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Balancing Act

Life is often a balancing act between worry and fear and not giving a shipootie about anything...So you know all that research about how stress compromises your immune system? I lived that the past couple weeks. Evidently our visiting friends brought some kind of toxic stew of germs because both hubs and I were down for the count for a good week, and we’ve been slow to recover from whatever upper respiratory bug we were dealing with. Not that that kept me from worrying any, but at least we caught up on some of our sleep.

Making sure a new release coincided with a review roundup seems to have helped ensure the word got out about having a new book out. Not my best release statistics, but also not bad considering how poorly book 2 had done on the sales front.

Which means I’ve been pondering what I want to write next. I’ve had the good luck to have gotten to talk to Gayla more now that my schedule is a little less constrained, and we’ve been kicking around ideas on another After the Fall story.

But what finally started sinking its teeth into me yesterday was a story about a sentient planet, and Planet Seekers from Earth in about 100 years who are looking for a new home for humanity. For once, I’m starting with an actual list of antagonists and am tentatively outlining the conflicts in the story before I start. It got me excited enough last night that I couldn’t sleep.

It’s been a long time since one of my own story possibilities kept me awake all night.

As frustrating as it was, it was also exciting to let my imagination play. And not just with imaginings about what my dogs might be seeing that I can’t see. Or how the new voice-driven AIs cross the line into creepy-ville. Or even the newest speculation about where crystals might have been mined from.

The big news in the writing world was an author who trademarked the word “cocky”. And then started sending cease and desist letters to people who had that word in titles that had come out before the trademark was issued–and before even that author’s work had been published. I particularly liked Jami Gold’s response regarding the absolute need for a community of authors, so nobody else gets sucked into that vortex of shortsightedness.

Of course that meant that I found Book and Main Bites, and had to set up a profile there. (Though I haven’t yet created any bites of my books…) This, on top of the profile I have at AuthorsDB and the one at Goodreads and the one at Amazon and Wattpad and the one at IAN the one I’m considering setting up at Indie Authors Support Network. I’m pretty sure there’s one I’m forgetting, but haven’t dug through my bookmarks yet to rediscover. At a certain point, while I know it’s SEO best practice to cross-link as much as possible and it’s important to do everything you can to increase your discoverability, there is just a lot of time that needs to be invested in keeping each of those up to date.

I still need to finish the print layouts for books 1 & 2 so the formatting matches across the redesign of all four books in the Red Slaves series.

Hubs and I also got to see Infinity War. In fact, we went twice, because it was so big and overwhelming and well-done, it deserved the repeat. We also averaged 3,678 steps daily the past two weeks. And I averaged 8.5 hours of sleep a night the past two weeks. So I’m doing pretty well on a lot of the self-care bits that had been getting short shrift. I still don’t have anything definitive on the day job front, though. So my days are largely focused on trawling all the various job sites I know of and reminding all of my friends and former colleagues of my credentials and availability. I hope I haven’t crossed into the realm of being annoying, but the new day job requirement deadline is coming up fast, so I’m leaving no stone unturned. Until next week, then, check out what the other ROW80ers are up to.

Release Day: Fire to Dragon

RED SLAVES: Fire to Dragon, by Tonya CannariatoIt’s been a few years coming, but I’m proud to say that FINALLY, the Red Slaves trilogy is complete. Not without a bit of drama, as my newest laptop decided to crap out last night in the midst of my final editing push. Luckily, I’m an avid DropBox user, so the majority of the edits I’d done prior to that fatal “can’t find boot drive” error had already been saved to the cloud. My older, super-slow-mo laptop was able to pinch hit for me, and an all-night marathon resulted in the shiny, new story being available in AmazoniTunes, and Kobo as of this morning, with links underway at B&N, Scribd, Overdrive, and Tolino.

(It’s also now available for reviewers for free via the Reviewer Roundup.)

This has been a several-year odyssey for me, but I’m thrilled to cross this huge task off my ROW80 to-do list.

🙂

Apart from the heavy focus on editing, I read two articles related to my writing efforts. The first was from Vox, “This is what love does to your brain” and talked about how brain structures and chemistry around love are some of the most well-developed of that system. The other was a blog post from one of my favorite authors who blogs about writing, Jami Gold, who had a guest blogger writing about realistic ways to redeem your story’s villain.

