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Keep People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anonymous Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life Tip

Life Tip: When nothing goes right, go to sleepI wonder how much bad news humans can handle–asking for a friend. Despite how much I’ve backed off social media, and how much I’ve been bingeing Star Trek: The Next Generation, news keeps slipping in between the cracks. The writer friend who created #wordmongering lives in northern California. She was forced to grab her furbabies and husband and flee for their lives in the face of the inferno that has enveloped that region. She lost everything. Another writer friend had a different kind of family crisis.

Tonight I see #metoo trending in response to an entirely different kind of despicable series of reports in the past week. And I have to stand with the multitude of friends I’ve had to support through similar experiences. And question how I’ve managed to get off lightly with mere dick pics, unwanted advances, and catcalls.

This weekend, I slept. I’m not sure how much of a return of the flu bug this was (though I did have a fever and headache), versus how much the existential weight of it all just ground me into the pillows. Earlier in the week I’d read about tricks from neuroscience to help increase emotional intelligence. Which naturally reminded me of an old post about words for experiences and emotions that don’t exist in English.

All litost-inducing.

Which is why an article about Jeff Goldblum, all the Star Trek I can handle, and new research about skin pigmentation haplotypes really help with reminding me to smile.

As does this Honest Trailer:

Still no editing work. At least hubs and I have enjoyed watching Star Trek: Discovery together. That show’s writing has really hit its stride, and is starting to get into some fascinating scifi realms. As well as explaining how the so-advanced mycelium engine the ship sports didn’t make it into later generations of starships. (At least, speculatively, now that we’re five episodes in.) Some of the stiffness in characterization and dialogue is working itself out. The releationship between Michael and Tilly continues to evolve in a natural and affirming way, and I love the subtle parallelism that it takes both a senior and a junior officer to shake Michael back into her more human emotions. Having Michael at the emotional heart of the show rather than the captain makes for a different take on the franchise–as if it were somehow more accessible because she’s now a working grunt along with the majority of the rest of us.

I’m back to considering a sequel to The Builders or another book in the After the Fall series since my head is all in with space opera at the moment. But that would be letting down the people who are waiting on the final Red Slaves novel and breaking my promise to myself. Might be a different explanation for why I’m so very stuck on my editing process.

We are still walking though. The phone says I’ve averaged 4,130 steps per day this week. Surprisingly not as big of a drop-off as I’d imagined given the shorter walks we’ve been taking to help Tashie heal. Again.

To everyone else who is struggling: sleep is to be highly recommended. As is a cuddle-buddy. I’m grateful and lucky to have had both this weekend. My ROW80 buddies continue to report in despite obstacles; so will I.

Running Down Dreams

When we were trying to crawl through our nightmares, he taught us to "run down our dreams."It seems the old “it bleeds, it leads” adage is alive and thriving on the glut of death and disaster in our world. Last week it was enough to make me retreat, focus heavily on the safe space hubs and I have built together. And not blog. Even though Tom Petty’s death in particular hit me where I live. Not quite to the extent this author described, but the soundtrack of his songs is an underlying beat to my high school and college years. And back in the day when hubs was a rock critic for the Milwaukee daily paper, he got to spend a day with Petty, interview him, get to know him as a person in a way that affirmed the good-guy persona the rest of us caught glimpses of through his lyrics.

Apparently my inclination was not unusual, either. One of my favorite authors, Ilona Andrews, posted about the Fear Overload we’re facing at about the same time I took my break.

Unfortunately, my break was also driven by a cold/flu bug that had me sleeping through the first half of the week. The work requirements that are always heavy, though, didn’t slow down while I did, so the title theme of running down our dreams feels in many ways to me more like sprinting to catch up with the status quo.

Another piece of same old-same old was in play in late September, when the New York Times Book Review deigned to report on romances. What wasn’t expected was the Jezebel response, “How Not to Critique Romance Novels.” There was also the interesting push-back in Harper’s Bazaar entreating everyone to stop calling women nags, and several days later, the response reporting that emotional labor appears to have finally made it into the mainstream of understanding.

