Category Archives: indie

Losing Time

Remember to move clocks forward tonight. Unless your clock is haunted and can do it by itself.I was highly amused last night by the Sun Gazing image I’m sharing here… mostly because I hate Daylight Savings Time, but also because there seems to have been a time-sucking vortex in play this week. (For a great perspective on the ridiculousness of DST, check out the Lakotah reaction: “Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.”)

The first week of any month is always heavy with reporting duties and extra meetings at the day job, but this week we also had a family member hospitalized for surgery. Relatively routine as far as those things go, and the prognosis is good now that they’re home again, but there is a burden of care associated with these experiences. As with family visits, we respond with love and an investment of extra time. That doesn’t mean those minutes and hours will ever be available for pursuing our creative or personal endeavors, though. As I’ve said before, time is one of the few zero-sum games, so anytime I’m given the gift of time, I value it almost more than any other possibility. From a different perspective, all clocks are haunted by the people we invite into our lives, then.

😉

Nonetheless, I managed another 1,616 words on The Builders this week. I love that the MyBookProgress plugin celebrates every time I update my word count–whether it’s for 50 words or 500. I’m still not sure whether I’ll make it to “the end” on this story before the end of the month, but I’m dangerously close to meeting that goal. Having a tool that breaks down the pace for me so I know at a glance what’s necessary to meet my goal has been extraordinarily helpful to keeping me on track.

Because I was focused on at least moving my story ball forward in my small remaining chunks of time, there was no time for a stay-at-home date night–certainly a hospital room is not conducive to relaxation, either. There was also limited time for walking, even with the weather blessing us with an early spring. My phone shows a daily average of 1,411 steps, just barely the low end of what I find acceptable for daily movement, considering I still haven’t gotten back in the habit of carrying my phone everywhere. I will admit to a good deal of stretching and scrambling and NOPE-ing, feeling grateful I don’t have the job of feeding angry snakes, all of which might have upped my heart rate enough to also contribute to my cardiovascular goals, though.

😀

Otherwise, hubs forwarded a list of 30 things to stop doing to “yourself” from the ever-useful Evolve and Ascend blog. I think I’m mostly past these things, but it was another echo of the necessity of choosing who you spend time with carefully–and avoiding the trap of trying to explain yourself when you do.

It’s back to the trenches this week. I have 8,000 words +/- to go to finish my story. I’d love it if I could double what I managed last week. I’m starting to get more positive beta reader feedback, so am feeling the need to push for the end. While I squirrel away writing minutes, I suggest you visit the other ROW80ers to track their progress.

Facing the Music

"Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul." -PlatoI just returned from another virtuoso performance by The Musical Box–a lovely date night with hubs at the Howard Theatre. We’ve seen all that group’s versions of the early Genesis concerts several times now, and even when there was an unexpected bit of equipment malfunction tonight, they played through it seamlessly and delivered rousing versions of the great Genesis songs, including “Watcher of the Skies,” “The Musical Box,” and “Supper’s Ready.” But it had me reflecting on a recent conversation with other writers. It seems that a good many of them start off writing fanfics. Some of the bestselling stories out in recent years also started as fanfics. How often does any creative endeavor begin in homage to an artist who has moved you?

For myself, as much as I loved Anne McCaffrey’s Pern and would have given a lot to live in that world, it was always only her world. I think in some part of my mind, I would have seen a take-off on what she had started as some kind of plagiarism. And there is copyright law to support that contention. In her case, specifically, she left specific instructions about who was allowed to write in her world, with the result that while she produced over 20 books of Pern stories in her life, nothing new has been added to it since her death.

And yet, the number of times I’ve had a particular song jump to mind as being applicable to a scene could be accounted as a different kind of fanfic. While I seriously doubt I will ever again allow a core scene to be driven by lyrics that demand licensing agreements, it’s hard to argue with the depth of cultural reference songs can add. In the case of my Red Slaves story, there are layers of meaning to the scene when Ivan is quoting an Elvis song. The lyrics themselves are a useful insight to his feelings, but the fact that he remembers music from the 50s in the 90s should be a pointer to careful readers that he’s much older than he seems. It’s also a useful contrast of Anne’s ability to understand his basic English between the beginning and the end of that book. (Oddly, in refreshing my memory about the details of the song tonight, I discovered that it was released on my birthday… fifteen years before I was born.)

