Relax

Relax... We're all crazy... It's not a competitionThe wind storm that closed out this week in dramatic fashion reminded me… I need balance in my life. The storm kept me up half the night with the intense sound of a freight train rumbling over my head, and capped itself by knocking out power for eight hours straight, before making it (AND THE INTERNET!) flicker for another ten. This (WIND!), I confess, is my atavistic fear. I don’t know if it’s a hold-over from having seen The Wizard of Oz as a little girl, and then spent summers in Minnesota and Michigan, where my grandmothers both warned me about tornadoes. I do know that when the wind blows hard, my first thought is, “it’s gonna KILL me.”

It was good to remind myself of some of my de-stressing tricks.

And it was interesting that this week the theme for my reading was about depression and mental health. First was a Vox article making a strong call for new ways of treating depression. The research that author cites points to social connections being as vital to treatment as any other element. That without recognizing the life context and the need for specific sets of elements of security (from hunger, from pain, from uncertainty), even the strongest medications are likely to fail. Then my cousin shared an alarming article about an increase in teen mental distress. I next stumbled across an article about how linguistics researchers were able to parse language use to show how people with depression use different words and sentence constructions. The odd capper to all of these, though, was an article about Italian researchers who were able to test for and quantify the impact of luck on a person’s likelihood to succeed in life.

Taken together with all the previous research, the concluding paragraph of the final article was a sucker punch to those who act as if hoarding money or power is helpful in any way to the world they live in:

As the researchers point out, since rewards and resources are usually given to those who are already highly rewarded, this often causes a lack of opportunities for those who are most talented (i.e., have the greatest potential to actually benefit from the resources), and it doesn’t take into account the important role of luck, which can emerge spontaneously throughout the creative process. The researchers argue that the following factors are all important in giving people more chances of success: a stimulating environment rich in opportunities, a good education, intensive training, and an efficient strategy for the distribution of funds and resources. They argue that at the macro-level of analysis, any policy that can influence these factors will result in greater collective progress and innovation for society (not to mention immense self-actualization of any particular individual).

And it closes the circle with studies from the first article that showed a universal basic income reduced the incidences of people seeking out hospitalization or doctor visits because of mental distress.

So this was the week I took it upon myself to check on friends who have been hurting… and to take another reading break. This time I enjoyed Jen Foehner-Wells’ book 2 in her Confluence series, Remanence. I’ve read the books in this series all out of order, but they stand up to my disarray. The concept of a being who faces evidence that rather than having been a partner, he was a slave, and how that knowledge transforms him is one core component of this epic space opera, and really added emotional heft to that installment. I’d highly recommend the series to anyone looking for escapist sci-fi with some meaty teeth to it.

Apart from all that, the weather constrained us this week with regard to walking. The doggies were not happy, and my phone says I averaged 2,841 steps over the past week. My sleep average was up a few minutes, to 6 hours 21 minutes, so awareness does lead to action in some cases.

😀

I also managed three nights of editing. Twenty-one hard-fought pages. And my lovely editor, Liana Brooks, is forcing me to UNPACK all the things. Each time I edit, my goalpost shift further right, because I add more pages to describe things she points out as missing. At least my progress bar puts me at 32% complete now. There might be an end in sight.

It will be a miracle if I finish before the end of this Round, though. So I’ll close for now, aim for even more sleep, and point you at my fellow ROW80ers as we chug along to our finish line.

No Time

A day on a Jupiter's moon lasts less than 5 hours--just like Saturday and Sunday on Earth.I know there are typos and grammar errors in the meme I’m sharing this week… but the sense of how quickly time slips through my hands is right on the money. And, I don’t care if it’s minus 260 F at the warmest on Europa, escaping to the stars and avoiding emails and work and obligations for a while sounds right up my alley. (For some reason for the past week or two I have had Frank Sinatra in my head singing “Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars.” It feels like an invitation to write another installment of a space opera when I have forcibly grounded my imagination for edits. The struggle is real.)

It’s the second week of the Reviewer Round-up I wrote about last week. This week is novel week, and there are more than 40 of us offering free review copies. The woman organizing this gives reviewers points for the number of reviews posted and offers prizes for completed (HONEST) reviews, so as an author, I was thrilled to get feedback on Dragon’s Pursuit. I’m really hoping for similar results for The Builders this week, so if you know anyone who’s looking for free reads and the chance at prizes if they post reviews what they’ve read, point them to the link above.