Then there was the Rolling Stone interview with Janelle Monae, on the occasion of her latest album release. She is so thoughtful on the topic of love connections and other things that inspire her, she gained a fan. On the horrifying side of the ledger, I read an article about companies in Japan that are hiring highly educated women to perform mere menial women’s tasks. In a related trend, Chinese tech start-ups are hiring “programmer motivator” ladies who are intended to help relax the developers who are doing the heavy lifting for those companies.

More in line with my career trajectory was an article on LinkedIn about Agile learning as a mindset.

With all of that, hubs and I averaged 1.8 miles of walking per day and over 9 hours of sleep.

To make up for the hard push at the computer for job search and editing, we’re going for a late-night date night to see Avengers tonight. So I caught up with the complete MCU timeline to prepare myself. I’m already guessing I’ll be wrecked by the ending. I think this week we’ll focus on catching up with The Expanse, season 3, and Lost in Space, before I consider starting on my next story. I still need to do all the print lay-outs for the three novels in my series… and hope that my laptop can be easily fixed, so there’s plenty to keep me occupied.

In the meantime, enjoy Red Slaves, completed in eBook versions, and check in with my ROW80 cohorts.

Plot Twist

When something goes wrong in your life, just yell "plot twist" and move on.As the observant among you might have noticed, it’s been a month since my last blog post. In that time, I managed to finish the edits on books 1 & 2 in my Red Slaves trilogy, as well as get a decent start on edits for book 3. I’d hoped I would finish those this weekend, but needed to clean house in preparation for guests this week.

Book 3 should be out this week. Mainly because the whole trilogy is included in a Review Roundup event that ends on May 5th, so it needs to be available to those readers, too.

😀

However, the reason I’ve had the time to do all that work is a source of great sadness for me. After almost three years with my current employer, the company went through a restructuring process that made my role redundant. Friday was my last day at the office. I’m now officially on a full-time job hunt. Again.

In those moments when I have some perspective on the experience, and in particular on the one colleague who precipitated these changes, I have to marvel at the parallels between my editor’s complaints about my chronic lack of viable antagonists, and the real-life lesson in knowing a person who thinks they are a good person and yet is able to create this level of havoc in my life. In the six months this process has been underway, I’ve had stomach issues and insomnia to the degree that I’ve finally managed to lose 20 of the pounds all the fertility treatments had packed on. It’s a life lesson on as many levels as I can unpack.

I had to laugh when I saw reporting on Japanese Macaques that indicates their use of thermal springs helps reduce glucocorticoid metabolites. In other words, spa days have a measurable impact in stress reduction. It might be a message I should heed.

Another cogent article relates to giving the “how are you” question a make-over. Reframing that to something more like “what’s the best part of your day today” avoids non-answers and helps focus people on why their existence is worthwhile.

I’m grateful that I have a little time to recover my health and refocus on my creativity through this transition. And if it so happens that anyone reading knows of a company looking for a senior manager who has successfully managed more than 20 staff, 10 sub-contractors, and $22 million in annual contract value, and has the required credentials (MBA, PMP, CSM) to be listed as key personnel on government contracts, I’m available.

As part of my work transition, I caught up on my continuing education requirements for my PMP, but also read a few articles about the Pandora’s Box of Artificial Intelligence. The Economist wrote in depth about the strategic moves cloud services providers are undertaking, while big consultancies buy up small data analyst firms. Similarly, the New York Times wrote about tech firms trying to address privacy and hacking concerns by incorporating the other buzzword technology that’s been in the news recently: block chain. The counterbalance to these technologies is Edward Tenner’s interview breaking down what he calls the efficiency paradox. Tenner points out there are some things computers do very well, and others where it’s best to rely on humans. To me, the key quote in his interview is this: “By removing so much trial and error and productive mistakes, platform efficiency can lock us into existing patterns.” He’s particularly concerned about the impact on artists in our relentless pursuit of efficiency.

