Category Archives: indie

I Don’t Quit

"I will breathe. I will think of solutions. I will not let my worry control me. I will not let my stress level break me. I will simply breathe. And it will be okay. Because I don't quit." -Shayne McClendonI’m easing back into life, despite a bad cold that really shouldn’t have surprised me, but nonetheless kept me in a different kind of misery for several days. In the process, I saw this week’s image on Facebook, and it resonated. Not that I have huge worries–at least not about things I can control. And not that I have a massive amount of stress–again, at least not about things I can control. But the conclusion is so important. I may teeter on the edge of a nihilistic “what’s the point” perspective, but I won’t quit.

That means that even though I’m a biological dead end, I would still like to leave some kind of legacy. The only framework that gives me that option at the moment is to continue to create things.

Or read things and reflect on them. A fellow Hotel Paranormal author linked to an article entitled “Spiritual People Don’t Say Fuck” that struck a chord. Unsurprising, since I’ve been known to cuss a blue streak every now and again, and consider myself above all else a spiritual person. A fellow blogger I now consider a friend is also working herself out of an emotional hole, and posted “How to Recover When Life Gives You a Wake-Up Call“. It’s a good reminder not to get stuck in being serious all the time. Or to continue to pile on the tasks when you’re recovering from an emotional/spiritual trauma.

On the creation side of things, this week I worked on the print version of Dragon’s Pursuit. It’s a tedious, detail-oriented process that took much longer than such things normally do for me. As with pretty much everything I undertook this week. So I’m in danger of falling behind again. But I won’t quit.

Hubs and I also watched the latest episode of Sherlock. We continue to be amazed at the story craft that goes into these mini-movies, and keep trying to unpack how the writers manage to create such mind-bending twists in every episode. We also maintained if not our normal walking program, at least the curtailed one that accommodates Tashie’s injury. My phone says I averaged over a mile a day this week. Luckily, it seems that finally we’ve tumbled to the assortment of treatments that is helping our oldest husky regain her footing, so maybe we can all start getting a little more exercies together.

This week should be a little easier in terms of work load from the day job and no need to travel, so maybe I’ll manage to get into the last bit of edits on Fire to Dragon and start moving that story to its culmination. We can all hope, anyway. Meantime, I’m keeping tabs on my ROW80 cohorts, who also aren’t quitters. We’ll all be back again next week.

Missing in Action

What's broken can be mended. What hurts can be healed. And no matter how dark it gets, the sun is going to rise again.When last I posted, I claimed a break for the holidays and to meet my publishing schedule. What I didn’t share was news so fragile and hopeful it had been twenty years in the making: Doctors had confirmed in November that I was pregnant. Hubs and I were over the moon. It had been a lifelong dream for both of us. After I posted, on December 12, the doctors could no longer find a fetal heartbeat.

We were devastated. We still are. That effort had been the final stop on that road, and we’re having to adjust our mindset to being permanently childless. It’s a wrenching perspective change.

I hadn’t known the statistics for miscarriage for women my age were so high. My doctor told me for women in their forties, it’s between 60-70% of all pregnancies. A fertility center in Chicago gives slightly kinder numbers, but the steep rise in the curve is what punctured my last hope. I also hadn’t done the mental math to realize how many women I’m friends with who have shared this pain. Some have gone on to have rainbow babies, but others face my kind of future.

The strange societal silence about the death of unborn children, and the ways women are stigmatized for facing the most personally devastating medical procedure possible, continues to haunt me.

I’ve been blessed with a hubs who is not only supportive, but there with me emotionally. Open to sharing this depth of despair. I’ve been blessed with colleagues who are willing to share their experiences and gentle nudges like the one from this article about the way the Japanese grieve miscarriages. I’ve been blessed with fellow authors and friends who supported my need to vent and who pushed me–both to take the time off I needed to deal with all the follow-up medical visits and procedures, but also to keep trudging forward with my edits.