So Plato was definitely onto something with the impact music can have on us. The other tune I discovered recently is being called Swedish Marble Punk, and is as much performance art and fine craftsmanship as music–and I can watch, rewatch, and re-listen to it over and over.

Something about all this explication on rhythm and harmony ties in with a link hubs sent this week with thirty beautiful quotes about reincarnation. I think my favorite is the one from Isaac Bashevis Singer–though there are some surprise entries in the list, too (cough Henry Ford cough):

There is no death. How can there be death if everything is part of the Godhead? The soul never dies and the body is never really alive.

Which brings me back around to the question of what it really means to live. For me, an essential part of living is finding the rhythms of creation–which I express through my storytelling. But Kait shared a link this week about how to manage your energy that had some profound insights in it. The fallacy we all seem to fall for is that if we can just squeeze more productivity out of the limited amount of time we have, we can find satisfaction in finally accomplishing all we’ve set out to do. If we don’t have any energy left over after that, though… have we really lived?

For me, this week, I’ve been able to add 1,799 words to my manuscript, and I’m feeling caught behind the 8-ball. I wrote more last week than I have in quite some time, but even if I keep to this pace, I don’t think I’ll finish my WIP before our company arrives at the end of the month. If I kill myself to finish before my friends arrive, how will I enjoy that as my reward, though?

It’s a perpetual question of balance, and I perpetually seek its answer. We again slowed down on walking, partly because I had a lower or higher grade headache all week. Hubs says this is a classic sign of deficiency (especially lack of sleep), but we’re not doing that well on fixing that issue either.

So I will keep looking for balance in my activities and goals, and try to remind myself that certain rhythms can’t be ignored, no matter how inspired I might feel. In the meantime, check out my ROW80 cohorts until I return again next week.

Let’s Pretend

The older I get, the more I realize no one has any idea what they are actually doing and everyone is just pretending.It was a crazy-long set of days at work last week, so I missed my weekly writing goal, as predicted. But not by as much as I had thought: I wrote 833 words on the two nights I thought I was absolutely too tired to be productive. Maybe it’s a thing where my brain needs to shut down to a basic level to let the words flow. I remember Kait blogging a while back about her inner editor being too asleep early in the morning to get in the way of word production; I may have proven the point for myself last week. Otherwise known as: Your excuses don’t matter; your actions do.

Or I may be just pretending, along with all the other adults out there who are out there acting like they have the adulting thing mastered. The work event was certainly an interesting opportunity to observe personalities and interpersonal dynamics as teams reported on six months’ worth of progress to goal for funding received. The serial attack of throat-clearing and low-voiced non-projection wasn’t always warranted, and I think hubs should’ve maybe sent out the link he recently forwarded me about the importance of body language to a wider audience.

Then too, I’ve been sensitized to watching for those things and being able to pinpoint their description through my writing. And through moving testimonies of lessons learned through painful experiences–in one case, what a newly divorced man wished someone had given him as marriage advice. Or this article about how emotionally abused people learn to love differently–that last has certainly informed my characterization of Tara in The Builders, which just got its first preview shout-out on the Lloyd Reads blog last week.

I’m trying to ignore the fact that a friend of mine just pointed out–and spent a couple hours brainstorming details about–a fantastic new plot bunny. That I don’t have time for this year at all… but have set up a Google doc to keep track of how hobgoblins in the DC suburbs are the ultimate access point to The Corridors of Power… Current political climate issues may or may not be driving this madness.

😀

Otherwise, I am seeing an up-tick in our walking, and even my phone agrees I’m averaging at least 1,950 steps a day this week again. I know we can do better. I felt a little pathetic today when we took our first mile-long walk in almost a month and I came home in a full sweat. Of course, KouKi was dragging me the whole way, no matter how I worked with her–she was just too excited to be out enjoying the glorious weather with the whole family together to settle down. On the other hand, we both got our resistance training in, and she’s been calm and happy since we got home. We also spent more time catching up with our shows. I’ve now watched the X-Files all the way through its six-episode mini-season. I loved the parenthood leitmotif and its sense of irreverent, self-referential humor… but I still want to wring Chris Carter’s neck for ending on such a blatant cop-out of a cliff-hanger. I know he’s said there will be more, but ending right in the middle of the action drives me nuts. It’s a thing that will make me down-rate stories of any kind–book, movie, or TV. For me, it speaks to a misunderstanding of the nature of a satisfying story arc as well as a crass “I’ll make sure you buy the next one, just to answer the questions that made you jump out of your chair at the end of the last one” kind of commercialism. Not that we don’t all have families to feed with our art, but compelling characters should be sufficient drivers for a return to a storyteller’s wares without that crutch. [end rant]

