Resilient

"You are resilient. You have survived so much and here you are. You have dreams that are worth being brought to life." -Maryam HasnaaYou might have noticed last week’s unexpected absence. I certainly did. At the risk of being overly graphic, some kind of gut bug hit me hard enough to make me cry in pain while spraying poop for the first time in my life. So any thoughts of blogging were entirely subsumed by the worry that I was actually dying. Naturally, that was an overdramatic fear, as 48 hours later I was well enough to get back to the office.

I also avoided the dental hell I’d been dreading, mainly because of the incompetence of the guy who had been my primary dentist, so I’m waiting for the actual appointment to get the tooth removed. And looking for a new primary care dentist. The tooth (which harbors an infection at its root) is my prime suspect for the unexpected, quick-moving flu experience. So an extraction is still in my immediate future and will likely still raise its own existential fears.

But once again, a random Facebook quote drew my attention this week. It spoke to me, and is a message worth sharing. Especially since dreams are, in my case, the source of inspiration for a great number of my stories. In fact, that was the essence of a guest post I did for Pauline Baird Jones’ blog on the topic of “Why I Wrote The Builders.”

For the first time in months, too, I managed to beat my weekly word count goal. This week, I manage 2,868 words across four days. I rediscovered my old buddies at the #wordmongering thread on Twitter, and for some reason, getting back in the groove of time-bounded writing sprints has gotten me out of the writer’s doldrums. If I keep this up, I will make my deadline.

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But this week I also discovered that Peter S. Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn (one of my long-time favorite stories), is facing writer’s doldrums of an entirely different sort. Evidently he’s had to bring suit against his former business manager for elder abuse and rights management shenanigans, so I’m doing what I can to spread the word about supporting a fellow artist. Anyone who can so clearly state the hero’s journey has obviously earned that assistance:

β€œThe true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch’s door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.”
-Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Which brings me to two articles about happy endings. These are the genre requirements for every romance, per the Romance Writers of America professional association, as well as the inciting author of the Hotel Paranormal series I contributed to. Her entirely relevant argument is that genre labels are there to help manage readers’ expectations. If you market a book to a reader under the “romance” genre, you will have an upset or even angry reader if you don’t play by the rules you’ve claimed as part of your marketing. The second article talks about the cultural relevance of a genre that outearns the next-closest to it by an almost two-to-one factor and accounts for 34% of the US fiction market. As that author states, going far beyond the trashy label that yet clings to the genre is also part of what pushes me forward in my writing. I like to imagine that my concept of what it means to be a woman might have some resonance outside my personal, everyday experience, and may also contribute to the mental models other people build of other women.

As for my other goals, we’re definitely picking up steam on the walking front. My phone says my daily average this week was 2,981, up 200 from my last check-in. The date-night with hubs, thing, though… well. We got a couple of unexpected days together, even if those were more about getting over a bug than truly enjoying each other’s company. And we had a friend and her boys down for a day of doing something completely different.

It was enough juice to keep me pushing forward with my goals, and I encourage you to visit the other ROW80ers to see how they’re doing. See you next week.

Natural Example

Nature is always giving us examples on why we should never give up.I’ve seen pictures of this tenacious tree a number of times over the years, so this week I figured it was time to share it. I notice I’ve blogged regularly on the topic of not giving up; indeed, it seems an element of stubbornness is required of anyone who endeavors to string together more than fifty thousand words of a story. For me, when I track my word counts these days, that doggedness has to have an element unrelenting optimism. Last week, across three days, I managed 665 words. Less than a third of my stated goal.

There are always good reasons for this, too. Last week, one of my employer’s longest-serving employees finally gave notice and moved on. It turns out, a lot of what he had been doing is now going to land on my plate, so there were a lot of very long days as we coordinated that hand-off. And no small amount of sadness at losing a valued colleague, even though the opportunity he’s pursuing sounds exciting.

This week, I will be enduring the “joy” of another tooth extraction. Because of how long my days were last week, I may not even have to take any leave time for my scheduled day off.

Oddly, I also read about research released recently indicating Americans are skeptical about the likely return for investing hard work in their careers. It’s a different take on the issues inequality raises, so I was heartened to read, “if the increase in inequality results mostly from factors largely beyond the ability of individuals to control or counteract, then a strong case can be made for a public policy response.” From the reporting in that story, it sounds like there will be some interesting results over the next several years from the new investments headed to six large US cities.