🙂

As far as reading goes, and maybe explaining another reason why this weekend slipped through my fingers, I found the latest Kait Nolan Misfit Inn story as well as a new author to me who was writing about gargoyles. They were both novellas, so no all-nighters reading, but I’m beginning to think I need to take a class in Nolan. smile I’m honestly not a huge fan of contemporary romance, and yet she sucks me in every time. Her stories are tightly crafted and after you’ve read enough of them, you start to feel like there are certain inside jokes for those readers of hers who have binged a number of her titles.

Part of the reason I was looking for that kind of escapism is an issue at work that has me reading about why we fall for narcissistic leaders; how to handle increased stress and build your resilience; how to measure the economic impact of having or lacking trust in your company; and how to cultivate gratitude, compassion, and pride on your team. None are easy topics, and neither is the situation driving the research. Interestingly, The Guardian published a story about women pushing back on patriarchy that felt related. We’ll see how it all plays out over time, but these situations make a normal work week more challenging than usual.

At least I got the bonus of going to the Black Panther with hubs for an actual date night. It was as amazing as all the reviewers have said, and I feel like it’s the majority of what we’ve talked about since. It’s certainly earned all the financial records it’s broken. What’s really fascinating is that there’s already a teacher who’s using the meaty themes of the movie to develop a curriculum to deal with topics like black revolution, black feminism, and the legacy of colonialism and anti-black racism. I love that people are engaging more seriously with popular culture, rather than looking for mere escapism, especially in the face of ongoing news coverage of the horrifying kind.

We averaged 3,602 steps per day according to my phone, so are gradually increasing again even though we both had several nights of disrupted sleep as we continued to recover from last week’s oral surgeries. My phone says that translated to an average of 6 hours and 4 minutes of actual sleep per night, so we’ll be working on increasing that this week. If I didn’t feel so regularly like I had to catch up on snooze over the weekends, maybe they wouldn’t feel so short, too.

Meantime, I’m down to three weeks to finish my ROW80 goals. The clock is ticking. I hope my ROW80 buddies are doing better with theirs than I am with mine. I’ll be back again next week to report, regardless.

Recuperating

It's the start of a brand new day, and I'm off like a herd of turtles.Friday was phase two of my latest adventure in oral surgery, so it’s been a quiet couple of days as I recuperate. When the image I’m including with this week’s post ran across my Facebook timeline yesterday I had to laugh for how appropriate it was to how I’ve been feeling. One of the peculiarities of my physiology is that I’m super-sensitive to pharmaceuticals. Coming out of anesthesia Friday, that meant at one point my blood pressure dropped to 90 over 44 and there was a lot of scurrying to get me more meds. My hands are bruised from needle sticks and my jaw is still sore, but it’s back to the grindstone this week.

One thing people who follow me on Facebook might have noticed: I’m participating in a Reviewer Round-Up via Totally Talented Promotion. There are 38 of us who have novellas in the ring this week (and I would imagine a similar number with novels starting next week), so if you’re interested in a free review copy, join the fun. For other authors who have scrounged, begged, and pleaded as I have for reviews, Kelli at TTP has created a system to collect and engage avid readers unlike any I’ve experienced before; I would highly recommend her services.

My other go-to Kelley was hard at work for me this week, too. She created a BEAUTIFUL new version of the cover for The Builders that makes it more apparent that this is an F/F scifi romance. She was able to give Navenah the body art I dreamed of and just generally gave me the goosebumps for being able to channel the kind of connection these two characters share with each other. For your viewing pleasure, here it is:

The Builders, by Tonya CannariatoI’m not sure how long it will take for the updated files to fully propagate across all the vendors (and we still have to build the paperback cover and version), but I’m so thrilled to be able to promote Kelley’s x-potion designs business once more. She’s a gifted cover artist and a joy to work with, so she’s earned another unqualified recommendation for her efforts.

Aside from the mouth work and book promotion work, I did manage just a few more pages of editing while I wasn’t blurry with other things, so I keep making baby steps forward. I haven’t yet heard that my audiobook is up on audible, either, so I’ve wasted an inordinate amount of time hitting refresh on that search. Here’s crossing my fingers that it will finally become available there this week.

For the things I track in the news, this was a big week in China. US intelligence services begged US consumers not to buy Huawei phones for the security breaches they could allow. At the same time, China announced big moves on both the space and artificial intelligence fronts. It will be interesting to track how those developments play out over time. From the perspective of setting big and audacious goals, it would appear the US has things to learn from the Chinese, though.

