oz ribeye steak, caesar salad, beefsteak tomato and red onion, and dinner rolls. Simple, yet one of the best steak dinners I’ve had in dozens of years (excepting those by my wife). 

The steak was charred nicely on the outside with simple seasoning. The inside was juicy, tender, and perfectly done. For those who know me, know I use quite a lot of salt. This steak got NO seasoning of any kind once it hit my table. As it was grown on the eastern side of the Sierra-Nevadas it had none of the ‘fishy’ taste of most of the meat in the PacNW has. Probably the single best steak I’ve ever eaten, and that counts a steak at Ruth’s Steakhouse where you are lucky to get out paying $100 per plate.

It’s hard to mess up a beefsteak tomato unless it is over/under ripe or diseased. I received a softball sized tomato that was perfectly ripe and as tasty as sunshine.

The salad probably was the most pedestrian with croutons that looked like they had been poured out of a box. In spite of this, it was tasty with a slightly spicy dressing, crisp lettuce, and fresh parmesan. 

But the crowning glory of the meal had to be the dinner rolls! I know, right? A lowly dinner roll? But these rolls were so fluffy they seemed made of air rather than bread. They felt and tasted like they belonged on the plate of a god, not a mere mortal.

And no, I am not getting any compensation by this restaurant to post this… If you find yourself in Amarillo and want a GREAT steak meal, drop in.

Next: Cancelled!

 March 12, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »