3am is the hour of writers, painters, poets, over thinkers, silent seekers, and creative people. We know who you are; we can see your light on. Keep on keeping on.Next milestone achieved: This weekend I FINALLY finished all my revisions. And all my copyedits. (On The Builders.) You might be wondering why I don’t yet have it for sale, though. At Gayla’s suggestion, I’m trying my hand at something new. I’ve submitted this novel to the Kindle Scout program. It will be a few days before I hear whether it’s accepted. If I am, there will be a period of 30 days in which I will be begging all and sundry to Please Nominate Me. The “for readers” page explains the program for those who would be able to nominate me.

From my perspective, this operates as something like a contest to see whether I can earn some advertising and marketing support for my book. The rights reversion clauses are some of the most generous and clearest I’ve seen, and Kindle Press seems quite interested in generating both audio and foreign-language versions of books accepted into the program. My hope is that if I can earn a spot for one book (accepting that I won’t earn quite the royalty rate I’m used to), it will help spur some interest in my other books.

And if I’m not accepted, it’s no more than 45 days of delay before I publish it anyway.


In the meantime, I’m trying to yank the reins back to my “worknight bedtime”… Both Friday and Saturday nights ended up being very late nights. Or early mornings, depending on your perspective. It’s interesting to note that there are other houses where the lights are on at 2 and 3am in our neighborhood, so despite being something of a bedroom community, there may be other artistic types nearby.

This makes me happy.

On the other hand, I’ve been reading speculation about the real reason women drink and why women aren’t comfortable with being voracious. About anything. Both together made me sad. Women and girls minimize themselves so consistently they feel brazen if they let out too much of their ambition or allow their real interests to be seen. I’ve seen it in friends and family often enough that I know the reality of wo-minimizing at a visceral level. I suspect that’s part of what drove me to write an F/F story. And why maybe it takes a female alien to show that it’s okay to want something, be supportive, and still have time for yourself and interests of your own.

Whether that passes muster for a more mainstream publishing house is yet uncertain. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and don’t be surprised if I start spamming nomination requests.

While we all wait, I’ll be uploading the first two chapters here so you can get a sneak preview, and you can go visit the other ROW80 participants to see how they’re progressing with their goals. For me, it’s time to dive into the writing process again to see whether I can finish the draft of book 3 of the Red Slaves series by the end of this ROW80 round. I’ll be back next week to report on my progress.

Hard Road

Someone once asked me, "Why do you always insist on taking the hard road?" I replied, "Why do you assume I see two roads?"Time does, indeed begin to heal all wounds. And then there are the reminders of loss that punch you in the gut. We received flowers and cards Friday from three different corners of the country in Sharon’s memory that left us perplexed at the coincidental timing and sad all over again. But yesterday I plowed through another chunk of my manuscript and am finally facing down the last quarter of what was apparently only the skeleton of a story. My editorial process has had me add more than 10,000 words so far, making this novel officially my longest.

The other road I traveled this week was out to the Antietam National Battlefield. The field trip was the capstone to a leadership class at work. We had been given a 90-page booklet with blow-by-bloody-blow details of the Antietam Battle of the Civil War as part of our preparation, but I got five pages in and had the same queasy response as when I’d read All Quiet on the Western Front. So I waited to see how being in that region listening to an historian recount the facts of the battle as history recorded them would make me feel.

It was actually one of the most impactful history lessons I’ve ever experienced. And other than that moment in the Bloody Lane, when I felt the weight of sorrow and bewilderment for the sheer number of lives wasted (for the “trivia”-minded of you, this battle accounted for the highest single-day number of deaths of Americans), the focus of the day was on the many WTF moments when failures of leadership ensured the Civil War would continue for another three bloody years. It put leadership in an entirely different context and emphasized the importance of communication and emotional intelligence in ways that aren’t quite as visceral in merely written words. Even more important, the ability to nurture those who follow you so they are able to successfully step into your shoes when their time comes assures continuity and the ongoing ability to meet the vision mapped for the future with quality and success.