On the personal side, the launch of The Black Panther this weekend introduced me to the real-life version of the Dora Milaje, Dahome’s Women Warriors. Beyond that, Trish Nicholson wrote a broader history of female warriors that is inspiring in different ways. Then I discovered Vanessa Lafaye, an author dealing with cancer, and her moving blog about living while dying, including her bucket-list trip to New Zealand, and was reminded we all fight different battles on different days. In a serendipitous match, Liana Brooks tweeted a link to a blog post about 7 Brutal Life Lessons Everyone Has to Learn Multiple Times about the same time. And then there was the GQ article arguing that to be more productive we need to take more breaks and naps.

A colleague recommended the Sleep Cycle app a few weeks back, so even though I don’t like having my phone by my bed overnight, it’s been useful having the data the app collects. Over the two and a half weeks I’ve been using it, my phone says I’ve averaged six hours and seven minutes of sleep. So I’ve been deluding myself about getting sufficient sleep, and now have data to help me correct my bad habits. I’ll be looking to increase that tally over time. My steps were down this week because of the surgery, so my phone says I averaged 3,314 steps per day–still slightly up from my last report though. It’s an interesting exercise to use the technology in a smart phone to understand some basic health metrics and work to improve on them in a measurable way. I would never have considered those an argument for a smart phone even five years ago, but I’m certainly finding these tools useful now. They seem to be all the small reminders and sources of honest accountability that I need to keep taking care of myself appropriately.

Still, we’re winding down to the final month of this Round, and I’m not sure that I will be able to meet my other goals. It’s halfway through February and there is still an overwhelming pile of editing work ahead of me. We’ll see whether I manage to pick up the pace, but I certainly need to keep reminding myself about prioritization of efforts during times when I have the energy and attention available to do a decent job. I’ll be back again next week to report again, and in the meantime will be checking out my ROW80 compatriots for their progress.

Celebrating

20 years down. Forever to go.Today is Santino’s fifth birthday; somebody must have known, since a neighbor we haven’t yet met delivered a huge, candy-cane shaped chew to our doorstep with a sweet note and the bow of a gift. Yesterday was the celebration for my employer’s sixteenth anniversary since founding. And Friday was our twentieth anniversary. According to people who claim to know, the traditional gift for this many years of being married is china. Given how much of that is in my family already, I’m glad nobody thought to get us more. These milestones have had us in a contemplative space. And busier than usual.

Together, we’ve shared peaks and valleys, but when I stumbled across Susan David’s TED talk, I realized part of our emotional resilience together has been based on looking pain in the eye and sitting with it. Not hurrying past life-long wounds means we’re able to grapple with the new ones as they arise, apparently. The talk rings true enough I thought I’d share it for anyone else who is looking for a way to be more centered and present, despite whatever shitstorm is pending on the horizon. A completely different angle on the strength of our relationship came from reporting on findings out of studies done at Google regarding high-performing teams: Trust makes great things happen.

On the other end of my reading spectrum, I discovered reporting on a study that found men to be intimidated by smart women. The author of Radical Candor, which I read a number of months ago, wrote an opinion piece based on results of a linguistic analysis of women’s performance reviews. It gave both research-based and anecdotal evidence of how women thus face systematic resistance to success–we can’t be assertive without being called abrasive, and that hurts in bottom line results. Then there was the male reporter who described the efforts he undertook over the course of two years to ensure he had gender parity in his reporting. All of these things represent big and ongoing hurdles as I pursue any career. I’m at least glad there are people who have invested the effort to prove it’s not just an individual experience–and that I finally have landed in a place where there is awareness of and pushback against these norms.

I also found a new author. Unfortunately for me (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Courtney Milan is a prolific writer, and the series that introduced her to me has seven books in it. The prequel novella is free, and sucked me in so thoroughly that I have now read all of the Brothers Sinister books. It was lovely to find an author writing historical romances that overturned a huge number of tropes: Some of her female protagonists were trying to avoid getting married, none of them were the Most Beautiful Of Them All, and they were all deeply intelligent in a variety of ways. If you want your romance with a dash of feminism and an image for how love can heal some profound wounds, Milan is your gal.

The biggest slap in the face, though, came from an article purportedly about time management. The key quote: “Energy and attention are more scarce than time.” The conclusion was: We need to focus on limiting what we prioritize because we will never have more than twenty-four hours in a day, and there will always be periods in those 24-hour segments in which we do not have the energy or attention to actually be productive.