To my friends and family: I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get into the holiday spirit. In the wake of losing my mother-in-law in July, my fellow KKP author a week later, all the artists I’ve commemorated (and now, even, General Organa), and this final blow, 2016 was too heartbreaking to celebrate.

The one miracle: I somehow finished all my edits on time. I met the biggest of my goals for ROW80 right on time. Dragon’s Pursuit came out January 4, and seems to be finding a small audience–and even, happy reviewers. (And you can add it to your TBR pile on Goodreads, if you want to hold off on buying another book, too.)

I keep reminding myself the sun keeps rising. In order to leave any mark on the world now, I need to be as committed as ever to my creative path. I’m still struggling to keep my emotions at least somewhat in balance. In the midst of all the other medical stuff, I took time out for a dental cleaning. And discovered I have another tooth that needs removing. Because apparently I really need more pain in my life right now.

So, even though I’m a week late, I’m still going to make an attempt at goals for this round:

  1. Finish draft of Fire to Dragon and submit to my editor by February 10.
  2. Blog weekly.
  3. Resume weekly stay-at-home date night with hubs.
  4. Walk daily… even if it’s only half a mile. (On top of everything else, our oldest Husky has developed an unexplained limp, so she’s not as active as we’ve been used to.)

I’m keeping this list short and intentionally low-key for now. It was a hard enough decision to share our heartbreak so publicly. We’ll see what productivity impacts the grieving process has on me as time goes on.

In the meantime, as always, I’m keeping tabs on my ROW80 buddies, and encourage you to, too. I’ll be back again next week, and I’ll be putting one foot in front of another for a while.

Release Day: The Hotel Paranormal – Dragon’s Pursuit (A Red Slaves Novella)

Hotel Paranormal: Dragon's PursuitAgainst all odds, I’ve managed the release date I blithely promised almost a year ago. I should know by now that life always gets in the way and plans have a way of shifting and changing accordingly. So I’m especially proud that I was able to finish this in time to meet my commitment.

I still owe fans of the Red Slaves series the final in the original trilogy, but for those who want a peek into that world’s near future, when Anne and Ivan’s son is trying to finish his PhD, this one’s for you:

Maxim Krempenski wants to get through his thesis defense to earn his political science PhD. He must, in order to help his dragon shifter family survive the new Russia. The Elder Gods have other plans and force him to take a break at The Hotel Paranormal, where he learns fellow student Yuliya Orlov may be even more trouble than he imagined.

Yuliya takes her career advancement in the KGB seriously, so she’s happy to follow orders to track and eventually detain Max on her superiors’ orders. Then she discovers the ideological rot at the core of her assignment.

Can they set aside their differences to ensure the dragons have a prosperous future?

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.

Welcome to The Hotel Paranormal

I hope you enjoy this novella as a promise of things to come for Anne and Ivan and their clan. Available now on Amazon; coming soon to all the other retailers.

Time Out for the Holidays

Given the volume of things going on and the volume of things I need to get done to have a successful book release for Dragon’s Pursuit, I’ll take a minute tonight to wish everyone happy holidays and a happy slide into the new year. May the season of the Return of the Light embody itself in quiet introspection and joyous anticipation for all of you, as it does for us here. To help you with that, I’ll share a video that never fails to make me smile (at least, until the shill for the stupid-looking video game starts at the 1:20 mark):

Until I’m ready for the official release, then: Be well and enjoy your time with your family and friends.

Getting There

"... how you get there is the worthier part." (Ron Glass, 1945 - 2016)These days I feel like listing out tributes to influential artists is an all-too-common beginning to my blog posts. I suppose some might argue at Ron Glass‘ inclusion in this list, but his portrayal of the character Shephard Book in Serenity and Firefly was yet another of Joss Whedon’s brilliant casting moves–Glass was a devout Buddhist who put his money where his mouth was, supporting The Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, and adding layers to the words he was given by his mere presence.