The interesting thing in all of this is that the experience was guided in the spirit outlined in Lee Thayer’s book, The Competent Organization. As I mentioned when I started the class, there are certain generational divides that made me have to read the text as a philosophical treatise–his opinion, to be studied as a way to reach consistent success in a business context. On the other hand, his exhortations not to let people “default themselves” (take the easy path), or to “allow for a plan B” (be content with less than whatever goal you had committed to), strongly resonated. In fact, I had heard the quote I’m including here in some format back in college. It’s always rung true to me because I’ve only ever pursued the one path that’s ever opened to me at any given time. Mostly that’s meant big challenges along the way. My takeaway, merged now with Thayer’s words, is that when your goals are some form of audacious (and I would absolutely consider becoming a published fiction author who can live off the earnings of their words one of the most difficult goals a person can set themselves), you have to expect difficulty. Be willing to work against the pull of the crowd’s tide.

I remain grateful hubs is so supportive.


So my BHAG micro-goal of the week: To finally finish the editing phase for The Builders and publish it. While you wait to see whether I achieve it, check out my ROW80 compatriots, and come back next week for my regularly scheduled report.


You may see me struggle, but you'll never see me quit.It’s been a hard week. The death of a loved one seems to push us closer to the veils of mystery, so real life seems bizarre and dislocated. Not that it isn’t, usually, but we’re so accustomed to the mayhem we fit ourselves into the patterns around us and call it normalcy. This week felt like we belonged in a different picture entirely.

I’m lucky my office mates are understanding and compassionate. In fact, we received a condolences card from them in the mail yesterday that moved us both. Today, we saw the obituary. In an odd instance of real-life parallelism, I realized my mother-in-law died almost eight years exactly (within a week) of her mother. I remember my grandma speculating about the impact of her mother’s death on the timing of her death. Grandma died in February of 1997, as I recall within a month of the anniversary of her mother’s death.

It seems a foreshadowing worthy of fiction and a reflection of some of the strange experiences we’ve had in our mourning. The day after Sharon died, we had tickets to a concert we’d been looking forward to for months. In my haze, I forgot our tickets in the car, so hubs went to retrieve them before we finished dinner. He was graced with a rainbow that was already gone by the time he returned to the restaurant. The next day we came home to a horde of dragonflies–the first we’ve seen on our property in the two years we’ve lived here. This property isn’t one I’d normally consider hospitable for those insects, either, since we’re not even remotely close to enough water to sustain them. Both instances felt out of the ordinary, like we were being smiled at from the other side.

We’re working toward normalcy, though it’s sometimes more difficult than others. I’ve been editing as time and focus allow, though it’s frustrating to me that I’m not already done with this story. I love that I found an editor who challenges me and points out those areas where my writing is weak. It also means that editing is much more than “approve tracked changes” this time around, and I’m lucky if I get 10 pages done in a sitting. I’m writing, rewriting, and adding more every time I face the manuscript. This is most likely to end up my longest novel at this rate–though I won’t be changing the core damage that drives my protagonist… even if it may be triggering for some readers.

My reading and research indicate child abuse is prevalent, and most likely to be committed by mothers. Survivors’ long-term mental health leads to a host of coping mechanisms, that include a much more wary approach to relationships. Given the size of the population affected this way, it feels right and important to me to tell a story with a protagonist who faces these issues. From a different angle, women have other hurdles to overcome in being found credible. In fact, my new favorite coinage is “wo-minimizing” as opposed to “mansplaining” for its more proper focus on what happens in those interactions.

This week will be crazy with work travel Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so there’s no time left for wallowing in sadness. So I’ll keep plodding forward and worry about missing deadlines more when I’m in a better head space. In the meantime, I recommend you visit the other ROW80ers, and I’ll be back again next week with my regularly scheduled updates.

The Long and Short Goodbyes

It's no the goodbyes that hurt, but the flashbacks that follow.I’ve missed blogging. It’s a useful vehicle for me to journal my experiences and share them with my friends–known and unknown. This year, though, has challenged my ability to maintain my emotional equilibrium. No time more so than this past week. We had planned for the worst part of the inevitable with my mother-in-law. Hubs got to spend four solid days with her in person while she was still lucid. We spoke to her the last time last weekend, before the pain became too intense for her to handle without morphine and phone conversations became impossible. We were going about our lives, helping with the rescue process for a pregnant stray dog in Gayla’s town. Then we got word that fellow writer and rescuer J.C. Montgomery died unexpectedly Wednesday morning. She was my first beta reader and writing cheerleader. I may have only known her via email, Twitter, and Facebook, but her support helped me become the person I am today and her loss without ever having been able to meet her in person was devastating.