At the intersection of silly and science, then, I saw a Buzzfeed article about training a neural network to generate recipes. I’m totally down with Chuck Wendig’s request to try some Beasy Mist:

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As for the rest of my goals? Tashie is definitely improving, so my phone says I averaged 2,760 steps per day this week. It feels good to be walking more again, though it’s funny to recognize just how out of shape we’ve become while we babied our furbaby through her rehab. Hubs and I also snuggled up to keep up with our two favorite shows, maintaining our weekly in-home date night plan.

I even indulged myself with a book that won a contract with Amazon by participating in the Kindle Scout program. It was so gripping (despite a need for a final copy edit/line edit) it kept me up most of Friday night, and I’ll be writing a review at some point.

This week, in addition to everything else, I have all my monthly reports due at work, so I’ll be pushing hard to meet all my requirements before I drop off at the dental end of the week. I’m not holding my breath on catching up on my word counts, but I will keep digging among the roots of my story to grow my word count. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, check out how my ROW80 buddies are doing, and I’ll be back again next week.

Start Where You Are

"Start where you are--not where you wish you were. The work you're doing becomes your path." -Ram DassOne of my biggest challenges recently has been to recognize that I have a new, different “normal”. I’m moving more slowly, with more aches; I’m writing more slowly, with more pauses; and I’m weighing more, in heart and body. I’d like to believe I can get back to where I was, so there’s something gently motivating about Ram Dass’ words in this week’s quote.Β  I’ve been wanting to be done with my latest novel for at least a year now. I’ve wanted many other things in that time, too.

From what I’m hearing from friends and family, the gap between wishes and reality is not uncommon. Last week, after I posted about how stressed so many of us are, I ran across an article that clearly outlined the differences between stress and burn-out. It’s worth considering as a different take on Ram Dass’ words. Stress as over-engagement, and burn-out as pushing past that into disengagement. Wishing I were on a different path is a sure-fire way of pushing toward disengagement. Interestingly, there is a technology that may help train the brain away from stress response. I’m still considering whether that would be worth the investment.

Because there are also technologies for remote pet care. I’m scratching my head on that one, given how much we benefit from direct interaction with our furbabies.

And a technology focused on the opposite end of the personal connection spectrum accomplished its test run last week, allowing SpaceX to re-use one of its rockets to push a satellite into orbit. I also learned more about the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory last week, where tech like Microelectromechanical Systems, wearable and implantable medical devices, and inertial/stellar solutions for GPS redundancy are under development–both of which experiences fired up my brain’s scifi plotbunny generator. Regardless of the fact that I’m supposed to be finishing a low fantasy story.

As this is the post in which we outline our goals for Round 2, though, I’m casting back to what my goals were in January, and discovering they haven’t changed much:

  1. Write a minimum of 2,000 words per week on Fire to Dragon. If I manage this, I will finish that novel in time to make my editor’s renegotiated deadline (May 15) so she can finish her edits before she moves this summer. If not, this book will languish into the fall.
  2. Blog weekly, reporting on my progress to date.
  3. Walk daily, again at least half a mile, though we are, thankfully seeing enough improvement in Tashie’s gait that she managed over a mile for the first time in months.
  4. Enjoy one stay-at-home date night with hubs each week.

Even having been taking the baby steps with words that I have, I’ve managed to get to 75% done. Whether, at some point, I have the time, energy, and inclination to resume sharing book reviews or literary terms posts here remains to be seen. Whether I find a few additional hours to be more proactive with marketing for my books also remains to be seen. For now, I have to keep my focus trained on the one thing I can control: Finishing and releasing my next book. And the next one. And the one after that.

So I will refer you again to the others of my ROW80 group to see how we all do as we keep working our way down this path, and I’ll be back again next week to report on progress.