😀

We also finished watching The Expanse. It got, if possible, even more gory and gruesome toward the end of the season, but these story writers understood the cadence of their story arc and our investment in these characters to end on a satisfying, if very dark, note. We’re happy to wait for its return, too. Finally, we caught a few more episodes of Agent Carter. What’s interesting to me about the second season is that the basic premise remains the same: Peggy is mostly on her own pursuing what she knows is the moral high ground while trying to match wits with a scientific genius. And it’s, if possible, even more gripping this second time around. We’re getting flashbacks to her history, which I can see will be key to understanding how the effort to undermine her toward the end of the season will play out. We’re getting fully fleshed out female protagonists AND antagonists and a whole new depth of understanding of the straits women had to walk in the 40s and 50s. I am more and more of a fan.

Other things tickling my story-teller brain: A new documentary about the Lakota/Dakota as horse people, “Horse Nation“. And recent news that the Babylonians knew more about Jupiter than astronomers in the 13th and 14th centuries. That far-back historical perspective bleeds through in The Builders to a low level, because the idea of evolution of ideas that are lost and must be re-explored anew has long fascinated me. We have this need to imagine a linear progression of societal growth, organization, and success, which, more often than not, is disproved by historical fact. Still, we cling to it, imagining some moral and societal superiority over previous generations.

This week, my schedule should return to its more normal pace. I’m hoping to write more than just two nights of the week, to catch up with where I had anticipated being to complete my WIP by the end of March–when I have visitors coming to stay for 10 days, so can’t work at writing. In the meantime, check out my fellow ROW80ers, and I’ll be back again to report on progress next week.

Necessary, Possible, Impossible

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible' and suddenly you are doing the impossible." -Francis of AssisiThis week was all about prioritizing the necessary. Mostly, that meant I spent half of my evenings in editing mode, making sure Gayla’s latest was good to go for a Thursday release date. The Wolf Fount is very different from her Discord Jones series, dealing with adult situations and the damage that can come from a lifetime of neglect/disconnect from helpful parental influences, as well as a reflection on the archetype of a hubristic leader. One reader told me today it seemed almost like the modernization (with werewolf/vampire elements!) of the Arthurian legend and his entanglement with Lancelot and Guinevere. I can see that parallel as well as other interesting themes. When I point them out to Gayla, she laughs and says her story brain is smarter than she is–she didn’t intentionally put that there. But her writer’s experience is an interesting reflection on St. Francis’ quote above, too: She has practiced and honed her various story-telling skills over time to make it possible to write well-crafted tales. Now she’s layering in depths on subconscious levels that make her characters spring from the page and reflect timeless themes in new ways that leave the reader deeply satisfied. Hugh Howey wrote a blog post about this process about a month ago. I can verify the template he laid out via what I have witnessed of Gayla’s experience, because the level of effort and commitment she puts into her writing career means that each new manuscript I see of hers is better than the previous one.

In other words: I have a lot of fun editing her work.

🙂

On the other hand, between that work and working make-up hours at the day job, I only managed slightly fewer than 400 words on The Builders this week. And we had a work event yesterday that meant my weekend wasn’t really my own either. So while hubs and I got to spend some time together, and we certainly enjoyed ourselves last night, all our rhythms were off kilter. He still found the time to send me some thought-provoking articles. The first was by musician David Byrne, who was reflecting on the polarization in our political lives. He makes some compelling points about the way we lock ourselves into echo chambers of self-reflective affirmation–and, in fact, these are some of the worries Gayla and I kick back and forth… do we like each other too much to find the objectivity to see the true strengths and weaknesses in our work? I think in Gayla’s case, the market has spoken. In mine… well. I’m several years behind her in the experience curve, but am happy to follow the template she and others have lived, and will assume that with enough work, revision, and breadth of feedback, I’ll get there, too.

This week is going to be as full, for different work reasons, so I’m not sure whether I’ll make my writing goal again. But the other article hubs forwarded, about cosmic and spiritual laws, is a handy reminder that there is balance in all things, so eventually I will resume my efforts. In the meantime, check in with my ROW80 cohorts to see how they’re doing on their goals.