Friday night, then, we got word that my mother-in-law’s suffering had come to an end. We were grateful that she had been spared the ravages of a drawn-out illness. The grace and presence she brought to her final weeks were a clinic for the family on gratitude and living in the moment that I can only aspire to emulate. We were able to send her off surrounded by love and the knowledge that she was appreciated for herself in spite of the flaws of humanity that had sometimes created tumult within the family.

But now we are dealing with the end of an era and a chasm of emotion that is rolling us both under. I remember that Sharon was the first to call me by my married name at our wedding–when my head whipped around, her words matched her impish grin, “just testing.” She worked for many years as a retail clerk and knew when all the sales were–but also how to apply coupons and employee discounts to the degree that she would show up periodically with the statement “I saw this and thought of you. It was only a couple dollars, so it’s my gift to you.” She learned all the best recipes for a full, Italian-style meal from her mother-in-law, and friends and family knew she could forever find another seat at the table and enough extra servings of food so everyone left with leftovers and a belly more full than they could have imagined possible. The hole she leaves behind will never be filled.

Interestingly, the Institute of Heartmath published an article this week about love as an advanced mode of intelligence that underlines the many positive aspects of having loved. And BarkPost reported on a study whose results indicate that dogs are awash in more oxytocin (the love hormone) than cats or humans.

So we still have each other, and the furbabies are all checking up on us regularly to remind us that the path through loss is to embrace the love we share. Our hearts are nonetheless having a hard time catching up with that knowledge, and our heads are fuzzy for lack of sleep.

I don’t know that I’ll be posting my normal list of goals this round–I’m already several weeks late–but I have to finish revisions on The Builders, finish Fire to Dragon, and write Dragon’s Pursuit by the end of the year. So I continue to plod forward despite all the heartache, and wish that the news would quit finding more ways of bruising that already wounded organ. I’ll be posting more regularly again, as well as pointing you to my ROW80 cohorts to encourage more mutual support and encouragement in my small sphere of web-based connections. And I’ll ask that each of you reach out to those you love most and remind them of why they are special to you. Life is short, and we never know which conversation will be our last. My goal as an artist is to leave a conversation that can continue past my physical existence, but that also depends on others carrying their half of the relationship, so please, love and enjoy one another.

Death, Transition, and Soul Storms

"Count your rainbows, not your thunderstorms." -Alyssa KnightI promised to check in, not knowing that the disaster news from last week would be ultimately personalized this week. Another family member suddenly faces the final months of her life in the face of a metastasized lung cancer diagnosis. On the same day we learned this, I found a baby bird who had fallen from his nest in the parking garage at work. In one of those moments of transference, I decided if I could save this naked creature who was struggling to right himself on the cold concrete, it would buy a little more time and comfort for hubs’ mother. In the early evening hours, as I fed him worms and water against my own squeamishness (I’d forgotten live worms continue to twitch long after they have been chopped up), he seemed in good shape to pull through his ordeal.

His death overnight probably should not have been the shock it was. Nonetheless, it pulled the plug on my emotions, and I’ve just barely been weathering the storm since. We’re trying to figure out how to plan for the impossible and find stability in an emotional earthquake.

Trying to gain what comfort we could from cuddling up together to watch a “light” movie, we decided on Kung Fu Panda. I don’t know if it was because I was already feeling emotionally overwhelmed, but it was a much more profound movie than I had anticipated, with its own themes of death and transformation, and the message that we each of us are our own “special ingredient” to make us more powerful than we can anticipate.

It will take me a while to find comfort in that again, though I will be pushing myself to count my blessings in the manner of the quote I found scrolling past on Facebook and have shared here.

I also received my editor’s feedback on The Builders, and will be heading out to a conference for work at the end of the month, so my blog may go dark for a while as we make the adjustments necessary to deal with our family’s needs. In the meantime, I encourage you to keep up with the other ROW80 participants, and I’ll check back in as time and energy allow.

Stay Strong

"When life gives you a hundred reasons to break down and cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile and laugh. Stay strong."When news like today’s, from both Orlando and LA, crosses the wire–notwithstanding the whitewashing claiming “worst massacre” that forgets Wounded Knee–it’s easy to get lost in the tears for and anger against the misguided (non-)humans who think violence and hate solve anything. So I spent my day appreciating the beautiful sunshine, cool breezes, silly furbabies, and love of my family. They gave me thousands of reasons to smile and laugh, even while my emotions remain volatile because of the huge number of families now dealing with trauma and violence and death and the aftermath those bring to individual lives.