I don’t know why that slight rephrasing caught me so off-guard; I’ve always hammered on time scarcity and the importance of prioritizing. But understanding that the corollary to these limitations is that there are concomitant limits to energy and attention… it’s a visceral realization.

And explains why my editing has fallen off the bandwagon again.

Even our average step-count over the past two weeks has drifted down toward 3,000 again.

At least my first audiobook is starting to show up at some retailers: Nook Audiobooks, ScribdeStoriesPlayster, Libro.FM and Downpour. I’ll be curious to see how much longer it takes to get into Audible and iTunes, though I’m anticipating availability there by the end of this week.

We’ll see whether, now that I’m past the social whirl, I’m able to find the energy and attention needed to dive back into edits. In the meantime, here’s the link to my fellow ROW80ers, and I’ll be reporting back again next week with results.

Another Passing

"Only in silence the word, only in Dark the Light, only in Dying Life: Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky." -Ursula K. Le GuinTwo more voices from my youth left the earth plane this week. Ursula K. Le Guin and her Wizard of Earthsea trilogy have faded into the mists, but not before having made a profound impression on my growing up self. Her writing style, in my mind, is almost high journalism: It tells layered stories in details and makes the reader consider for themselves what the ambivalence in the world means. And she was a forthright individual who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself, her sex, or her genre.

On the opposite end of my youthful entertainment spectrum, Mort Walker, who I remember most for Beetle Bailey, but also for coining the term grawlix, passed soon after.

The eulogies for both spoke about how prolific they were. Somehow that jostled something loose in me: For the first time since September, I made progress on my edits. I still have more work to do for my day job than can be comfortably handled in the standard forty-hour work week, but this week I started leaving my laptop at the office and was able to switch gears when I got home. It’s a good start. As you might have noticed from the progress bar in the right side-bar, I’m creeping up on the 20% percent mark. If I can keep up with my ten pages per day rate, I might even make a deadline that’s floating in my brain: Release book three of the Red Slaves trilogy on the sixth anniversary of the release of book one.

That puts me outside of meeting my Round One goals (Round One ends March 21), but doesn’t feel as frenetic or stressful as sticking to my first impulse.

While I consider the implications of that, a few other thoughts stuck with me from this week’s reading. Memories of stories and related entertainment apparently fade faster than I’d ever thought. The idea of a tapestry of influences reinforces what I was pondering last week–that our acculturation is subtle and difficult to pin to individual words and phrases and stories. And may be why I’ve embarrassed myself a few times by buying the same book as I’d read years before without intending to stock duplicates in my personal library. On the topic of conversation and collaboration, then, Psychology Today posted about the death knell of the Yabut.

Further evolution in the #metoo story telling this week led to the publication of a profound article titled “The female price of male pleasure.”  One of the bits of information in that story that I knew, but hadn’t really processed: the definition of bad sex is vastly different for men and women. Women experience pain with intercourse on a regular basis, putting their definition of bad down at that level. (Medically, dyspareunia, vaginismus, and vulvodynia, painful dysfunctions of female reproductive systems, have only merited a collective 446 clinical trials, while erectile dysfunction, which is merely embarrassing as opposed to painful, has had 1,954 clinical trials.) Men, on the other hand, define bad sex as being “a passive partner or a boring experience.” The world that lives between those two perspectives goes a long way to explaining the current state of the conversation about inequality.

Similarly, one of the people I follow on Twitter posted a query about women who enjoy scifi. At latest count, her post has been liked 14,000 times, retweeted 2,500 times, and responded to 3,600 times. There are a lot of us out there, and it’s always useful to remember that Mary Shelley can be considered the progenitor of the genre with her story, Frankenstein. The oddly ubiquitous perception that geeking out on science and imagining some of the logical extensions it might bring into a future daily life, is limited to the male purview, really needs some reality injected into it.

As for my other goals, hubs and I stayed current with Star Trek: Discovery for our date night, and my phone says I averaged 4,565 steps per day–up significantly from last week now that we’ve had some nicer temperatures. We still haven’t figured out the yoga thing, and that might be a stretch goal at this point, if you’ll forgive the pun.

Otherwise, we’ll see whether I can build on the editing habit this week. There will be family visiting who I haven’t seen in probably twenty-five years, so the perennial distractions will be pulling me the other direction, but if I’m to ever reach the descriptor “prolific” I need to refocus my priorities. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye on my ROW80 buddies and will report back next week on my progress.

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