On the other hand, horrifying reporting out of Nevada, where a high density of retirees allows for rich predation by those claiming the mantle of “court-appointed guardian,” offered another possibility of a fear overdose.

My natural escape valve for all of this is speculative fiction. I’m thrilled that Star Trek: Discovery is underway. Despite my generalized annoyance with CBS pushing its app on us and therefore forcing us to pay an additional subscription fee in order to be able to watch the show… it’s actually worth it. The production values and story lines make the experience like watching an hour-long movie. The acting and characterization are fabulous. As a bonus, I get to see old episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation on demand.

None of this helps me with my goals, though, which remain:

  1. Finish edits on Dust to Blood and re-release it with its new cover.
  2. Edit Blood to Fire and re-release it with its new cover.
  3. Edit Fire to Dragon and release it.
  4. Walk at least a mile a day.
  5. Blog weekly with my ROW80 updates.
  6. Keep the sanctity of my weekly date night with hubs.

This Round, I’m also looking forward to having the first audio book version of one of my stories. I finally chose and signed an agreement with a narrator to at least take that task off my plate. We’ll see how the experience plays out.

Otherwise, there remain 72 days in this Round, and more things to do than I’ve managed in any given Round to date. So I’ll keep reporting and encouraging you to see how everyone else is doing.

Life Stages

Three stages of life: 1. Birth 2. What the fuck is this 3. DeathYesterday we celebrated both (Husky baby) KouKi’s third birthday and niece Karalynn’s fourteenth birthday. Facebook has been kind enough to remind me of all the other birthdays friends and family are facing this week as well. Given the stories I’ve heard and lived this year… this week’s image was too funny to pass up. It feels like everyone I know is asking one way or another, “what the fuck is this?!”

For myself, I can’t seem to get past the too much day job work hurdle to get back into the headspace required for editing. Given the pace of activities, I’m lucky I’ve been able to sneak time to refresh myself by reading. The series that currently has me in its spooky claws is Peri Jean Mace Ghost Thrillers. Gayla pointed me in this direction, and I swear she’s laughing at me every time I pick up the next book and have to quickly skim some of the most horrifying ghost scenes I’ve ever run across. I’ve read the first five, and even though horror is not really my genre, the characters are so real and the stories so well-crafted, I can’t NOT read the next in the series… though I do have to make sure I am reading in broad daylight, otherwise I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be sleeping at night.

In fact, tonight hubs went to a concert with some buddies and I had to call Gayla to keep me company and chase away the ghostly heebie-jeebies after finishing the latest installment. Then a spider surprised me in one of the pans I was going to use to cook dinner, and it was a whole different round of “what the fuck is this?!” I actually heard Gayla laughing at me for that one.


We got the official diagnosis for Tashie this week: A torn ACL. In the same knee where she’d partially torn her MCL. We seem to have caught it early enough that she’s not suffering the way she did before. So we’re walking slower and shorter with her… but then taking separate walks with the other two to try to help her not over-tax herself. So my phone says I’ve averaged 4,519 steps this week.

Hubs and I also spent Friday night at home together, and watched the next two installments of The Orville. Most of the stories are still predictable with sophomoric humor, but have managed to hook us enough to keep watching for the moment. My main conclusion at this point is that it’s a Star Trek: Next Generation homage–and because of that most of what it’s succeeding at is making me nostalgic for one of my all-time favorite shows. Because The Orville is on Fox, though, we stumbled across Ghosted, a much more intriguing and promising show. It also has comic leanings–likely because Craig Robinson and Adam Scott play the leads–and seems like a take-off on The X-Files, with a twist of Warehouse 13 to it.

Since it’s the week between Rounds, I’ll keep it short and wish everyone well for the duties and tasks you face for the upcoming week. I’ll mainly be crossing my fingers that the next round of oral surgery I have scheduled for this week isn’t too debilitating. Check back next week to see how I fared.

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