Which makes a neat segue to the other category of articles I read. One outlined a whole cadre of female fine artists and pondered the bias against retrospectives for them. Another considered some of the take-aways for writers from the successes Ready Player One has enjoyed. Finally, there was an article by Molly Ringwald about her rear-view mirror perspective on having been an actor in The Breakfast Club. Her view on what it was to be recognized as John Hughes’ muse and her take on the exploitation that represented a strong undertow in the industry were framed with the phrase: “I have felt the need to examine the role that these movies have played in our cultural life: where they came from, and what they might mean now.” It was a thoughtful approach to the era, but also interesting commentary on how societies evolve. And in particular, what impact and role art has in that process.

Finally, there were multiple articles about Barbara Ehrenreich’s newest book. In it, she explains that she finally feels “old enough” not to go for all the tests and do all the preventive things and in general follow the dictates handed down by western physicians. The review in The Atlantic, by Victoria Sweet, written from the perspective of one of those western physicians, was the one that stuck with me the most. It centers on the fear of dying that drives most of these interventions. In another strange reflection of my editor’s critique of my work that brings us back to the starting point for this blog entry, there’s a particularly gripping quote regarding agency–the ability of a being to choose to act:

Researchers are now finding this same agency everywhere, Ehrenreich reports—in fruit flies; in viruses; in atoms, electrons, and photons. Such discoveries must mean that agency, the capacity for making decisions—electrons jumping up a quantum level or not, photons passing through this hole in a screen rather than another—is not the rare, and human, prerogative we once thought.

That ability to make choices, on a micro and macro level has far-reaching implications. I’m still pondering them. And having this mindset is making my revision process interesting. Everybody has something driving their actions; whether those choices make sense to the rest of us drives whether our observations label the person making those choices a good guy or a bad guy.

All of this, and I still averaged 4,596 steps so far this month, according to my phone, as well as 7 hours 20 minutes of sleep at night. And hubs and I started watching the remake of Lost in Space. So far, I love it, though it’s a little more adrenaline-fueled than what I usually enjoy. But the action is leavened with flashbacks and characterizations that make the characters’ responses to each next catastrophe compelling.

Also, even though I’m late, I still need to outline my goals for this Round. I’ve already accomplished the first two–revise and re-release books 1 & 2. Here, then, are my goals for the remainder of the Round, which I think runs until the end of June:

  1. Find and start a new day job.
  2. Edit Fire to Dragon and release it.
  3. Blog weekly with my ROW80 updates.
  4. Decide on which plotbunny to follow next, and begin writing my 11th book.
  5. Walk at least a mile a day.
  6. Sleep at least 7 hours a night.
  7. Keep the sanctity of my weekly date night with hubs.

Until next week, then, I have plenty to keep me busy. I recommend you do as I do and keep tabs on the others participating in ROW80 until then.

Standing

All that, and you're still standingIt was one of those super-stressful weeks for the day job in which I’d already almost worked forty hours by Wednesday. This isn’t uncommon when we have project conferences, and there is much PowerPoint engineering, but this particular project is also in the midst of a bidding process to see whether we can win a phase 3, so everything is under a microscope. Which meant I didn’t sleep much, and I certainly didn’t have time to do much other than give hubs a hug hello and head to bed once I finally got home.

So when I saw this tweet Friday, it filled a special spot in my heart:

Lucky for me, I have a very understanding hubs and family. To make up for all the time I spent not-at-home this week, we had movie night here last night. We enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok and dinner together, and somehow laughed harder watching the movie the second time through.

Of course, I still kept my eye on reporting on leadership. New research results show how much harder it is for us to imagine women being leaders; winning a job is all about projecting the happy warrior image; and, apparently, I should not apply for a job at Microsoft, given its track record on harassment. There was also an interesting take on how to retrain males out of the mold of toxic masculinity. Finally, as my colleagues and I wrapped up our work week, a good reminder of what burn-out is and how to combat it. Then I saw a video by a woman I follow on Twitter, that applies some of the tools we use in software development in the Agile framework, and applies them to our personal lives. Her take on retrospectives, and applying them as a way of systematically improving ourselves based on our own core values reminded me a lot of the kind of accountability we get in our Rounds of Words. Her framing of “getting out of the shame spiral” was almost incidental to everything else she said, but was another reminder that sometimes, life happens. When we get through it, and we’re still standing, it’s good enough to take a rest and a break, and know that you will live again another day. Being intentional about looking back on what worked and what didn’t  gives us the perspective to know where we can make small improvements over time.