What I Believe

Your mind will always believe everything you tell it. Feed it hope. Feed it truth. Feed it with love.I keep imagining I’ll get back on the pace of writing several thousand words in a week, and keep watching my weeks slip through my fingers with an excess of worries and work. While one friend is struggling with chemo, another two are prepping for surgery, mom’s recovering from surgery, and the friend whose surgery kicked off the season of hospital visits has finally bounced back to her normal self. I’m not sure why, but something of the Ides of March seems to infect most of the people I know on an annual basis, and it feels like we’re all just gritting our teeth to get through something of our own personal shit storms. Including Gayla, who’s been delayed in finishing her latest novel, too.

So this week’s image seemed like a worthy message. A reminder that there are things to celebrate, too. One of my writer buddies, who happens to be my birthday twin, announced big book news this week. The writer friend who’s been battling with her psoriatic arthritis diagnosis got a new job. A third author friend is stepping firmly into the role of letting her creative work be her full-time income.

And The Expanse got re-upped for a third season. And the Iditarod came to a successful close again.

Plus, my book Dementional was featured on Cara Bristol’s Backlist to the Future blog series this week.

In entirely unrelated happy news, I saw today that researchers in Japan were studying the human-canine bond, and, in particular, the nature of puppy-eyes gazes we give each other. What they describe as a short-cut to bonding with humans certainly feels intentional in my three, and whether it’s the oxytocin release the researchers proved, or something more profound, I can say that the best moments of my days are frequently given to me by the love they serve up unstintingly. I’m so grateful for their reminders to be in the moment, feeding myself on that most positive of emotions.

Despite all the busy-ness, hubs and I still got to cuddle up and catch up with last week’s episode of The Expanse. The nature of the high-stakes decisions and the evolution of the characters makes this a gripping adventure to track–and, as the article I linked to above indicates, quite politically relevant. I’m thrilled we have quite a few more episodes ahead of us, because not one has failed to spark an interesting discussion afterward.

Nonetheless, across three days, I managed 761 words on the third Red Slaves novel, putting me at nearly 75% done. So long as I keep taking baby steps, I will eventually finish this book as well.

Next week is the official kick-off for the next round of words, wherein we state our goals for the next 80 days, but I’m beginning as I mean to go on, and will push myself for more consistent and higher word counts to be able to finally cross the finish line on a novel that is now several years in the making.

March Madness

"Now that we have learned to fly in the air like birds and dive in the sea like fish, only one thing remains--to learn to live on earth like humans." -George Bernard ShawThe irony of the years I’ve lived in the DC suburbs is that for as anti-team-sports as I am in general, I’ve participated in office pools for the NCAA men’s basketball tourney… and done well. In fact, I won both of the past two years. And my bracket this year still has seven of the eight final teams playing alive and well and in the running. It’s an odd, statistically improbable path to office camaraderie for me, and in some part of my mind reflects on the George Bernard Shaw quote I’m sharing this week. What is it to live like humans?

In my case, and in the case of everyone I know, it’s mostly down to how to live with failures large and small. I’m back to that old Buddhist saying of “life is suffering,” but also, how do we move past that? Live in the moment? One author buddy of mine was noodling on that theme in her blog this week and reminded me of the power of the phrase “at this time.” Another author friend of mine is dealing with the repercussion of a new diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis, and how that means she must learn to budget her energy. My mom is re-learning how to walk properly after hip replacement surgery this week–and what it means to have one key component of her body fail her sufficiently to require that kind of intervention.

My failure of this round was my inability to finish my latest novel. Looking back at my original goal of February 10 for a completed first draft just made me shake my head. I’m not sure where I was imagining I’d find the time or energy or focus to get back to my fast-drafting mode. I’ve been lucky to get a thousand words a week; this week I managed zero. Between the migraine that morphed to a 24-hour flu that had mostly passed by the time mom went through her surgery, and the follow-up duties that went with that, as well as the freakish return of winter, I’m having a hard time remembering much about the week, let alone that I was to have written at some point during its course.

On the other hand, I read an interesting article on “transrealism” and discovered I may be part of the first major literary movement of the 21st century.

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Seriously. From the article:

Through this realist tapestry, the author threads a singular, impossibly fantastic idea, often one drawn from the playbook of science fiction, fantasy and horror. So the transrealist author who creates a detailed and realistic depiction of American high-school life will then shatter it open with the discovery of an alien flying saucer that confers super-powers on an otherwise ordinary young man.

