Category Archives: indie

Goals and Methods

Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.It’s been an odd week of feeling under the weather and yet accomplishing one of my major goals of the year. Releasing The Builders–and watching it become the first of my books to hit a hot and trending list!–was more than a little exciting, and I’m sure helped the cold/flu symptoms I battled most of the week not completely tow me under.

Taking care of all the little details that go with a new release–updating my Goodreads page, my AUTHORSdb page, my authorgraph page, seeking out reviewers–it always takes more time than you expect. This weekend, then, we slid into the month of October, too, making me realize… I have three months before my next hard deadline. If I want to be absolutely sure to make that one, I need to put the third Red Slaves book on hold again, and at least get the draft of the new novella done. I don’t know what it is about Fire to Dragon, but the book has been stubbornly slow to reveal itself to me. On the other hand, when I started Dragon’s Pursuit yesterday… the words just flowed. I’m already over 2,000 words into the story. If I can just keep up the pace with 1,000 words per day, it will be done before the end of the month.

I’ll admit that releasing the novella before the novel may mean series readers face a spoiler or two in it, but really, telling Maxim’s story is helping me find my excitement about the Red Slaves universe again. Setting it in 2046 makes this story part scifi, projecting the kinds of tech my dragons might have to face and deal with. I even spent some time projecting population growth and socio-economic realities 30 years in the future. It’s odd to imagine I might be alive and an old woman to check my own prognostications at that point. I can see the draw of being a futurist. In fact, I was looking at an article from last year in which several of them prognosticate just ten years into the future, and their thoughts are helping push mine. As the author of that last piece points out:

And when culture does change, the precipitating events can be surprisingly random and small.

In fact, The Atlantic had a fascinating article about female futurists last year, which explored not only the impact of sexism in that field, but also the types of things traditionally old, white men like to prognosticate about–that leave out the changing social implications that impact women and minorities, and that push the boundaries on things people who are comfortable with their lives might speculate about (like living longer) as opposed to real resource issues that might come up should a city like Moscow actually hit 20 million inhabitants. The most interesting perspective is that people who are generally happy with the station they have achieved in life are more likely to project a positive future, while those who have seen the struggles inherent in our society are more likely to project dystopian futures.

It explains rather more than I’d considered.

And puts a different point on even the small cultural perspective shifts that come from moving around. Last week I read an on-point critique about living in Milwaukee that made me once again grateful that we’ve been able to shift our base of operations. Without opportunities, even the most talented can find the future bleak. Which brings me back around to the the quote that kicked off this post: I suspect my optimism has as much to do with my stubbornness as with any other characteristic or luck.

So, for goals for this round of the ROW80 challenge (which ends December 22), I’m considering the following:

  1. Complete draft of Dragon’s Pursuit, send it through edits, and have the final version ready to go for the January 4 publication date I’ve committed to.
  2. Complete draft of Fire to Dragon and send it for edits.
    1. If I’m really good, my stretch goal will be to publish this before the end of the year as well.
  3. Average at least 4,000 steps per day.
  4. Blog at least once per week.
  5. Begin to consider next year’s production schedule so I don’t end up with this kind of crush at the end of next year. 😀

For now, that’s more than plenty to be getting on with. For fellow authors who are interested in a supportive community pursuing public accountibility for goals, I highly recommend the ROW80 group, which has now moved its base of operations over to an open Facebook group. For the rest of you, I’ll be back next week with my progress update.

Release Day: The Builders

The BuildersAs promised, today is the official release day for The Builders. At 61,211 words, it’s my longest novel yet and branches me out into the niche romance market of lesbian romances. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go there, but the characters were stubbornly female and stubbornly attracted to each other.


Amazingly, in the few hours it’s been available to the public, demand has been strong enough to propel it to #5 in Amazon’s “Hot New Releases in LGBT Science Fiction” list and #15 in Amazon’s top 100 paid “Best Sellers in LGBT Science Fiction” list. I’m unbelievably excited to have my book listed on the same page as one of Gail Carriger’s latest:

Amazon Hot New Releases, bestselling LGBT science fiction

Thank you to all the readers who have made this possible! I hope the story is as entertaining and thought-provoking for you to read as it was for me to research and write.