The quote included in this particular tribute was in response to the question “Why don’t you care where you are going?” It’s interesting to ponder the different levels of that question, as well as what he means with his response. This isn’t at all Alice in Wonderland, where the road you take doesn’t matter. This is recognizing that we can imagine all kinds of destinations, many of which will have nothing to do with the realities we experience, but being true to ourselves on our path makes all the difference.

So this week, when we discovered that the daughter of a lifelong friend (who happens to be German) has a wish for a U.S. High School diploma, I started down an entirely different research rabbit hole. I (re)discovered the difference between J1 and F1 visas and will be working on the legalities necessary to help her come live with us next year to make that dream possible. It’s not necessarily anything I would have imagined doing in the past, but part of being true to myself, in this case, is helping a friend who might as well be family.

Then I saw OK Go’s new video. It blew me away. Especially when I read the band’s background notes to its creation, and in particular their statement:

Humans are not equipped to understand our own temporariness; It will never stop being deeply beautiful, deeply confusing, and deeply sad that our lives and our world are so fleeting. We have only these few moments. Luckily, among them there are a few that really matter, and it’s our job to find them.

It was a beautiful restatement of all the reasons I write. And a great reason to include the video here so anyone who hasn’t seen it (or read the lyrics) can do so right now:

In the meantime, my subconscious has been busy. This morning I had one of those disjointed, somewhat disturbing dreams, that explicitly gave me the titles of a new trilogy of books to begin working on. They would follow the Wytchfire world footsteps and create a space opera series about the power of Dreaming. It’s exciting to be handed an entire series arc, but… I already have so many stories to tell. We’ll see when this one makes it to the top of the list. And I need to finish Red Slaves first.

On that front, I made a little progress this week, cutting bits and adding bits to come out about 500 words ahead. I still have 17 pages of notes to go through before I finish that review and can get back to finishing the draft… all of which tells me this book will be longer than I’d thought, too. I expect to be receiving the edited version of the novella this week, too, so there will be another break while I finalize that for its scheduled publication in just over a month. In the future, I will be doing everything possible to avoid having more than one manuscript in train at a time. It wastes too much time switching gears and rediscovering the head-space necessary to flesh out a new world. At least the novel and the novella are both in the same world, with similar stakes, so it’s not quite the wrenching experience it was going from sci-fi (The Builders) to these.

I’m also anticipating more editing from Gayla. She’s building a set of short stories, the first of which I’ve already edited, in her Discord Jones world. It’s new characters and new perspectives and ramps up the stakes for everyone in entirely new ways, so I’m excited for all of us to have it join the canon. Whenever both of our lives get out of the way enough to let it happen.

😀

Meantime, it will be another full week at work, including another trip up to Maryland, as we get ready for quarterly reviews to present to our clients. I’m crossing my fingers I’ll have the energy to write in the evenings, but am not holding my breath either. At least the trip-borne cold was mercifully short and is mostly done, allowing me to sleep better again. … Which brings me back to that whole Dreaming idea. {Fences with plotbunnies…}

Until next week, then, I’ll be checking in with my ROW80 buddies and thinking about how to prepare for a lifestyle change.

One Day

"One day, I would like to turn on the news and hear, There's Peace on Earth.My week of travel for work turned out to give me just enough breaks to eat (while working) and sleep (no more than seven hours). The net result, I seem to have brought home a cold. I still had to go into the office Friday because we moved locations on Saturday, so my optimistic hope last week that I would be able to squeeze in story time went unrealized. I’m really glad I didn’t try to commit to NaNoWriMo this year, even though there’s apparently a badge for managing 50K words even if they’re not all on one story.

A week off means my goal of finishing Fire to Dragon this month is likely a pipe dream–though I got back to it yesterday and closed out dealing with another two chapters of beta reader feedback. I’m now 3/5ths the way through that process. I’m not sure if my betas got worn out or my writing got stronger, but there are fewer big things to fix as I proceed through those files. If I could at least finish that process by the end of the month, that will have been one major undertaking completed.