IN THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD Cover Reveal

It’s always a good day when I get to help out my writer friends. Today, Ciara Ballintyne announces:

The cover art for the upcoming epic fantasy, In the Company of the Dead.
InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Romantic Fantasy
Release Date: 25 April 2016
Credit is due to the cover artist, Sam Keiser.

About the Book

Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.

Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her murdered parents. Her duties leave her no time to pursue the man responsible, until both her work and revenge lead to the same place—the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris is serving out his exile for striking his prince.

Lyram is third in line for the throne, and when the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently. Ellaeva’s arrival brings hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead she hunts the castle for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.

Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.

Want to be notified as soon as the book is released? Sign up to the newsletter here!

About the Author

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic.

She began her first attempts at the craft of writing in 1992, culminating in the publication of her debut work, Confronting the Demon, in 2013. Her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing is In the Company of the Dead.

She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world – how hard can it really be? If she could be anything, she’d choose a dragon, but if she is honest she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. – both the good and the bad. She is a browncoat, a saltgunner, a Whedonite, a Sherlockian, a Ringer, and a Whovian… OK, most major geek fandoms. Her alignment is chaotic good. She is an INTJ.

Ciara lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, her two daughters, and a growing menagerie of animals that unfortunately includes no dragons.

Twitter: @CiaraBallintyne
Facebook: http://facebook.com/CiaraBallintyne
Website: http://ciaraballintyne.com

Quarantined Anniversary

"Real love is not based on romance, candle-lit dinners, and walks along the beach. It is based on respect, compromise, care, and trust."I felt the plague of this cold coming on a week ago, but apparently didn’t take it seriously enough… It settled in with such a vengeance I spent most of my week at home, and several days with such an extreme sinus headache I couldn’t see straight. This, the week of our 18th wedding anniversary. In fact, forget the flowers and chocolates, I learned this week the true measure of my hubs is his ability to care for me when I feel like death. Regardless of the milestone we were supposed to be celebrating. I owe him big-time–and apparently get to repay him sooner than anticipated, as he’s had the bad luck to pick up the Dread Cold baton.

Luckily, he has the needles, herbs, nutraceuticals, and whole-food nutrition knowledge on hand to allow us at least some amount of productivity while our bodies go into overdrive on mucus production–and the coughing rejection of said goop. That meant I was just three words shy of my 1,000-words-a-week goal this week. And I somehow got into a blogging zone that inspired me to write about fantasy (my favorite genre) as well as write and schedule two book reviews. I’m toying with making the whole “literary term” thing a more regular feature on my blog since it seems many of my friends hadn’t known that “easy” set of writer’s lingo. Beccause I bandy these terms about on a regular basis, I might as well make sure everyone understands what I mean.

🙂

Adding weight to my decision is the news report that Sherrilyn Kenyon is suing another (successful) author writing in her (my!) genre. I’m glad to see Cassandra Clare’s lawyers fighting the claims of copyright infringement, since nowhere in the original complaint is there any evidence of actual plagiarism named or listed. Which would be another case entirely–and would actually have my support. No. This case seems to be arguing that many of the common conventions urban fantasy authors use–that humans don’t know about the supernatural, that the supernatural nonetheless exist, and that there are frequently secret wars waged to keep the hidden world… hidden–could be governed by copyright law and enforced by this kind of legal maneuvering. Romance author Courtney Milan summary-tweeted what’s been made public to this point, and pretty well summed up my feelings on the issue. I rest my case by pointing out the fact that there is a wiki called TV Tropes with a huge segment dedicated to all the common heritage references in fantasy alone. (Naturally, there are tropes for romance writers, mystery writers, and the like, in case anyone thinks there’s any genre exempt from walking in previous storytellers’ footsteps.) As the maintainers of the wiki explain: Tropes are storytelling tools, a kind of shorthand to help audiences understand and connect with whatever it is the writer is trying to convey. It’s worth understanding that nobody tells a story without relying on these to some degree; the skill comes in applying tropes in such a way that they feel new to the reader.