To whet your appetite, here’s the blurb:

Earth’s alien progenitors have returned. For Tara Shifflet, abuse survivor and meeting planner, that wouldn’t be as big a deal as getting home to her therapy cat, except that getting anywhere in the U.S. is dicey in the wake of public uproar about first contact. For Navenah, a short-term assignment with vague directions to find generators to save her dying race leads to frustration and misunderstanding. The two women find unexpected pleasure together, but will that solve the galactic die-off?

I’m excited to see audience response to this story, even while I work on formatting the print version.

Sweating the Long Road

I still have a long way to go, but I'm already so far from where I used to be, and I'm proud of that.Friday’s notification from the Kindle Scout people that my nomination period had come to an end, and The Builders had now entered its review period came with a healthy dose of relief. Tonight’s notification that it had not been selected means I’ll be starting the publication process through KKP this week. Watch for the purchase links here on Wednesday.


One thing I’ve seen repeatedly with authors who are able to build writing careers that earn them a living is that the best advertising for their books is releasing a new book. Since my most recent previous release was in January of 2014, I’ve lost any momentum I might have built up from my first seven publishing efforts, and I’m anxious to get back on the horse. My five-year plan is to aim for three releases per year. This year I’ll have two (if I’m super-industrious in the next couple months), and I still have to meet my deadline for my January 4 release of the follow-on to the book I’m currently working on.

So I’m feeling more than a little under the gun.

Naturally, that meant we had birthdays to celebrate and social obligations to meet. Last week our oldest girl turned six; this week our youngest girl turned two. Luckily for us, that means they’re beyond the worst of their puppy shenanigans, so when we went to the family dinner on my niece’s birthday in between times, they were relaxed about it. Yesterday, when we went to the bigger party to celebrate my niece’s thirteen years, we were a little too relaxed about it. An hour into the cook-out and we had voicemails from our neighbor to let us know he’d put KouKi inside after she’d howled at our back door for 45 minutes. Apparently, in our rush to get to the cupcakery before it closed, we didn’t check to make sure everyone was inside. We’re still wondering how that happened. I suppose there really is a first time for everything.

It’s possible too little sleep was a contributing factor.

I’m also in shock that my niece could already have reached her thirteenth birthday. I’m still trying to reconcile the little girl I knew with the young woman who is. She’s smart, accomplished, kind, and bombarded with so many options, I wonder which path she’ll eventually choose to follow. For her sake, I hope she helps make a lie of the current numbers of women in STEM careers. While my path has had its successes, its unconventional nature has meant that as I’ve grown older I’ve sought out opportunities that offer more stability than a writer’s inclination normally affords. Which meant that reading about an author who quit her (admittedly misfitted) job without a more serious plan to follow up on her first novel than to let inspiration strike, led to quite a few facepalm and headdesk moments for me. Being a writer has its own list of pros and cons–as do all careers–and ignoring the aspects that are inconvenient or hard is a sure path to being stymied and stuck–and broke.

My Hotel Paranormal cohorts certainly aren’t in that camp. Siren’s Curse came out last week, and I finally got a chance to read Unveiled. I’m really enjoying the way these authors are playing with ancient legends, bringing them forward into modern times with some unexpected twists. My own crypto-historical story as a follow-on to my Red Slaves trilogy should fit right in. And The Hotel is a fabulous character in its own right.

As for my fitness goals, all our other activities have meant we didn’t walk quite as much as last week. My phone says the places I took it with me amounted to an average of 3,807 steps per day. Not quite two miles a day. Not bad, but definitely room for improvement. I’m grateful that Spa World exists, nonetheless, to help get my head in the proper framework for being productive for another week–regardless of how many or few steps I’ve taken. If I can sweat in a sauna, that’s almost as good as sweating on a walk, right?

For as many hard knocks I’ve endured this round, I’m happy to have met at least one of my big goals. I’ll be back again next week to continue reporting on my ongoing progress. My ROW80 group is moving to Facebook starting next round, so there won’t be any more links to those group members’ posts, but for writers looking for a community of supportive authors, this is a good one.