Naturally, having been apart from me for the week, hubs sent me more emails, too. One encouraged me to imagine some lovely vacation options, specially geared for people like us who like to stay away from the crowds. Another was a more thoughtful take on the article from Cracked I linked to several weeks ago. This one spoke of the perennial class divide that drives some of the worst political divisions. That said, it is eerie to me that November 9 turns out to have been the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht AND the day the Berlin Wall came down… in 1989. (I was a freshman in college without access to a TV. When my mom called to tell me the news, I honestly thought she was pranking me.) The nature of fear, indoctrination, and persistent denigration of “the others” ought to have been object lessons from several historical angles on that day. Apparently, we still have some learning to do on that score.

Which leads me to this linguist’s love letter to profanity. And bad tips for beginning writers.

I’ve already written in one “therapeutic cussing session” into one of my books. This may be happening more regularly.

😀

If it means that one day, we finally enjoy mutual understanding and respect because we trust in each other’s honesty, I will have contributed something good to the world. In the meantime, it’s back to word-herding for me. And checking in with my fellow ROW80ers. Until next week, for those of you in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving.

A World Full of Peril

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." -J.R.R. TolkienAs the observant among you might have noticed, I’ve been operating under radio silence for two weeks. Despite the increasingly insane levels of rhetoric before and after the U.S. election, I was able to finish my novella and get it to my editor.

Given how draining it’s been to be surrounded by reports of hate crimes and despicable policies we can now look forward to being implemented, finishing that story came as a bit of a shock to me. But then I read excellent posts from Kristine Wyllys and Leslie Knope that talked about the power of storytelling to reshape our capacity to deal with existential crises. And I saw reporting this weekend that the Hollywood box office had done better than anticipated this week, because, according to one analyst: “Two hours of moviegoing is like a massive, immersive group therapy session.”

As a side note: We went to see Dr. Strange to contribute to that higher-than-anticipated box office take. It was fantastic. The power of a singular event to reshape a person was told compellingly and movingly. And I will continue to NOT text while driving–a wholly avoidable kind of peril.

I thought a lot about why I write and the importance of standing for something. Especially after a friend shared an in-depth article about Derek Black, once the heir to the white nationalist movement, who framed the arguments about “racial realism” and “white genocide”, who’s now spent several years trying to distance himself from those beliefs. Because he had friends who were willing to talk to him gently, model peace, and share truth. It’s a different kind of powerful transformation story. From yet another perspective, Hannah Brencher gave a TED talk on the power of a personalized, hand-written letter to overcome depression and even suicide.

I had pondered my shift toward more overt romance in my stories in February, and I know I’ve talked before about the need for some kind of model for positivity, if not optimism despite the peril my characters face, but my need for a happy ending is being crystallized by the realization that in this election, our society has been dragged into the morass of darkness and despair epitomized by the hate speech our new president-elect regularly bandied about in his campaign.

So I see the stakes in our world as being impossibly high: Overcoming tyranny and oppression. But Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi and many other activists–including Derek Black’s humble college classmates–have proven in a multitude of ways that this is only possible by modeling the peace, love, and understanding we wish to see around us. And finding a healthy relationship with another person is the best microcosm I know of for radiating peace, love, and understanding toward a being who is equally as complicated as you.

Of course, there are scientifically validated tricks to help us along, too. And there are some really useful tips on overcoming gender bias while we’re raising our kids. And there’s my writer friend A.K. Anderson, who’s written a series of posts this week unpacking the nature of man, cultural shadow work, and feeling complicated, as an excellent meta-analysis of how we grow through national ego-death (from a Jungian perspective). None of it will be easy, but it’s important that we face all the things we purport to hate, to understand how this reflects on ourselves.