Aside from all that heavy stuff, we had another week of very little exercise (in deference to Dread Cold), but made up for it with more Agent Carter and snippets of the various Thor movies, since there appears to have been a Marvel Universe-themed rerun weekend here. Maybe all the superhero thoughts will see us through to health. (Carrie Vaughn had an interesting blog post this week about how the MCU movies have far outgrown the boundaries of what one normally understands as a movie experience, and lends some credence to the thought that the community is one of the enticements to enjoy the feature.)

In the meantime, I’ve gotten new words to edit from Gayla, so I’ll encourage you to go check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals. I’ll be back again next week to report on my progress.

Sitting at the Keyboard

"This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil GaimanI’m building up my keyboard habit in alignment with Neil Gaiman’s advice: In the past week, I managed 1,981 words–nearly doubling my goal, and getting me to the 72% mark of The Builders. It’s helped that it’s cold and dreary here, and we’ve continued with just the several short walks sufficient to let the dogs do their business, but not so much driven by our fitness goals–aside from at least minimal daily movement. Plus, I’ve had hours to make up at the office for the pesky snow/sick days of recent weeks, meaning extra time at the office and a corresponding shrinkage of time at home. Finding the balance between work, exercise, word-herding, and family time… I suspect that will be my ongoing life challenge.

But I’ve also been seeing news this week that reminds me of some of the reasons I started writing my stories. First was a list of story issues pointing to underlying sexism. I remember reading several Heinlein stories in high school and coming to the conclusion that he really didn’t know women that well–or intentionally wrote his characters to meet his own wish fulfillment issues. And then there was a post about characterization and story weaknesses specifically from a romance editor’s perspective. Some of them parallel the sexism issues–and others point to why there’s a perception that all romance stories share the issues of the poorly written ones as outlined in that blog. This was all capped by a scifi author recently new to me documenting her experience with the NYT Bestsellers list.

The three together highlight the different ways women have typically been invisible in both storytelling and storyteller accolades. In the first instance, returning to my high school year memories, I ended up having to actively seek out female authors to get real satisfaction from my fictional heroes. In the second instance, while Anne McCaffrey, Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula Le Guin, and Marion Zimmer Bradley were certainly widely lauded beacons pointing to fictional worlds where I could expect at least equitable participation from female characters, for a very long time they were also the only ones shelved in accessible book stores for easy access. Or I had to turn to romance novels, where I ran the risk of inadvertently humorous love tunnel descriptions if I weren’t equally careful in finding competent authors.

Now in the midst of working on my 8th, 9th, and 10th stories, I’m finding those past frustrations have played out in my creation of a series of female characters who are each flawed, but working on themselves. And are trying to carve their own places in worlds where experiences similar to those frequently listed at #everydaysexism and #yesallwomen (at least, when those hashtags aren’t being trolled by mansplaining. [For a longer history of that term, Salon has a good article.]). My brother commented a while back that it was a uniquely female author choice to have my female protagonist go shopping at a critical point of one of my Red Slaves books. It’s true, I’ve never read a male author write such a scene, and it’s not that I particularly enjoy shopping myself, but in this story, it was the perfect way for women to fade into the background of a safe crowd while they anticipated being stalked by the new version of the KGB, as well as contribute to the overall world building. There can be power in playing to expectations–and using them to find an unexpected way forward. These are stories I’ve never seen anyone else tell, but reflect a particular experience of the world that is too often either negated or avoided entirely. I don’t expect I’ll ever have the problem my female author colleague above did with the NYT Bestseller list–I’ll be plenty happy with a reliable mid-list readership who are interested in stories that highlight the magic available in a recognizable world we mostly don’t know. My target audience is probably mostly populated with women like me who want a realistically flawed adult female heroine who nonetheless has agency and has to overcome her own insecurities to find that place in the world where her talents can shine.

From that perspective, our choice to watch the second season premier of Agent Carter for our at-home date night seems to fit this week’s theme in retrospect. That story reflects a different era, and a different set of world-building rules that include much more overt sexism and misogyny, but the woman drives the action and the woman finds the answers. It’s refreshing and continues to be well-done at the start of season 2.

This week Gayla also found a variant on Earthships that are now my new dream for a sustainable retirement. Since writing income is part of that equation, I’ll be working hard keeping my butt in my seat and my fingers on my keyboard this week, to return again next week to report on my progress. Until then, I recommend visiting my fellow ROW80ers to track theirs.