So my phone said I averaged 3,334 steps per day last week. I’m glad I got at least a little bit of walking in. And my phone says I averaged 6 hours and 20 minutes of sleep during the week, which makes me grateful for the very long sleep-ins I enjoyed yesterday and today.

This Round is over, pretty much. I didn’t finish editing any of the three books I have edits for, but I am consistently walking and nourishing my relationship with hubs. I suppose I’ll call it a wash, though I could wish that the minutes I have to be a writer in the current version of my life were sufficient to accomplish more. I’ll keep reporting, and I’ll be checking in with the other ROW80ers, so I’ll see you again next week.

Saving Time

Daylight Savings Time: "We've just sucked one hour of your life away. Tell me... How do you feel?"Apparently this meme has been making the rounds for some time, but I saw it for the first time today, and almost fell out of my chair laughing. So this is the first place I thought to share it. Naturally.

😀

Mainly because my hate for the idiocy of DST is epic. Maybe even legendary. There is research that proves it’s bad for our health, and that gets reported regularly this time of year. The best framing of this nonsense, though is this:

‘Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.’

Not sure which native tribe produced that fount of wisdom, but it’s posted on the Lakotah’s site, so that’s where I’ll give credit.

The rest of the week, though, I was reading more about psychology. I learned about the Ben Franklin Effect, wherein if you ask a person for a favor, that person is more likely to think of you as a friend. As the psychologist leading the session explained: It’s thought that our brains can’t handle the cognitive dissonance of having done something nice for someone without thereafter imagining friendship to have been the underlying motivation. A different psychologist, studying academic achievement, wrote almost a decade ago, that based purely on this measure, our world should be a matriarchy. So the people at Nautilus went to interview her to follow up. Turns out there are some interesting nuances to the choices women make and the things they prioritize in their lives that could be an explanation for why there aren’t more women in senior leadership roles. From the other side of that equation, there was a thoughtful piece on work-related depression, and things that could cause it–including a sense of disempowerment, lack of meaningful work, and toxic work relationships. Finally, a cartoonist featured in Mental Floss gave some powerful insights into the different mindsets of apology vs. thankfulness.

Apart from learning things, I spent yesterday volunteering my time at my company’s Women In Computing event. I built almost 50 Google Cardboard devices as part of one of the sessions teaching about how 3D vision works in 2D environments. It was exciting and funny to hear the girls exclaim things like: “This is part of your JOB?? You have the best job, ever!” We may have succeeded in part of our mission, based on those comments. I hope the girls stick to their enthusiasm.

The other excitement of the week: The ever-excellent Kelley York, of x-potions designs, created a logo for me:

I love everything about it, so you’ll be seeing it anywhere you see my work.

In my free time… (Friday night!) I read a new novella by Ekaterine Xia, Goddess in Waiting. It took things I love about fractured fairy tales and upped the ante: This is the story of a minor goddess in the Chinese pantheon, married to Thanatos (Greek god of death), who has accepted her “fall” into humanity, but learns she has to fight for her god-hood. The pieces about (minor spoiler) her miscarriage ripped me to shreds and the ending would be all of my wishes fulfilled, but the story in between involved Ra (the sun goddess), Gaia, and several of the archangels trying to address the underlying question of whether Earth were Ascending at a rate commensurate with its achievement of space travel. There was plenty of fertile ground for my brain. I would highly recommend this book for its blurring the lines between fantasy and scifi and its ability to see parallels across cultures.

On the editing front, I fought through another 25 pages. I’m getting closer and closer to halfway done, so I keep imagining it might get easier. But then my editor throws me another suggestion, and for the moment, I’m back at the beginning, weaving in additional early clues. My phone says I averaged 4,051 steps last week, back up in the acceptable realm of exercise for us. Sleeping, though, remained stubbornly at 6 hours and 10 minutes per night.

So we’re down to the final 9 days of this Round. I’m at least glad I’m back in the habit of facing my manuscripts regularly during the week, but I’m not sure I’ll finish the first book in time for the end of the Round. Regardless, I’ll be checking in with my ROW80 mates and returning again next week to report on my progress.

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