So I’ve kept on writing. I hadn’t left myself any kind of notes on where I’d left off with Fire to Dragon, which meant it took me several days to find my way back into the story. Yesterday, I started writing again and gave myself a new deadline of the end of November to finish this novel, which has languished in my to-do list for many more years than I ever want to force readers to face again. And I talked to the editor who’s working on the novella about getting it on her calendar for editing, too.

We’ve been busy recently again, so my phone says my daily average step count is stubbornly under 3K last week.

I have work travel to Florida for this week, as well as helping our office move across town, so my days are going to be long and busy for my day job again, but I’m more committed than ever to the idea that a story can help shift a society’s perspective in real and useful ways. I’ll be writing in whatever spare minutes I can find. And spending time reading what my fellow ROW80 writers have been going through.

 

Time and Balance

Don't worry if you're not where you want to be yet. Great things take time.I’ve been trying to remember the things that took up my time this week (aside from the obvious day job duties), and have mostly been drawing a blank. I had to get up quite a bit earlier than normal, which meant most of my days were spent in some level of tiredness haze. So the office got what focus and attention I had to give.

Which made it interesting when a colleague sent me an article about how the company Patagonia handles work-life balance. Sounds near idyllic to me, and makes me wonder how it is one U.S.-based company can manage this enlightened self-interest when no others I know of do. It’s an odd reflection of Plato’s allegory of the cave, for which hubs found an awesome Orson Welles narration this week.

I also read an interesting set of blog posts I’m keeping open in separate windows as I write to remind me of ways to increase conflict and tension in my story. The ever-insightful Jami Gold had a post about plot obstacles, while Janice Hardy guest posted on Jody Hedlund’s site about why your plot has stalled.

For a story that needs no additional tension or conflict, watch this clip of Inuit mussels gatherers:

I’ve been lucky my plot hasn’t stalled, and I’ve hit the midpoint of the novella. But that means I only wrote 2,868 words this week. I have two weeks to finish this before my editor gets it, so there can’t be any more “I’m too tired” nights. Luckily, I should be back to my regular sleeping/waking schedule this week.

My phone says I averaged 3,463 steps per day this week. Slowly creeping back up toward goal, but not there yet. (Though I also forgot my phone at home for one of our walks this week, so maybe I’m closer than I think.)

Other than that, Gayla is hard at work on her latest book, and expects to be finished with her drafting by tomorrow. So I’ve been editing for her, and am very excited to see how this first in a new series ends. She’s planning a set of related series based on humans escaping Earth, and tracking the mysteries their descendants face thousands of years later. The blurb for the one she’s finishing is:

As the first human to be infected by a Lykanos in thousands of years, Tilly is an anomaly. Being cast out from the village of her birth makes her an Outsider. Learning to be a researcher is her refuge.

Until there’s a murder at her old home. She accepts a place on the team investigating the crime armed with the knowledge that everything she was brought up to believe is a lie—but even that doesn’t make her return any easier.

Faced with the past, she must come to terms with her future while helping to hunt the murderer before more die.

It’s shaping up to be a good murder mystery with New Adult themes, and I’m on pins and needles waiting to read how it ends. 😀

So I’ll be back again next week to report on my (and her) progress. For those of you interested in the ROW80 group, we’re on Facebook and Twitter.

Fantasy World

My imagination is so strong that I enjoy being in my fantasy worlds more than the real world.I had a lot of catching up to do at the office this week, so my days were mostly much longer than normal, and didn’t leave much energy for writing. Neither did the descent into madness that the U.S. political process has become. I’m worried for our nation when our “main stream” candidates contribute to the polarization of our population rather than debate real solutions for the real problems so many of us face–crumbling infrastructure, stagnant economy, environmental disaster, structural redistribution, and political corruption. And when a candidate uses language that is triggering for both men and women, it begs the question of how we repair civility enough that we can hear the real reasons there is support for for such a toxic individual. (And: How tragic is it that lucid reporting on those reasons comes from a satire site as opposed to a news site?!)

