Category Archives: indie

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.

😀

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…

😉

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.

😛

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.

Author Interview: Bounty Huntress Author Sheri Queen

Bounty Huntress by Sheri QueenAs regular readers know, I am a participant in The Hotel Paranormal series. Since I’ve enjoyed all the stories I’ve read by fellow authors in the series, I’ve decided to open my blog to visit with them. This week, we get to know the author of the book released November 6, Sheri Queen:

  1. How did you come up with the title for this book? It’s my protagonist’s job—bounty hunter. I decided I wanted to separate my novel from the many other bounty hunter ones, so I came up with the gender switch of huntress. It worked.
  2. Is there a message or theme in this story you want readers to be aware of? There are several themes within the story, mostly about family and relationships, but the biggest one is that it’s okay to be different. Love who you are, and don’t let what others say make you think you’re not good enough.
  3. Is this part of a series? If so, can you share a little about what’s coming next? This is a short novel that’s part of a multi-author series, The Hotel Paranormal. Over twenty authors have penned their own paranormal story set in a common world—the Hotel. It’s been so much fun to do. You can find out more about the series at www.thehotelparanormal.com, but basically it’s a hotel set in an alternate dimension that’s a gathering place for paranormal creatures.

    The Hotel Paranormal is THE place for supernatural beings looking to get away from it all. Beings like werewolves, vampires, elves, sprites, djinn and more check in from all over the world for business and for pleasure—and sometimes for both.

    Also, I’m using this as an introduction to a new series I’m working on, the Sleepy Hollow Hunter series. The next novel will be out in 2017, although I don’t have a release date as yet. It will see Janda Gray take on her hunter role in earnest. She’ll have great joys and even greater sorrows as a Sleepy Hollow Hunter.

  1. Is there a process you go through when deciding your character’s names? I find names in all sorts of places—street signs, town names, shop names. My character, Janda Gray, was inspired by a florist shop—Janda’s Flowers. Lol. If the name fits the character, why not?
  2. What made you become an author? I love reading. It was my go-to activity growing up. I make up stories in my head all the time, so I thought it would be good to actually learn how to write them down. The other thing about being an author is that you can do it any place. It’s portable. I spent years getting uprooted as a Navy wife, and it’s hard starting over all the time. This is something I wish I had done sooner, but at least I’m doing it now.
  3. Beginning writers look to published authors for advice, so what words of wisdom can you give new authors? Well, I’m still a new author. This is my first release. I have other stories written, but other than some short stories in a college journal, I have not been previously published. I’d say, keep at it. Don’t give up.
  4. Do you have one particular character in your current novel that you just love? Besides my main character, I have several I really like. Sebastian, the vampire in the story, is probably one of my favorites. He was a lot of fun to write.
  5. Social media takes up a lot of an author’s time, but it’s crucial to expanding our readership. Can you tell me which social media platforms you prefer to use when connecting with your readership? This is a hard one for me. I’m building my following, so I try to hit most of the major platforms. I connect with a lot of people on my personal Facebook page, but I restrict that to people I know. Pinterest is a lot of fun, but Twitter and Instagram seem to be the best spots for me to connect with potential readers.
  6. How do you want to be remembered as an author? I write stories I hope people will enjoy and that will resonate with them in some way. I don’t need to be remembered, but if one of my characters makes a difference in someone’s life, then I’d be happy.
  7. What new stories/projects are in your pipeline? The next story in the Sleepy Hollow Hunter series is a priority. I also have an SF short story that may be dusted off to become part of a group anthology in the spring. That’s plenty for me at the moment.

 

Sheri QueenSheri Queen received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York—an area she loves to depict as a backdrop for her stories—and enjoys traveling to new places where she is constantly discovering inspirations for her writing. In particular, she loves visiting old graveyards.