Training My Mind

"Train your mind to see the beautiful in everything."I’ve been fighting my inclination to go full-snark on VDOT this week, as that shiny web application kept reporting plowing underway or completed… when, really, there were entire lanes randomly missing on major thoroughfares–and the spaces plowed meandered across the median and didn’t seem to care that cars were being encouraged to drive down the wrong side of the road when their side abruptly became impassable. Luckily, my office has a generous work-from-home policy, so the beautiful part of my week was a lot of extra time with my loves. Kou has mastered the “through the armrest hole” arm nudge for attention, while Tashie was just happy to hang out in my office on the fouton. Tino remains the International Man of Leisure and keeps an eye on me from the hall, while I get to listen to hubs rehearsing in his office.

Less commuting also meant more time for writing and blog duties. I finally finished setting up the two WordPress plug-ins Gayla recommended, so now my books page includes easy buy links for everything I’ve published, and the right sidebar has more colorful word-count trackers that come with a bunch of other functionality. In fact, if you click on the heart icon, you have the option of sending me a nudge to keep adding words. The “i” icon, on the other hand, takes you to an in-process book page with the blurb and any other information I’ve pulled together about a particular WIP. The best part: the MyBookProgress plug-in has a similar kind of mental button-pushing impact for me as the NaNo tracker… so I’m strongly motivated to keep adding words. This week I started to make up for my recent slow poke ways and added 1,558 words to The Builders. According the tracker, at my current pace, I will easily beat my April 2 deadline for finishing.

🙂

Mostly, I’m encouraged that I’m finding a rhythm to writing fiction again. Hubs sent a link to ten sentences that help keep one’s perspective properly adjusted, which also helped focus me appropriately. Particularly, “accepting your limitations is the best chance you have of surpassing them”. He also found a full explanation of the Laws of Karma, which includes the notion that all reward must come from initial toil. The article that really caught my attention today, though, was a book preview for a German forest ranger‘s explanation of the biological network among trees–how they feed the old and dying as well as the young, and how they have friendships and increase their strength through their mutual connections. In a simplistic fantasy, that might have driven some of the fiction behind Avatar, but on an emotional level, for me, it’s another reflection of the nature of our interconnectedness. That there are ties between us–even between species–that we fail to recognize to our own detriment. Of course these thoughts are making their way into my fiction-building, which makes it all that much more fun to explore how my characters choose to play to their strengths and weaknesses.

From a fiction-writing career perspective, then, I ran across a blog post pointing out the MANY pitfalls in standard Big Publishing contracts. I’m more and more satisfied with my decision to avoid all that–even if it has meant that I’ve had to work through finding, contacting, and negotiating with rights holders for elements I’m interested in using as part of my stories. In the latest instance, I don’t think the actor’s agent had ever been contacted by an indie, and priced an image freely available online as if I were a big house able to afford the crazy license fee she suggested. So despite its perfection for the cover of The Builders, I will be continuing my search for cover art elements. But I’m still proud of the licensing agreement I was able to arrange for a few years back for the Elvis lyrics quote that provided such perfect and subtle insights into Ivan’s character in Blood to Fire.

The connection I most enjoy honoring, with hubs, is coming up on the 18th year of its official existence in 9 days. Finding my stride with writing–and more specifically, stepping away from the many distractions I’ve allowed to become bad habits–has also freed up more time for enjoying our handful of shows together. This week we caught up with both The Expanse and The X-Files in an epic evening of cuddlesome togetherness. The combination of mystery and action with shadowy antagonists makes both compelling in similar ways. I’m anxiously awaiting further reveals.

Another consequence of the terrible plow job (and/or the huge snowfall, depending on where your inclination to lay blame lies) is that we’ve been pretty well house-bound–i.e. no long walks, and our short walks are in the late hours of night when it doesn’t matter so much that we’re in the middle of the road. My phone has been staying home for our minimal walks, too, so it thinks I’m averaging fewer than 500 steps a day. I’m crossing my fingers that the ongoing temperatures in the 50s and predicted rain this week mean we’ll be able to reclaim the sidewalks and step up our family exercise.

As usual, I’ll be back again next week with my latest progress report. In the meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.

