Keep People

"Keep people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you, and make you happy."I missed a week of blogging, I know, but fun with Gayla also meant exhaustion once I returned home. Plus, I’d missed hubs and our puppers, so dinner together, our walk, and sleeping were more important than blogging last week.

What made last week so fun wasn’t just that I got to catch up with Gayla, but I also got to ride along on an Animal Control patrol (think: license to call out to and cuddle random puppers), construct a 3-D puzzle (I love putting together flat packs), and help install a home theater system so we could enjoy an at-home movie night for Gayla’s birthday. And then there were all the floofs. I love Gayla’s bunch, but since we appear to be floof magnets, after she was done with work for the week and we were headed up to Lubbock for the final ingredients for birthday fun, we saw a pup run across a four-lane highway after we were several miles out of town.

And this is one of the reasons Gayla’s a keeper for me: She has a Dodge Charger (muscle car for the uninitiated), so when I yelled about the dog, she said “I see it!” and pulled a move straight out of the Dukes of Hazzard. (I didn’t realize, until I looked it up, that they drove a Dodge Charger, too… though there is a more than 40-year model year gap between theirs and Gayla’s – LOL.) We were traveling in the right lane, she didn’t wait for an authorized U-Turn spot, but quickly just drove down into the gulch separating the north- and south-bound lanes, waited for a small gap in traffic, merged, and pulled off onto the right-hand shoulder without any concern for the possibility of harm to her vehicle. When I rolled down my window and called out to the sweet puppy, his whole body wriggled with his tail wag and his face opened up into a beautiful smile. I carefully opened the door, crouched down, and the little boy snuggled right into my arms. It wasn’t so great when he submission-peed on us and my seat, but Gayla had rags in her trunk so we could mop that up fairly easily too. We were able to get him to the shelter, and he’s now in the adoption program. Guessing his age by the needle-teeth in his mouth, and high percentage of just gums… the little boy was only 10 weeks old. He was super-lucky he didn’t get splatted by being dropped in such an unsafe place, and he gave me the sweetest kisses and cuddles while we brought him to safety. He’s the one at the top of this collage:

I’m really glad he’ll get the chance to grow into the big boy of his puppy promise. The two other puppies in the collage are also in the rescue program. The one on the left is Sonora, who’s now been spayed and is available for adoption, while the one on the right is being fostered so she can heal up from gastritis… and grow up enough to be the nix nutz her squirming in my lap and onto my shoulders as we took her to her vet appointment indicates she will become.

In other words, I got my fill of canine cuddles on my whirlwind trip. And read a few more books while I was in transit between Virginia, Texas, and Virginia.

And came home to a whirlwind week at the day job. So my one link for the week: The historical underpinning of shaving. Which leads to my sidebar question of the week: Why can’t we be more like ancient Egypt in our egalitarianism?

Maybe we should take a tip from UX practitioners and “map” our experiences. Or take a tip during our hiring interviews to screen for empathy.

November is quickly coming to a close, and I’ll be hosting an old friend this week, so I’m coming to terms with the thought that I needed significantly more time off from writing and editing than I’d ever imagined. Getting back to the image included above, which I found this week courtesy Marc and Angel, I’m grateful I have family and friends who encourage and support me even when I’m kicking myself for not finding a way to be more productive. I hope for the rest of you as we enter the season of thankfulness, that you do too. It seems an unfortunate truism that we’re all harder on ourselves than we need to be, so those who remind us that we’re good enough despite our weaknesses are gems of the first order.

On the other hand, my phone says I averaged 5,557 steps per day last week. I’m happy to report Tashie seems to be back to her healthy self with her pulling and endurance, and it shows in our step counts. And hubs and I are still keeping up with our shows. (OMG: Star Trek Discovery left us with a completely unexpected cliff-hanger for its mid-season finale!)

Until next time, here are where my ROW80 buddies are sharing their progress, and I’ll return once more next week to share my own.

Anonymous Woman

"For most of history, ANONYMOUS was a woman." -Virginia WoolfIn general, I’m not a fan of commercialized holidays like Halloween, the day after Thanksgiving, or Christmas. This year, though, Halloween was heralded by Netflix releasing the second season of Stranger Things. I’m actually not a big fan of horror, either, but this story is compelling to me for a lot of reasons–not the least of which is how steeped it is in 80s culture. So I joined the approximately 16 million viewers who binge-watched all nine episodes, and am anxiously awaiting season three based on the promises made and kept in the season two finale. And especially for more of the brat kid sister, Erica.

The one thing that strikes me increasingly regularly is how much female characters are relegated to the sidelines. While the first season of Stranger Things did some interesting things subverting gender tropes, season two fell flat with Max. She’s literally pushed to the fringes of the action.