Believing in Miracles #SFRBlast

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don't believe in miracles? -Heart Centered RebalancingI am by nature an optimist. There are days, though, when I wonder if that is my insidious license to a certain kind of laziness. I haven’t gone all out to find ways to spam people with “nominate me” links, even though my Kindle Scout campaign for The Builders comes to an end in four days. I had read about an author whose book spent 98% of its time in the program in “hot and trending” and still didn’t get an offer. And on a different board, that there does not seem to be a correlation between crowd-based interest and whether the author gets an offer. Then there was the article in Slate speculating that what Kindle Scout was really going for were all those gloriously BAD guilty pleasures. At the opposite extreme was an interview with an author who was signed, who found the experience thrilling in all the right ways. I suspect there’s some reality to all of these stories, so I have a hard time getting wrapped around the axle at this point.

You can bet I’ll do a happy dance when the book is finally published, though–regardless of whether it’s through Kindle or KKP–since I’m quite proud of the story.


One of the promo efforts I had wanted to be part of was this week’s Science Fiction Romance Sale. It includes a bunch of authors from the Science Fiction Romance Brigade group I’m part of. Unfortunately, being a Kindle Scout sort-of freebie didn’t fit the mold, so I’ll have to test that option later. In the meantime, for those of you who like that genre, there are lots of other interesting choices on offer.

There’s also the latest Hotel Paranormal book out: Soleli’s Secret by JC Wardon had a nice teaser over on Constance Phillips’ site and is now on my TBR pile.

On the writing front… I’ve managed a pitiful 751 words on Fire to Dragon this week. I’m incorporating writers’ workshop feedback into the early chapters that now constitues a verifiable pattern: I write the broad bones of a story in my first draft, missing out on characterization and setting details that help ground a reader in what I’m trying to convey. Going back to add those in during the editing process is more time-consuming than the fast-drafting I’m used to, so this feels like working in super-slow-mo to me.

Enough so that I got bitten by a plotbunny that has been playing out in my dreams: What happens in 75 years when the fascists are in power, we’re all connected via the Internet of Things, and it becomes criminal not to upgrade to the latest OS? I downloaded my iOS10 upgrade the day after it came out (neatly avoiding some of the “early glitches”), and noticed the same kind of breathless coverage tracking OS adoption that is the norm for Apple’s releases. Given that there are still computers out there running IE6 (I know, because sites I’ve built have had to be backward compatible that far based on visitor data), this seems some kind of unusual deviation. But from a corporate perspective, being able to enforce a lock-step upgrade pattern offers some enticing ways of controlling their narrative of progress. There’s a lot of meat to that kind of story–even though I’m not a particular fan of dystopian worlds. Even though those are evidently currently in style, considering all of tonight’s Emmy wins for Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, and Orphan Black

We’ll see whether my story ever makes it onto my production calendar.

As for exercising, we’re doing pretty well. My phone says I averaged 5,225 steps a day this week. For all those shorter excursions when I forgot my phone, that means I’m guessing I have been walking a total of about 3 miles a day. Not shabby considering we still have some pretty heavy heat and humidity in the area.

We’re down to the final week of this ROW80 round, and I am pretty sure I won’t be completing Fire to Dragon as planned. I’m glad I at least got The Builders as far as I did, but I need to speed up significantly to keep up with my publication plan. I’ll be thinking about how to manage that realistically as we enter the final round of the year. I’ll be back next week to let you know my conclusions.

Positive Thinking

If you find more things in life to be grateful for than to complain about, congratulations. You are a Positive Thinker. <z2z>It ended up being a long short week. My five-day weekend included lots of rest, reading, yard work, and even a trip to Spa World to recover from the yard work. I thought I was ready to face the office, rejuvenated. Instead, I got a string of 10-plus-hour days. Apparently, I need to do a better job helping people to not rely on me so much.


My reward for all that work was a concert Friday night that introduced me to Blackberry Smoke, a southern rock band a friend of ours discovered on YouTube doing a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. This isn’t my usual genre of music, but the band is tight and knows how to give a live show that will rock your socks off. My favorite song of theirs is The Whipporwill, which strikes me as a kissing cousin to some of the work I love from The Slambovians.

Strangely, for as long and challenging as my days were, I managed to get back into working on Fire to Dragon. I was especially inspired after I saw that the National Geographic had an article reviewing a new book mapping Soviet architecture in Moscow. I’ve only added a couple hundred words since I’ve picked it up again, but I’m starting back at the beginning and incorporating beta reader feedback that is a strange echo of things I’ve heard from my editor: more needed! I seem to draft in spare prose that leaves out setting and emotional details readers need to stay grounded in the story. Knowing this makes it easier to go back and insert what’s necessary, and also has the side benefit of getting me back in the groove with the story. Still, I have a long way to go to finish it, and I’m not sure I’ll be done in two weeks. I’m grateful to at least be making progress.