The connection of the fantastic with the realistic has played a major role in every one of my stories, and offers such richness for my imagination, I’m guessing this will remain largely the playground I explore. Certainly, the theme of challenging what constitutes “normal” figures greatly in most of my conversations, as well as bleeds into my writing. I may have to become more intentional in pushing my writing that direction. Normal, to again refer back to Bernard Shaw, is a human illusion. Each of us faces the difficulties that land regularly at our feet with varying degrees of grace or unconscious ineptitude.

I read two more books this week. One great, one not. Comparing what makes one author’s work a hot mess where another leaves her readers with the warm, fuzzy feeling of completion is another way of becoming intentional. The first included allusions to so many threads to other works in her series none of her secondary characters managed to differentiate themselves in my mind. Given the brevity of the story, too, the leap from “getting to know you” to “we’re mates” was also jarring. In contrast, Gail Carriger’s Romancing the Inventor was an enthralling journey. The characters jump off the page and nestle themselves into your brain long after you’ve finished reading. Neither story could in any way be stretched to help define “normal,” but the exploration of ethics and relationships certainly helps add color to what “being human” ought to mean.

Hubs and I also stayed on top of Designated Survivor. I suspect our jaws are still clattering around on the floor as we consider the radical plot twist the writers on that show threw our way last week. I’m crossing my fingers that the mole in the White House isn’t the jingoistically indicated character, and am having a hard time figuring out how the darkness of betrayal could be reflected in any of the primary characters we’ve come to know so far.

Aside from the entertainment breaks and care-taking duties, we did manage to keep up with our walks. Tashie is definitely stronger, and the small up-tick in my average step count reflects that fact. My phone says I managed a 2,828 daily average this week.

I have renegotiated my new deadline with my editor in the meantime. My new goal is 2,000 words per week. Given how I’ve done so far this year, that could be an invitation for yet another renegotiation this summer, but a different part of being human is to push ourselves–stretch for things that seem beyond our reach. I’m glad I have the ROW80 group to keep me honest in my goal-setting and -pursuit, so I’ll be back again next week, even if the rest of the group isn’t.

Peace: Something to Do

"Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away." -John LennonWhether it’s because I’ve been fogged in by allergies or because hubs and I have had another series of good conversations, I feel like I’ve reached a place where I can give away some of my peace again. My day job has continued to be more hectic than usual, but I’ve reached a mental state that allows for intentional conversations in a way I hadn’t previously mastered. I’m not sure what flipped that switch–other than the fact that time seems increasingly precious these days. And if I can’t be direct about what I need, that doesn’t open any doors for honest conversation for anyone else, either.

None too soon, either. This week I’ll be driving a family member to the hospital to get a hip replacement. We’re all crossing our fingers that this resolves their mobility issues. In the meantime, another friend is several sessions in to chemo treatment for cancer, as is another friend’s mother. And a colleague buried his mother this week. It’s a good reminder that everyone is going through something, and to the extent we can, sharing peace can be the most worthwhile use of our time.

Given that this week also contained International Women’s Day, my post wouldn’t be complete without links to an article written by Caitlin Moran, who exposes twelve things about being a woman; and an interview with historian Bettany Hughes, who speculates on why women were written out of history. On the converse, an old Harvard Business Review article seeking answers for why so many incompetent men become leaders resurfaced this week, and reminded me of the significant gap that can exist between confidence and competence. In a world where most women struggle with some level of impostor syndrome, it’s easy to see how we might be shooting ourselves in our collective feet by defining our self-worth by our achievements.

My step counter seems stuck in the 2,320s these days, while Tashie has her ups and downs. In fact, she worried us this week on the day her brother and sister went to doggie daycare. Hubs had intended to take Tashie on a series of walks throughout the day. The first one went okay. The second, she only went a few driveways. And the third, she went out the front door and sat on our lawn, refusing to move any further. As it turns out, she was fine. Just jealous that her siblings had gotten to play, while she was home alone. When she did her aqua-paws water treadmill therapy a few days later, she went faster and longer than ever.

It’s going to be a challenge to manage her inclination to play and enjoy herself while she’s still recuperating, and avoid re-injuring herself while she’s not yet entirely stable on her feet.