Stuck

"Stuck? I'm not stuck..."We got lucky with the snowstorm this week, though I wasn’t so lucky with the 36-hour flu bug that kept me company earlier in the week. Both together meant there wasn’t a lot of productivity. However, I am now caught up with most of my friends and family and colleagues as we were all checking in with each other to make sure we each still had power and the essentials to survive almost 30″ of snow delivered in one fell swoop. And the Huskies…? They were in heaven. I’m still not sure what the whole “burying head in snow up to shoulders” thing was about, but they were so funny making their race tracks around the yard, it was easy to spend way too much time laughing at their antics. Avoiding computers. Pretending like the rest of the world didn’t exist. Like the way physicists recently confirmed the findings that observing atoms affects their reality. From the more personal perspective, observing both the shadow self and our best intentions helps us grow.

Which I really need to do (as a writer) because now I have more stories competing for my attention. I’m officially part of the Hotel Paranormal series, with my book slated to launch January 4, 2017. It will be a tie-in to my Red Slaves series, with one of my dragon shifter characters tripping across a portal in Moscow. Hijinks ensue. The series synopsis is:

The Hotel Paranormal is the place for supernatural beings looking to get away from it all, existing in a plane separate from our mortal world, but connected through doorways in all major cities. Beings like werewolves, vampires, elves, sprites, djinn, and more check in for business and for pleasure — and sometimes for both. The Hotel has unparalleled style and is equipped to meet its guests’ special needs.

At last count, 27 authors have agreed to participate, and the first book will drop August 17th, then weekly thereafter. It’s a new path for me, and should be an interesting experience.

But the logistics of that, illness, working from home, dealing with blizzard… Well. There were no walks this week. We did watch the next episode of The Expanse, and we’re seeing very clever additions of new antagonists, so I’m definitely hooked. There are just… So. Many. Movies. (With so many more coming this year!) And then we tripped across the second half of E.T. I cried again. It was bizarre to see all the early-80s sets and the cheesy, blue-screened, quintessential scene of the boys flying their bikes through the blue skies of their Southern California neighborhood, and yet still have the visceral reactions of my first viewing. That scene as E.T. lays dying and Elliot says he can’t feel anymore…? Yeah. I hope someday I write well enough that readers are so deeply invested in my characters they will clamor for those emotional roller-coaster rides.

I’m in the middle of one of those with The Builders, and still only managed 193 new words this week. More than last week, but not to plan. I need to step up. At least I’m keeping up with my ROW80 host duties. On which note, check out how everyone else is doing, and come back next week to read about my progress.

Mourning Heroes, Artists

Let's Rock!It was a different kind of week of sadness, more global, more visible, and at the same time more introspective. We lost two influential artists: first in David Bowie, who timed his goodbye album to drop two days before his death, and then barely had time to catch our collective breath before Alan Rickman passed. Both at the same age. Both of some form of cancer. And then we heard the stories about Celine Dion’s husband and brother dying of cancer two days apart, also in this week. There were so many reasons to feel empathetic heartbreak it was hard to do anything other than wallow in memories and remembrances. Ache for the children left behind by their fathers’ too-early passing. Part of how I worked through it was reading many of the tributes written about the two. Max Gladstone had a powerful essay at Tor about mourning that concluded:

Mourning is a tribute. Mourning is an affirmation of self. Mourning is a battle against the end. Someone passes, and yet remains, and returns, through memory, through work, through fingerprints left on clay.

The interesting thing about honoring these specific two men’s lives, though, is that they left such strong signposts of hope. Rickman said, “A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.” Bowie, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” I’ve saved those quotes as images for the future because they are useful reminders, in the same way Anne McCaffrey’s passing was to me, that the people who mashed up two of the iconic ways I’ll remember these men were on the right track. We can remember, but we must move forward. Let’s Rock!

I’m toying with the idea of a multi-book review based on Bowie’s Top 100 Books list, of which I’ve already read a startling number… and have them in my book shelves. I also read an interesting article about habits neuroscience has confirmed make people happy, as well as an article that affirmed the value of decluttering as a path to de-stressing.

None of these things led to much progress on my stated goals for this round. I started fiddling with plug-ins for my blog to improve my book listings. I found a group of authors who are poking my brain in different ways to produce a story that would be part of a new series in a new world. I spent more time editing Gayla’s latest. I wrote 100 words on The Builders, and averaged about a mile a day walking. These are all micro-movements in the direction I want to be heading, but for a week that was emotionally exhausting and included a heavy work load… well… I’ll see about getting back on my writing horse tomorrow.

In the meantime, I encourage you to see how my fellow ROWers are doing with their goals, and I’ll report back next week.

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