Then I read about romance writers who are inserting their political beliefs into their stories. It was a good reminder that, as creators, we reflect our experiences. It should be natural for a pair of brothers to create a band of brothers story; and that in the small world of those juvenile friendships, there would be extremely limited female perspectives.

And yet, this week, too, I read about a cat owner who built a box maze specifically for his pets, and another man who has raised an owned both of the most recent Guinness Book of World Records oldest cats. If it’s easier for men to empathize with and create compelling stories about cats than women (though this is an admittedly tiny sample) it’s a sad affirmation of the Virginia Woolf quote I’ve included with this week’s post.

Funnily enough, I also completed my Goodreads challenge for the year this week by reading a genre I’m not generally a fan of: contemporary romance. I can say I’m a Kait Nolan fan, though. She hooked me long ago with her YA story Red, a compelling, modernized version of the Red Riding Hood story… with a werewolf. She’s never revisited that world, but I’ve been caught in the snares of a number of her contemporary romances while I wait for more of her paranormal stories. Looking back at the list of books I’ve read this year, I’m struck by the fact that I have a demonstrable bias toward reading female authors. From what I can see, only 1 of the 40 books I’ve read were written by men. I’ve recognized this inclination since I read Heinlein in High School. It’s fascinating to me that in 30 years of reading since then, I still get the same sense of being misrepresented or disregarded by enough male authors that I remain cautious about opening the doors to a new story by an unknown man.

As for my ROW80 goals? My step count dropped precipitously as I dealt with a wrenched neck. My phone says I averaged 4,038 steps a day, which is apparently enough to go 1.6 miles, so better than my goal. Hubs sent a link with five exercises to undo the harm of all the sitting I do, and I found another, writer-centric site that talks about back pain as one of our common ailments. Luckily, I already squat a lot to deal with our dogs, but I’ll be considering how to add the remaining exercises to my daily routine to avoid this kind of incapacitation in the future.

Hubs and I obviously managed our date night(s) with no problem with Stranger Things, but that other important goal, editing? Nope. Nada.

I’m beginning to feel a bit like a fraud with the writing. I haven’t opened my WIP in weeks, even though I’ve finally figured out why book 1 of the Red Slaves series has to be Anne’s story more than her relationship with Ivan. Book 1 is more classically Urban Fantasy, not Paranormal Romance, so trying to shoehorn it into the latter genre constraints has been part of what’s been giving me heartburn with the most recent editorial direction I’ve gotten. I still need to figure out how to fix the pacing, though.

This week, I might actually get to work. I’ve said it before, but this week, I’ll be flying cross-country to visit Gayla in something that might possibly resemble a writer’s retreat. We’ll see how far that time gets me. Since it’s been a few years since I last saw her, there may be more yapping than writing, but flying might also work for getting creative. Regardless, I’ll be reporting back again next week. Meanwhile, check out how the other ROW80 folks are progressing.

Dire Need

There are two types of tired, I suppose. One is a dire need of sleep, the other is a dire need of peace.Allergy season struck with a vengeance last week. Tonight, I’m listening to the wind howl through the trees outside my window and am wondering if I’ll “breathe loud and proud” (as hubs described it one morning after listening to my night of snorting and sniffling) again tonight. Or if I’ll get the kind of decent night’s sleep that came last night after hubs gave me an acupuncture treatment.

So when I saw this week’s image in my Facebook stream, I couldn’t help but share it. And start to consider all the other ways we can be tired.

A few days ago I was notified that I’ve been accepted into Blasty‘s service. For those of you who haven’t heard of it previously, it’s an anti-piracy tool for authors. Bookworks reviewed it a little over a year ago, and I don’t even remember how I got hooked in to the system, except that I’d apparently registered The Builders, so I must’ve started the wheels turning about a year ago. It’s specifically designed to work in the Chrome browser, which I don’t use all that often, so it wasn’t until tonight that I installed their plugin and started looking at their tools. And now, I have 101 blasts in progress.

What this means in layman’s terms: There were 101 sites that pirated my books and Blasty is working to get the content removed in accordance with my wishes as the copyright owner.

That’s a special kind of tired, right there.

It’s a perennial conversation within my author circle: How much do we lose by letting pirates steal our content? How much time should we spend defending our copyright? There are as many takes on it as authors. For me, it comes down to the legal point that if I don’t do what I can to protect my copyright, I can lose the copyright. (According to Jux Lawfirm, Abandonment of Copyright, in which I fail to enforce my copyright, is a defense against copyright infringement.)

Also, given the amount of money I invest in editing, cover art, and marketing, I do apparently hope someday to recoup my investment in my art. This may be a pipe dream, but it’s certainly spiked every time someone steals something I’m selling. The final question turns on whether this exposure can have a positive impact on sales. Some authors I know see that relationship. I don’t. YMMV.

