Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: working writer

Report from the Swamp Thing

Some reports come from me as the Author Ascendant; this is a report from the Swamp Thing.

On normal weeks, I like to write a thoughtful post about something that’s caught my attention or is part of a series, on Wednesdays. I think of it as my “main” post of the week. 

This has not been a normal week

This photo shows a beautiful sunny day in the swamp forest surrounding Colakreek in Suriname, as well as three people swimming in the dark waters of the creek.
The “The almost black water of Colakreek in Suriname is popular for recreational swimming,” according to the photographer, a person using the name Forrestjunky. Of course it is.

Becoming a Swamp Thing

The past two days have felt like wading through a metaphorical swamp. In the fullness of time, this’ll be “old hat.” I keep clinging to that thought. But anyone who’s gone through the process of bringing a book into published form knows how much fun the “maiden voyage” is (not).

It seems like I’ve been dragging my dinghy full of dreams through muddy waters and masses of mangroves. As if I’ve waded through waist-deep bayous of online forms that ask arcane questions, the like of which I’ve never had to answer before. 

This is a photo taken during the annual Riverland Dinghy Derby in Australia. It shows a man in a helmet leaning over the front end of a red dinghy, as it cuts through green water in the middle of a swampy grassland. What we can't tell is that the boat is traveling at speeds up to 50 mph, and that guy is effing crazy to stick his head out like this, holding down the front of his boat.
This guy is not dragging his dinghy–he’s holding down the front end. We Americans have no corner on the “wild and crazy” market. This is a photo from an Australian event, the Riverland Dinghy Derby, during which two-man crews race through a swamp at speeds up to 50 mph. My efforts this week never reached a parallel velocity.

I’ve striven to raise coherent, properly-formatted graphics up out of the muck of previous musings and hastily-jotted notes. I’ve fended off biting swarms of glitches, frozen forms, and rebooted programs. And I’ve beaten back time-sucking leeches of error messages that come with opaque reasons that offer little insight about how to address the flagged problem.

This photo shows a line of mangroves, which look like brown mats of roots rising out of fairly calm brown water, with vibrant green, spearhead-shaped leaves opened upward to catch the sunlight.
Real mangroves are incredibly valuable plants, bridging land and sea, and doing way more than their share to sequester carbon, stabilize the land, and provide natural breakwaters from storm surges. These grow “on the banks of Vellikeel river in Kannur District of Kerala, India,” according to photographer Lamiot.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Swamps and wetlands are really valuable, essential ecosystems. Far from being “wastelands,” they are among the most vitally important natural places to preserve. But your average human is generally at a disadvantage in that terrain. 

Evolving to Thrive in the Self-Publishing Swamp

We bipedal land-mammals would navigate them better if we really were Swamp Things. It is my aspiration to someday be a publishing-website “Swamp Thing,” who floats past the flotsam and parses the particulars with ease. But in this report from the Swamp Thing, I’m still wearing my swim fins.

This is a screen capture of the front, spine, and back covers for my paperback book, as formatted into their IngramSpark template.
Here’s a screen-capture of the project that ate most of my day. Finally uploaded, but still under review. The cover artwork is © 2019 by Jody A. Lee. The rest of the design and art direction is all my fault.

All joking and metaphor aside, however, I’ve finally made it to the point where I’m hovering on the brink of offering What’s Bred in the Bone for pre-sale and Advance Reader Copies. Stand by. There will be another report from the Swamp Thing soon! (Even if I’m still just starting to grow my gills).


Many, many thanks to Forrestjunky and Wikimedia, for the right to use (and in my case crop) the photo  of Colakreek in Suriname. I also appreciate New 99.1 Country from Ft. Collins, CO, for the photo and story about the Riverlands Dinghy Derby–oh, what a “hold my beer and watch this,” moment that race must be. And finally, I deeply appreciate photographer Lamiotand Wikipedia, for the permission to share a photo of some of the Kannur District’s mangroves. As noted in the caption, The cover artwork is © 2019 by Jody A. Lee. The rest of the design and art direction is all my fault.


I’ve been trying to wrap up my final draft and get it to the last editor since the beginning of December. My plans were clear, my goals laid out with pristine exactitude.

Yeah, that. 

The details–although I’m sweating them currently–don’t really matter to the big picture. What does matter is that at any moment something else WILL demand my attention. So instead of a long, wordy post I thought today I’d offer a handful of thoughts on interruptions.

When is it okay to interrupt reading groups or conferences? Aliens are invading. You are on fire. Tornado. The classroom is flooding. Peyton Manning enters the classroom.
As a former teacher, I can relate–although the interruptions during my classroom presentations or discussions were almost as often announcements on the intercom, or calls from the office on the classroom phone, as they were interruptions by students.

This topic yielded a multitude of cartoons and memes from office settings, medical, legal, and other fields. I certainly don’t feel alone in my plight. If you share it, you have my heartfelt commiseration. If you live blissfully free of interruptions, just wait

You’ll get yours, soon enough.

IMAGES: Many thanks to QuoteFancy, for the Allen Saunders quote-image; to the Teaching in Blue Jeans Facebook page, via Charlotte Jackson’s Pinterest board, for the guidance on when classroom interruptions are okay; to Comforting Quotes for the observation by French writer Andre Maurois; and to Kjersti Berg via SlidePlayer, for the “interruptions gestalt” image, though I couldn’t immediately confirm the $$ estimate.

Are you ergonomic?

Artdog Image of Interest 

One of my issues, recently, has been finding ways to make my workplace more ergonomically sound. I just finished a multi-week push to finish a novel manuscript. It involved long hours of concentrated effort on my laptop, and toward the end I began to experience small amounts of pain that presaged a repetitive stress injury if I didn’t watch myself!

In response, I’ve changed some work habits, begun doing some exercises and taking more frequent breaks. My body’s put me on notice. Members of my husband’s family have had much more severe carpal tunnel injuries, so I know what I’m risking if I don’t take ongoing steps.

Since I’ve been doing this research, I thought I might as well share. How much does your workplace resemble this poster?

IMAGE: Many thanks for this graphic, to the Environmental Safety and Health webpage of University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Here’s to better workplaces for all!

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