You can follow the author at:

www.sheriqueen.com
Twitter: @SWQueenFlemming
https://www.facebook.com/SheriQueenAuthor/
https://www.facebook.com/SheriQueenBooks/

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Not Neutral

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." -Desmond TutuAnother perplexing day, another perplexing week. Fair warning: I’m dipping my author’s toe into politics (publicly) once more. I had worried about the new US president’s fascistic tendencies for quite a while before his illegal executive order, but given the extent of vetting refugees already submit to, this week’s surprise strikes me as not only cruel, but given reports of detentions, a violation of due process. So I can’t be neutral. Due process is the bedrock for democracy, so I can’t agree with an oppressor who is explicitly encoding discrimination against one particular religion. But also, only in cases where it wouldn’t harm his business interests.

I can’t say whether registering my resistance will be a one-off; if something as egregious comes up again, I will stand up again.

All of which makes for significant distraction from what I had planned to be doing this week and weekend: Continuing research on North Korea for my third Red Slaves book. I did find an interesting, old article about N. Korea’s bid to handle toxic wastes of various kinds. It plays into my storyline nicely, even if the dateline is from 2008.

And hubs has been working at his own brand of distraction. We’ve agreed that staying focused on things we can directly impact in our own lives is important. As is finding shared laughter. To that end, he’s been looking up comedians on Netflix, YouTube, and wherever else he can find them to remind us of how to laugh. One of the funniest so far has been Sebastian Maniscalco. His embodiment of Sicilian/Italian-Americanisms in his routines makes both of us giggle. We watched “Aren’t You Embarrassed?” as our date night this week, and laughed even harder when Maniscalco started describing some of the differences between himself and his wife. There were a few parallels.

😀

Another link from hubs was to a PBS program about Emery Blagdon and his Healing Machine. As much as anything, this seems to point (to me) to the power inherent in a strong connection with another person. I’m connected, now, to two people who are facing entirely different medical crises, and am hopeful that being there for them as they face the labyrinthine medical establishment will provide the kind of healing relief Blagdon’s visitors described.

Also tickling my brain: News of a new form of matter, being called time crystals. This discovery could be yet another plotbunny–and could change the nature of time travel scifi, should an author choose to embrace it.

As for goals, my phone says I took it with me for an average distance of a little over a mile each day this week. After a specialist ordered extra tests on Natasha, we came back with a diagnosis of Lyme from titering. Apparently that disease has a high incidence of false negative reporting, so the test our regular vet had used when we’d first gone there after noting the limping was wrong. That means our oldest husky will be on doxycycline for three weeks, and we’re anxiously awaiting some indication that her gait is smoothing out. She seems looser in the hocks, but after exercising, she stiffens up again, so this could take some time.

On the writing front, I finally finished incorporating the years-old feedback from the writing workshop I participated in in 2015. And finally started drafting new words. With everything else, it is slower going than I’d like, but 1,406 new words isn’t bad. If I can’t manage at least that on a daily basis from now until my deadline, though… my deadline will make a lovely whooshing noise as it flies by. We’ll see.

In the meantime, Gayla has released Convicted Heart (for those of you who are interested in contemporary romances) as well as a short story in the Discord Jones world called “Little Star.” Both are lovely ways to escape reality for a bit.

So I’ll be back again next week with news and updates, and once again encouraging you to see how my ROW80 cohorts are doing.

Choosing to Smile

"Choosing to smile even when you are having a bad day doesn't mean you're being fake. It means you're choosing to focus on all the reasons you have to be thankful instead of the reasons you have to be stressed." -Dave WillisSo. We have a new president, whose preference for “alternative facts” was enough to spark the biggest protest(s) the US has ever seen. My entertainment of the weekend, on the other hand, was whoever was running the DPRK News Service Twitter feed. (Fair warning, it’s NSFW.) Since I’ve gotten back to work on Fire to Dragon, in which North Korea is the regime benefiting from trapped draconic energy, this counts as research, right? At least I won’t be catering to the audience drawn to the bizarrely jingoistic movies Peter Berg and Marky Mark continue to make of national tragedies.