This week’s stay-at-home date night kept us caught up on The Expanse, as well as Designated Survivor. I’m fascinated by how the writers on both these shows manage to make them so gripping. The characters are all flawed enough to make them able to vacillate into the position of antagonist as circumstances drive them; my suspicion is that these well-rounded samples of humanity are the reason we’re anxious for each week’s installments. It probably also helps that the shadowy drivers behind the big conspiracies and disasters in each of these shows have yet to be fully revealed, so there’s an urgency to the action-reaction cycle as well.

Writing once again went slowly. I managed three days for 1,077 words. If I somehow manage 2,000 words per day this week, I can still finish on time. Since I have monthly reports and a trip up to Maryland on my plate, I’m guessing that might be a challenge. On the other hand, forecasters are predicting this season’s snowmageddon in the next forty-eight hours, so a bonus day at home could tip the scales the other way. Regardless, I need to finish writing this book, so I will continue to chip away as time and energy allow.

In the meantime, I’ll be cheering the rest of my ROW80 buddies to the end of this Round of Words, and I’ll be back again next week.

Improving the World

"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there." -Robert M. PirsigThe weeks keep rushing by in an excess of activity and emotion. I can’t believe we’re already into March–though the weather in this neck of the woods has had us wondering whether it might not already be June. On some days, anyway. This weekend was much more seasonal. By the nature of our busy-ness, we’re being forced to remain focused on the things in our hearts, heads, and hands, so this week’s image seemed quite appropriate.

That said, I’m not sure whether it’s in sympathy with Tashie’s ongoing healing process, but we’re also both feeling back and knee pain. Hubs did as hubs does, and found someone else who advises not to baby these pains… So I’ve been pushing myself to drink more water and stand up more regularly during my days. And we’ve been back to see our chiropractor a few times. We’re slowly improving, and I’m holding to my average of 2,323 steps a day… at least, while I have my phone with me. Tashie is also continuing her rehabilitation, and can now manage about .7 miles before she starts running out of gas and babying her knee. It’s certainly heartening to see how much easier it is for her to get up, as well as the fact that her regular gait is now back to being entirely limp-free. She appears to be an excellent poster case for the efficacy of prolotherapy.

One of my online writing buddies recently updated her “Life Well-Lived” list, and introduced me to the Atlas Obscura, which ended up distracting me from other research for an hour or two this week. I’ve been to some interesting places, apparently. I might even be tempted to look for some of the places included in that atlas, but… for now, I’m content to remain focused closer to home.

Hubs and I caught up with The Expanse this week, and among the OMG moments was a quieter sense of amazement that yet another author had somehow created a new language. The Belter creole is a thing of beauty in the way it includes some, excludes others, and generates a sense of place entirely familiar to those who’ve ever formed a diaspora. There’s a whole wiki dedicated to the terms you hear on the show, and is another fun way to expand your inner horizons.

As for my writing, I started the week strong, adding 1,056 words in a string of days, then lost all focus (or even wakefulness) at the end of the week. Looking back at the tracker I’m using, it’s disheartening to see that since I picked up working on this story in January, I’ve only managed to add 5,678 words to it. At that rate, it will be August before I’m done, and I’m not willing to inflict that wait on anyone. So I have to find my way back to my flow, somehow. It will be a miracle if I finish the book this round–even if that timing mostly matches what my editor and I agreed on. I’ll keep plugging away and let you know how it goes.

So I encourage you to cheer on the other ROW80 participants, and I will be back again next week to report on my own progress.

On Being Tired

"I'm tired, boss. Mostly I'm tired of people being ugly to each other." -John Coffey, "The Green Mile"It being the night when the entertainment industry celebrates the best in movie-making, it feels fitting to hearken back to a movie that was nominated for four Oscars, and denied in all categories, despite the depth of the topic and the portrayal Michael Clarke Duncan invested in his character. And the money quote of the movie. When I saw the image I’m sharing this week, it felt like a good reminder, something worth spreading through the world again:

“Paul Edgecomb: On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job? My job?

“John Coffey: You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin’ and worryin’, I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?

If you haven’t seen The Green Mile (adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name), take the time to do so. That sense of pieces of glass in our heads is a prescient echo of the discord we’re living with today. And the questionable redemption and complex morality depicted are worth reflecting on again as well.