And that’s as close to a political statement as I’ll ever make on this blog. (Though… I’m seeing some of these bits of news making their ways into my characterizations and I’m laughing at myself for edging toward the dystopian and post-apocalyptic in my writing as being realistic projections of the future. With current trends what they are, it would take one of Miracle Max’s Pills to turn them around.)

Something else I read this week speaks more to the image at the top of this post than I expected. The New York City public library system has apartments built in to the buildings for the obsolete position of caretaker. It would be amazing (as a bibliophile) to live in a space that is naturally quiet and so close to the source of so much knowledge. And for non-readers… well… they just need not apply.

😀

On the business end of my writing world, The Builders is holding on to being listed in the top-selling LGBT scifi titles, making it officially one of my best-performing releases. Not that that bar was ever very high, but it is an encouraging result, especially in the face of news from the Author Earnings team that market share for indies shrunk for the first time in two and a half years of tracking that data. It’s impossible to know whether I might have done better a year ago, or whether this improvement over my previous performance is related to my participation in the Kindle Scout program, but if this reality continues, it will make my long-term goal of a sustainable income from writing that much more challenging to achieve.

It’s a good thing I like to write, regardless. And it is interesting to live in the worlds my fantasies create.

🙂

So my imagination generated another 3,136 words among all the other activity last week–a little less than half as productive as the week prior, and some cause for concern with my deadlines. I’ll need to step it up again this week to catch up with my plan. That should be possible since I don’t have to travel, nor do I have any social obligations.

My exercise picked up slightly, so my phone says I averaged 3,234 steps per day last week. Not quite to goal, but much closer than last week.

I’ll be back next week again, and encourage any fellow writers looking for public accountability to check out the ROW80 Facebook group. (For those of you who are avoiding Facebook, we can also be found under #ROW80 on Twitter.)

Nothing Under Control

Relax: Nothing is under control.I lost a week. I lost a filling Monday night and was able to make an emergency appointment with a dentist in our new city on Tuesday. I thought I was going in for a new filling. I ended up staying for a tooth extraction. Apparently, I waited too long between dental visits, and there was more rot than tooth after all the other fillings already in that tooth were taken into account. It was then a several-hour-long odyssey to make sure the entire tooth left its life-long home. I’m not sure if it’s a fiction author thing, or just a crazy me thing, but I was having conversations with that tooth as the dentist paused to try to let enough numbing agent settle into the nerves so I wasn’t actually crying while he was digging, tugging, scraping, and yanking, thanking it for its service and pleading with it to let go easily so I didn’t have to suffer much more of this torture.

In the end, the torture continued over the course of days. I popped a suture and was back in the dentist’s chair on Thursday. I don’t handle any of the strongest pain relievers well, so I don’t take them, which meant I didn’t sleep for several days either.

Finally, enough time has passed that I’m mostly back to the land of the living, but it’s odd to have missed out on a week’s worth of reading think-pieces. Or much reading at all, though Refused to Reign came out as the latest in The Hotel Paranormal series. I finally read that today and enjoyed the different take on wolf pack politics, as well as further insight into how the other authors in the series are treating The Hotel as a character.

The week wasn’t a completely lost cause, though. For those who’ve been tracking my progress bar widget, I wrote 7,496 words on my novella for the Hotel Paranormal series. I’m so glad to be getting back into the flow of quick drafting, and actually have some hope that with this exercise I will have knocked loose any remaining cobwebs for how to finish the trilogy that is supposed to end before this book comes out. We’ll see.

Given my convalescence, there wasn’t much walking either; my phone shows an average of 1,767 steps for the week, probably because of the long walk I got to take on Monday.

I hope getting back into the swing of things at work–and especially since I’ll be in Maryland on Wednesday for a very long day–won’t derail my writing jag, but I’ll be back next week to report on my progress either way.

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