All of this to say: Observing the world through the disconnected lens of mourning makes for interesting perspective and odd juxtaposition. And a never-ending string of plot-bunnies. I see great promise for a scifi story spinning off from news about a revisioning of the doctor’s office. For a fee. After my fabrication of the 100 Billionaires Club in Russia for Dragon’s Pursuit (based loosely on information like what the Business Insider reported last summer), it’s somehow not surprising my stories are veering more into dystopian worlds ruled by oligarchs. Even though they’re supposedly speculative fiction.

Which brings me to this week’s quote. It’s been six weeks of bad days for hubs and me. We’re starting to find our footing and choosing daily to count the blessings we share. Now we have a friend facing surgery tomorrow after an unexpected hospitalization. Another friend hobbled by a mysterious knee injury. And another friend is facing her own existential crisis. To say nothing of the friends who struggle with lifelong disabilities compounded by migraines. The dumpster fire that was 2016 for us is spreading to others in our circle. It’s yet another reminder that life is short. (On a side note on that point, a new entry on my to do list is a creative will, per Neil Gaiman’s recommendation.) I’m beginning to appreciate the first of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths in an entirely different context. While the author of that article encourages us to stretch beyond the traditional translation of Dukkha as suffering, I don’t see any reason to argue with the premise that life IS suffering. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t suffered something.

That means to me that as hard as it is not to get trapped in despair and darkness given all the evidence in our world that evil is winning, we do have things to be thankful for.

For me, for this past week, that’s meant I’ve started hitting some of my goals again. My phone says that despite the number of times I left it at home, I’m averaging .78 miles of exercise-level walking per day. Less than last week (probably because of all the rain we’ve been getting), but more than goal. As I mentioned earlier, I’m back into revision mode on Fire to Dragon, and am down to the final eight pages of that effort before I can pour on the steam with new words and power through to the end.

Hubs and I also watched the season ender for Sherlock. That was the closest to a miss of the entire series for me, mainly because the twisty evil it personified was so difficult to sit through. (I won’t lie, I got up and stood behind a wall to avoid watching some of the worst of the graphically violent scenes.) And yet. There was a story of redemption in it, too. (SPOILER WARNING) How someone so lost in psychopathy can find their mental footing and sense of connection is a profound and moving scene. Given how popular Cumberbatch and Freeman are now, it seems likely this will be the series ender as well as the season ender, so Moffat and Gatiss faced the impossible task of wrapping things up with the most challenging antagonist possible, while still allowing audiences the possibility of living on in that space–if only in their minds. We may re-watch it to try to unpack all the layers they crammed into it.

I’ve begun baby steps down the marketing path for my author self, too, having discovered several blogs working on publicity features, as well as guidance on some of the new tools KDP is offering in the Amazon Marketing Services suite. Since I have a gift card that came with the stipulation that I spend it only on myself, this seemed like an interesting opportunity to pursue. It’s also a fun throw-back to stuff I learned in school and at previous jobs, and may even prove itself enough to warrant a continued investment in the future. Don’t be surprised in coming weeks when I get serious about setting up a newsletter with subscriber-only perks, as opposed to leaning on the integrated features that come with Word Press or Draft2Digital.

I’m also waiting on the final version of a novella from Gayla, who’s branching out to contemporary romance with her latest. Convicted Heart should be out sometime this week (if you want a sneak peek, go join her Fiction Tavern, where she’s posted the first-draft version of the first eight chapters), and while I can’t help but anticipate the inclusion of some paranormal creature in the storyline each time I mark up her copy, it’s a different kind of story of redemption. And there’s a hot cowboy in it.

🙂

So I’ll be back again next week to report on my progress, and I’ll be cheering on my ROW80 buddies as they report theirs. And keeping a smile on my face despite everything.

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