So hubs and I continue to try to remain focused on those pieces of our life that we can control, that bring us happiness. I was able to take a day off this week to catch up with myself and my sleep after the intensity of work since the end of January. I read another book. (I’m sure you’re shocked.)

It actually started because I was interviewed for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, which was featuring authors of lesbian scifi. When it first went live, I had another squee-worthy moment of again sharing the same atmosphere as Gail Carriger. (If you remember back to my release day announcement, we were both on the hot new releases in LGBT Scifi on the Amazon genre best-sellers list then. Funnily enough, the book that boosted her to number one in that category was the one she was talking about for her portion of this interview feature, too, Romancing the Inventor.) Thus I discovered Born Out of Wedlock, by Lyn Gardner. In some ways it’s your classic love story between a billionaire and a pauper, in others, it takes all those tropes and dumps them on their head. And it’s an F/F love story. Some of the things my editor for The Builders pointed out to me about F/F love stories were beautifully limned in this tale–how carefully the relationship is built up, not only between the two protagonists, but also among all the main characters. The stakes are high, but the relationships are real, so the payoff for the reader is well worth the wait. I’m not generally greatly enthusiastic about contemporary romances, but this one hooked me.

That meant hubs is still waiting for me to watch… any number of shows and/or movies that are in our queue. I’m lucky he loves me and understands that sometimes I’d rather read than watch. And we’d gotten our date night earlier at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, so I may have bought him off with food…

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In other news, Natasha started rejecting her pain meds yesterday. (And, seriously, how does a dog simply “un-swallow” ONE, small pill?) She’s so much happier not being doped up, and her gait has definitely improved. So maybe all the therapies we’ve thrown at her are finally allowing her to heal from her various injuries. We’re still taking it easy on the walks, so even though the weather has been unseasonably beautiful, my step count dropped back down to an average of 2,322 this week.

I’ve also renegotiated my deadline with my editor and added a few more words to my WIP, despite only barely waking up from my overwork fog this weekend, to the tune of 566 new words. A slow-but-steady approach should get me to my new deadline without too much stress. I hope.

In the meantime, I’m back to cheering on my ROW80 mates, and will return again next week to report on my progress.

Simply Happy

It is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.I’m still recovering from an intense series of weeks that also included my 19th wedding anniversary. Between preparing for a work project’s phase II kick-off, our celebration at home, out with friends and then colleagues, and then the long trip for work, it feels like it’s been months since I’ve had anything like a normal schedule. Top that off with ongoing news about fundamental disturbances to the strength of the US democracy, and my propensity to get lost in fictional universes while I’m traveling, and it’s hard for me to feel grounded. But I’m home again, and that is my simplest recipe for happiness.

Hubs and I enjoyed our weekend of having been reunited by catching up with cuddles and The Expanse. That show is not for the faint of heart, but when I think back to Babylon 5 or any of the Star Trek franchise TV shows, the effects representing space travel are so realistic and such eye candy it’s hard to look away even as disaster looms. The character development, and especially the acting to give the Belters their own accent and patois, make the world so real it’s palpable. The political machinations and the fearful nature of the threat the majority of the population doesn’t know about make the themes timely–if bleak for humanity.

In comparison, the most recent scifi story I read, The Druid Gene, by Jennifer Foehner Wells, is quite restricted–even though the backdrop against which the action plays out is a galactic empire rather than one “merely” limited to Earth’s Solar System. Told from the perspective of an American medical student with a white mother and a black father, it’s an entirely different take on an alien abduction story, and adds the fillip of a lost alien progenitor somewhere in Earth’s history to make a certain sub-set of humans more than human. It was fun to be absorbed by it, even though the long stretch of fight training wasn’t my favorite fiction mode. Wells’ blog post about the nature of the “casting” choices she made in the story provided an interesting backdrop to stories I’ve seen emerging recently about “sensitivity readers” and reinforced some of the choices I made last year as I was writing The Builders.

As I worried when I set up my Goodreads reading challenge, I’m now as invested in keeping up my books-read numbers–and beating them–as I am writing. That does not help my word count grow, and I obviously blew past my original deadline for Fire to Dragon in the run-up to my work obligations. Reading, while delightful, is not helping me get back on track. I need to change that orientation this week to avoid missing out on my editor’s adjusted time slot. I’m also anticipating that Gayla will have her next book ready for my editorial pen in the next short while, so there will be clashing deadlines if I’m not careful.