They too will have to find ways to stay strong, to find the reasons to smile and laugh. I’m not sure what has made this sickness of hate grow so strong in our nation, though I have quite a few ideas. Some relate to why voters are angry. Some to the inaction and obstructionism rampant in Congress. Some to the sexist roles of patriarchy encoded in pop culture. Some to the level of personal emotional paralysis that sets in when we are constantly offering thoughts and prayers, with no sense that anything will ever improve–regardless of how devastated we may be by the ongoing string of horrific events our news outlets insist on inundating us with.

Some of this is finding outlet in my fictional worlds. Re-reading passages from The Builders, where I was able to put some of my research about how horribly humans can treat each other, in the context of an alien love story, seems like the appropriate balance of hope, despair, confusion, and growth. I’m still waiting for my editor to send me my revision marching orders, though, so I know the story will evolve from where it currently stands.

Because of that I spent my evening re-formatting Dust to Blood for print. It’s been on my to-do list for almost nine months now, and I knew it would be a pain. Luckily, the template and style sheets didn’t need to be adjusted at all. While it took several hours, and I still need to do the same for Blood to Fire, finishing these tasks this week starts helping shift my story brain to consider how to proceed with Fire to Dragon.

I know I promised a longer post this week, but, honestly, too much of this is too exhausting. I want to go back to cuddling with hubs, hoping our little bubble of Light helps illuminate the rampant darkness in our world. In lieu of that, check out how my ROW80 companions are doing with their goals. May the coming week find you reasons to smile, and I will return again next week.


"We swallowed the chaos because we knew we didn't want to be ordinary." -R.M. DrakeIt seems harder and harder these days to find routine in even the smallest things. I missed my check-in last week because I was pushing hard to get my WIP in shape for my editor… and to finalize the cover for it. And to get hubs ready for his gigs this weekend. And all the other little things that go along with having Huskies and a day job (where we had a major quarterly review to prepare for and present to our customers) and other responsibilities.

At the moment I have about five minutes before I have to move on to my next task, but I also didn’t want to miss two weeks of check-ins. So it was interesting to me to read that silence is significantly more important for our cognitive function than modern society acknowledges. I don’t know that many people who are willing to sit with no radio, no TV, no conversation, and consider it an important element of rejuvenation in their daily lives.

I’ll be glad when we’re past these weeks of madness and can enjoy some silence together again. On a related note, I ran across an interesting list of life lessons that are also worth considering. Sometimes it’s worth listening to the music around us (or creating it) as a way of pushing past the ordinary.

In the meantime, last night hubs helped commemorate David Bowie in his way (my way was way back in January), with his friends, The Slambovians. As Joziah notes in the video, they’re playing together again tonight (part of why I’m keeping this short), but since I’m so proud of how far he’s come, I’m sharing the video I took of it:

I’m still in the in-between space of my stories, waiting for edits and considering poking at Fire to Dragon when we have a little more time. So I’ll check in more fulsomely next week to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, check out how my ROW80 cohorts are doing with their goals.

The Builders Cover Reveal

As you will have noticed if you’ve been following me in recent months, I’ve been working on my latest novel. The final draft is done and off to the editor, so now it’s on to cover love… Gayla pulled off another great one–which was a difficult task, given an alien protagonist who was genetically engineered to wear the median skin tone of all earthlings. I have to tell you… There aren’t many options for people of color as cover models. Even fewer that are interracial between two women. So we took off in the direction of the galaxies through which they travel. I’m very proud to share this with you:

The Builders

Given where the story is in the editing process, I suspect my estimate of a July release remains reasonable. I’m really looking forward to sharing this one with everyone.


The best things in life come with patience.A friend was in town visiting the past few days, which is always both exhilarating and exhausting. In this case, it was another person going through marital woes, reinforcing my gratitude for the love and support I get from hubs. It’s remarkable the number of people who struggle with their connection with their partners, where one or the other of the pair has a heart closed by fear, pain, or past wounds that make trust impossible. I suspect it’s another symptom of one of the deep illnesses of our society that people aren’t raised to understand the primacy of love–that it is the pivot around which health, vitality, creativity, and success revolve.

Maybe that’s just my perspective, though.

But it is painful to witness friends struggle through the challenges that sap their capacity to participate fully in their own lives. At one point in our conversations this weekend, our friend said, “I feel like I’m participating in somebody else’s movie.”