On the editing front, still no news. Turns out there’s more work headed my way at the day job, so my mental bandwidth when I get home in the evening has been accordingly reduced. Luckily, one of my colleagues made a deal with me to have our daily stand-up be a daily walk. So this week, my average steps jumped back up to 5,239 per day. Tashie also seems to be fast-tracking her healing, since she’s back to pulling me along on our walks at home.

In one small way, my mental fog makes hubs happy, since it means we’re staying on top of the few TV shows we’ve committed to, like Ghosted and Star Trek: Discovery and The Gifted. We’re also still on track with cooking at home at least six nights a week, so it’s really nice to see more of him than I had while I was head-down in writing and editing earlier this year. We also got to mark off a bucket-list item for hubs this week: We saw King Crimson in concert, and got to hear such great songs as “Epitaph,” “Court of the Crimson King,” and “Starless” live and in person.

Of course having found a home rhythm means I’ll be breaking up our routine in a little over a week. I found out I had the unexpected option to go visit Gayla for her birthday, so I’ll be making the pilgrimage out to nowhere, Texas once more. I’m hoping the change in scenery will jostle me out of my writing funk.

Until next week, then, check out how my ROW80 buddies are doing with their goals.

So Much Trek

"Pooh?" said Piglet. "Yes, Piglet?" said Pooh. "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra," said Piglet. "Shaka, when the wall fell," said Pooh.I ran across this awesome intersection of fandoms earlier this week, and it seemed an oddly appropriate reflection of how much Star Trek I’ve been watching recently. Especially since that flu bug circled back around this week, and I spent another day at home mostly trying to not fall asleep, but also continuing my Next Generation binge. I’m through all of the first season now. And hubs and I are up to date on Discovery.

My heart is somewhere in space, thinking about the strangeness of communication. As written up in The Atlantic‘s recap of the episode being mashed up in this week’s image, language is complicated enough that while we might understand words easily enough, understanding meaning and context is a whole other level of difficulty.

So seeing someone on Twitter geeking out in a completely different direction (and, frankly, one that is not in my interest zone) had me slow clapping earlier this week. Seriously, if more game makers put the level of intention and attention to “throw-away details” that is now evident in the new Assassin’s Creed… I might actually be enticed to play those games.

A more disturbing take on words and stories came from Vox on Wednesday:

On any given cultural issue, a look at the pop culture we make for teens will tell you both how we as a society think we should feel about the world and how we actually feel about the world.

This is probably another part of the reason I’ve backed off reading YA stories. I can feel the preaching and it turns me off. But the central thesis of this particular article is that the move away from dystopian fantasies to suicide fantasies is a stark warning for our society. Have we, as a society, become so nihilistic that suicide is the only answer? From a popular fiction perspective, that’s a disturbingly frequent solution.

For myself, the “Dave, the Period Fairy” story (which actually came out at about the same time as the Vox story) shows too much promise regarding communication, context, and understanding to give up hope that way. And brings us back full-circle to Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Cooperation, supported by the rich metaphors that surround us, is the only way we achieve anything meaningful–even in such solitary pursuits as writing.

My phone says I only averaged 3,917 steps each day last week, as we encourage Tashie to take it slowly, despite the exuberance her siblings continue to share with all of us.

And my WIP stayed buried under the avalanche of work and Trek. I think I may finally be to a point where my creative well is full enough to reimagine my Red Slaves stories in the way that makes them stronger and more enjoyable for everyone. Stay tuned next week. In the meantime, check out what my ROW80 partners are up to.

Cover Reveal: Blood Courtesans boxed set

I’m excited to help my author friend Jennifer James start promoting her latest venture–participation in a boxed set. Check it out if you’re in the mood for vampires and romance:

Blood Court boxed set
BOOK DETAILS:

Blood Courtesans: Awakenings
Boxed Set
Publication date: January 17th 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Synopsis:
Darkly decadent and sinfully sensual.

Enter a world where vampires are real, rich, hungry and meet the women who become their blood courtesans. Come let the fangs slip into your blood and awaken you to a whole new life. A boxed set of NEW stories in this popular series.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36388569-blood-courtesans-boxed-set

Pre-order:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_16?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=blood+courtesans+series&sprefix=blood+courtesans%2Caps%2C212&crid=2NH79DNEJY7JJ
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/blood-courtesans-boxed-set-awakenings/id1295300606
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/blood-courtesans-boxed-set-awakenings-vampire-romance
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-courtesans-boxed-set-michelle-fox/1127212649

And since you’ve gotten this far, join the giveaway the authors have put together. Good luck to all!

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