The surprising part of my travels was that I walked quite a bit more than I had recently. And we’ve continued on that path since I’ve returned home. Tashie is still limping, but she’s at least finished her round of Doxy, so she has more energy these days–even if she remains less active than our younger two. According to my phone, my daily step average was just three off from three thousand, so I doubled my distance from my previous reporting.

I think this week will be less stressful than the most recent two, and should leave me time in the evenings to get back to my first goal, but we’ll see whether that’s true with next week’s check-in. In the meantime, I suggest you look at my ROW80 buddies’ check-in posts for this week to keep you entertained.

Being Kind

"Be kind. Make art. Read good books. Take no shit." -Word PornAt work, we’re in the run-up to a phase II kick-off on one of our projects, so my week was a series of much longer days than normal. While I caught some news coverage about Congress introducing a bill to abolish the EPA, a heartbreaking Tweet-storm about the reality of being a refugee, and facts about minimum wage, I mostly came home too tired to do much more than eat and sleep. Today I found an interesting aggregation site that caught me up on more of the week’s disastrous headlines. Minus the even worse headlines about Fukushima, where radiation from the 2011 disaster has apparently already had health impacts on babies born on the western coast of the US.

All of which adds up to the fact that we’re living the epitome of the curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

And reminds me that in my life, I can really only control my own actions. So when the image I’m including in this week’s post scrolled by, it resonated. I do my best to be kind and supportive, even when I’m frazzled. And especially when I know how much is going on in my friends’ lives. The first one to face surgery is now recovering nicely, though they still face the standard course of chemo. The second friend’s surgery comes this Friday, and we had them over for some preparatory acupuncture in hopes that we’re setting the stage for success there, too.

As for making art, I managed 1,742 words this week. There’s no way I’ll make Friday’s deadline, but I’ll keep chipping away at my story. If I can manage even just 500 words a day, I’m only a month away from finishing. But… we still have to finish our phase II kick-off prep, and then travel to Florida to participate in the meetings for that, so the days required to make up that month seem likely to stretch out longer than that. Unfortunately. Especially since I recently realized that April 21 will be the five-year anniversary of the release of the first in the Red Slaves series. I hate it when I have to wait forever for an author to finish writing a series I love, so now I’m vicariously hating myself for making my readers wait that long to finish mine.

πŸ˜›

Naturally, that means I took a night off and read another Hotel Paranormal book. The Fox’s Wager is by Tawdra Kandle and features a kitsune and psi-gifted human as its protagonists. It was a lot of fun and a perfect snack of fiction when my brain was too tired to focus on my own world-building. Oddly, this means I have somehow gotten ahead of myself on this year’s Goodreads Reading Challenge. It’s something I came to late last year for the first time, and I’m still on the fence about whether it’s a good thing to encourage my inner competitor about something that makes it so easy for me to lose days and days when I’m on a real book binge.

Another night off was to keep up with the date night promise to hubs. There wasn’t anything to laugh about in the season opener of The Expanse, but it’s such a compelling show we’ve been talking about it ever since.

We’ve also managed to keep pace with our .75-mile-a-day walks. Tashie had a follow-up visit with the vet specialist this week, and it seems there are multiple reasons for her limp. On top of the Lyme, she also has a partially torn MCL, and it’s likely she ruptured a disc in her mid-back about a year ago. She’s such a trooper to have dealt with the pain that long without showing any signs that I’m doing everything I can to make sure it doesn’t go on any longer than necessary. She’s so happy to be out on family walks, though, it’s hard to hold her back from what she really wants to be doing. At least now we have analgesics for her and she’s happy to be able to hop up on the futon in my office (i.e. closer to our bedroom) to sleep at night.

I’m not sure how much progress I’ll make with my writing, but I’ll keep trying, inching closer to done as work and life obligations allow, while taking the breathers necessary to re-acclimate to something like a normal life. We have our 19th wedding anniversary to celebrate this week, too. In the meantime, I’m keeping up with my ROW80 buddies, and encourage you to do so, too. We’ll see whether I manage a post next week from the road, but I will always return to my blog eventually.

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