I’m also tracking how The Builders is doing in its KindleScout campaign. It’s only spent two hours in “hot and trending” and is down to the final eleven days of its public review period. I think it might take a miracle to get it past this step at this rate, but I’m glad the program is out there. (Also: If you haven’t nominated me yet, I’d very much appreciate your vote!) This process is pointing out to me some of the weaknesses I have in reaching readers to promote my work, as well as the hazard of having waited so long since my most recent release (which was in January of 2014). So it’s back to work for me.

In related news, the next The Hotel Paranormal book came out on the 7th: Unveiled by Lynda Haviland. I’m looking forward to reading it since even just the blurb has me intrigued. I love fractured fairytales, and if she’s figured out how to incorporate the Veils of Salome the way she hints, I’m going to be a very happy camper.

On the personal front, we’ve been doing a lot better with fitness. My phone informs me that for the week just finished, I’ve averaged over 2 miles of walking per day. This makes the furbabies happy and gives me a break from the desk and keyboard so my back doesn’t go completely wonky on me.

This week shouldn’t be as intense, though with the kickoff of the football season we have more of a social life again, making time available for quiet solitude even more at a premium. I’ll still keep plugging away, and encourage you to visit my ROW80 cohorts to see how they’re doing with their progress.

Nominations Open

Keep Calm and Nominate NowI don’t know how successful I’ve been following the injunction I’m posting today… My manuscript is about one-third the way through the nominations process with Kindle Scout. So far my campaign really only gets visibility when I spam my Facebook friends–and not as much as I’d hoped, at that. Honestly, in all likelihood, it was always going to be a hard sell to try to get an F/F sci-fi romance any kind of mainstream acceptance. But… nothing ventured, nothing gained. And if Kindle Press passes on the book, everyone who nominated it will get the notification of what the purchase link is when it goes on sale under my more accustomed KKP imprint.


Aside from all those underlying nerves, I missed posting last week because I was traveling for my day job–to Boston, MA, Nashua, NH, and Newport News, VA. (For anyone interested in my day job, one of the projects I manage was recently covered in Popular Science. A project that’s not ours, but in a closely related field–and sure fodder for future sci-fi plot bunnies–was written up in New Atlas last month. I find it fascinating to work in a place that develops software that could easily extend into one of my stories.)

Traveling didn’t leave a lot of time for thinking seriously about my own writing. Every day away was much longer than usual, but the various flights were an excellent opportunity to finish Annie Bellet’s Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. It was excellent; well-written UF/PNR that was fast-paced, engaging, and a slightly different take on what makes a person a good person. The only downside was that most of the books ended on cliff-hangers that made it impossible not to buy the next book right away. Luckily for me (and for my phone, which was at risk of being thrown across the room!), the series is available in its entirety, so I was able to satisfy my need to know without stewing for too long.

Also in the past week, the first in The Hotel Paranormal series came out. For those of you who don’t remember, it’s a series by a wide range of authors that all send their characters to The Hotel at some point in their stories. The first one up: Death Chaser, by Xandra James. I read that one while I was underway as well, and enjoyed it almost as much as Bellet’s series. It reminded me a bit of “Dead Like Me” with an additional supernatural twist.

I’m going to have to watch that I don’t spend so much time keeping up with what my fellow contributors are writing that I neglect my own word count… The third in my Red Slaves series currently stands at 29,749 words, well past the halfway point in its first-draft life, but not nearly done enough for me to start on MY installment in The Hotel Paranormal. I need to start making tracks.

Luckily, tomorrow is an American holiday, and I extended my holiday weekend by another day, so even though we’re getting back into the swing of long walks with the dogs and gardening duties we’ve neglected for a while, I should have some time to get back into the writing flow this week. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll finish the trilogy’s story before the end of the month.

While I get back to work, I encourage you to check out how my ROW80 compadres are managing their goals. I’ll be back again next week to report on my progress.


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

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

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


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

This makes me happy.

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

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

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

Hard Road

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

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

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

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

I remain grateful hubs is so supportive.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long and Short Goodbyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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