I can empathize, having come late to the idea that I could do something for myself aside from work and maintain a connected home life. I didn’t start writing long-form fiction until a little over five years ago, and it’s its own revelation: I’m able to follow in the footsteps of some of my heroes by couching truths of a life fully considered in a framework that allows others to expand their horizons as well.

Focusing on writing does make it challenging to maintain that connection, which is why one of my goals always has to do with a date-night with hubs. This week we watched the next two episodes of Agents of Shield as well as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I loved the movie and am more lukewarm on the TV show. Marigold reunited a lot of the actors from Calendar Girls and played with the topic of what you DO when you reach “a certain age.” Dame Maggie Smith killed it with her depiction of a deeply racist woman who unfolds in the Indian environment to share her vulnerability and grow beyond it. There were so many subtleties to the story I’d be happy to watch it again, and am looking forward to seeing the sequel.

On the writing front, I started the first editing passes, added structure, and am now awaiting my next batch of beta feedback for The Builders. I may actually be on schedule for a July release. We’re also working on promotional materials for hubs’ gig, which now has a flyer.

We’ve had even more rain here in the past week, which, combined with our visitor, mean our average steps are back below goal.

This week is also slated to include a lot of running around; I already know of two trips I need to take up to the home office in Maryland. So I’ll keep this short and encourage you to see how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.

Growing Wings

"It takes time alone, surrounded by darkenss, to grow wings..."It’s been a challenging week for a number of my friends and me–on two separate continents, there are marriages on the rocks; one of my friends is beginning the process of moving across the country; a neighbor just lost her father unexpectedly; and I had to set aside time for a minor surgical procedure. All in the midst of an already heavy work-load week for me with meetings both downtown and in Maryland. I was emotionally wrung out by Friday afternoon.

Which meant it was a great time to cuddle up with hubs and watch the final Agent Carter and the newest season’s first episode of Agents of Shield. Both of which made me wonder this weekend why ABC decided to cancel the former on such a cliffhanger, and how much of a commitment I want to make to the latter with some of the newest character developments. Having been in the writing (and improving my writing) process on a serious basis for almost six years now, I have less and less patience with cliffhangers. They strike me as a lazy way to try to trap readers and viewers into continuing with a story arc, when really the goal should be to have people so invested in the character(s) that fans return without that unnecessary prod.

We should be able to bring our curiosity to a story and have it rewarded. Our empathy should be engaged. And then I read an article in Psychology Today that reports American anti-intellectualism, while always a strong undercurrent, has become stronger in recent decades, as evidenced by fewer adults reading for pleasure, more obsession with entertainment, fashion, and other fads, and an increasing focus on mob rule. In an eerie parallel, another outlet reported on findings regarding reduced empathy in those who take NSAIDs. Given the almost automatic response to pain as reaching for palliatives of these kinds, and the number of people who suffer pain on a regular basis, there’s a scary intersection in these two bits of news for me. This is not about how schools are ridiculously overloading grade school students with academic make-work, this is about finding the patience and tenderness to sit with pain and darkness and discovering how it can transform us.

Strangely, an old post about George Lucas‘ (and many other, more luminous thinkers’) thoughts on the meaning of life popped up in my Twitter feed this week, too. As did this year’s commencement speech at Sweet Briar College. Those both reflected some of the discussion we had in my LEAD class earlier in the week. My conclusion then and now: To the extent that anything drives me, it’s the hope that I’m leaving the world a better place because of my existence in it. There’s bits of Lucas’ sense of interconnection (the “force”, if you will, that ties us all together) as well as Busque’s urging to embrace the Big Hairy Audacious Goals in that assessment, but what really resonates with me is the picture that floated across my Facebook stream that I’ve included in this week’s post: It does take time alone, surrounded by darkness, to find how we can best take flight. Hold the Light for others who are struggling.

For myself, that means I’m done drafting The Builders. Finally. I’ll be incorporating beta feedback this week before shipping it off for editing. Then I’ll be moving on to the final installment of my Red Slaves trilogy. The record-breaking streak of days with rain has meant my daily average number of steps has fallen off again, and the dogs are spending two days a week at Affectionate to make sure they don’t get too nutty in the house. That means KouKi is getting pretty good at agility, too. Hubs has been rehearsing heavily to prepare for opening for the Slambovians June 5th, so we’re all wrapped up in projects for the moment.

I still have goals to reach, and suggest you check out how my ROW80 buddies are doing with theirs, so I’ll be back again next week.

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