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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.

Doing All The Things

"It isn't about setbacks, it's about how you deal with them." -Zen to ZanyI just finished my big task of the week: Editing Gayla’s sixth book in her Discord Jones series, A Little Street Magic. I’m super-excited for her to release it–the overall story arc keeps getting stronger and more intriguing. I just don’t think I’ll be finishing what I started for NaNoWriMo with the number of days I’ve fallen behind. At this point I’d need to be able to write more than 3,000 words per day to finish… which isn’t impossibly outside the realm of possibility.

Except, life.

Thanksgiving, I will be cooking and hosting (and we need to spend time cleaning, too). The day after, we have another family event to attend. I’ve finally gotten my replacement computer, and need to spend time getting it all set up. KouKi went in for her spay Friday, and because she’s healing spectacularly quickly, I need to spend a lot of time walking her to make sure she’s not yet jumping, playing, or running up and down stairs. Felix is back in his sick tank, so I’m trying a new medicine that requires full water changes every night.

Hubs is doing his best to give me a good attitude adjustment, but it’s back to my old bugaboo about not finishing what I say I will when I say I will. Zen to Zany had a good image to align with what I’m feeling (stuck in the mud) and an even better way to realign my thinking. So I’m going to keep going and be where I am when the month comes to a close. And keep up with the good habit of daily doses of fiction words–even if they only come in dribbles of a few hundred at a time. Eventually, I will finish all three of my current WIPs, even if each of them is taking much longer than I had hoped for or anticipated.

Another mental adjustment I’m happy to make: Take away the name Isis from terrorists. A mental adjustment I’d urge helicopter parents to make: stop with trying to insulate kids from the bad things in life. A recent article by people who know about human psychology pointed out that things like trigger warnings and claims of micro-aggressions are making it more difficult for people to recover from mental health problems, because the best road to recovery is a process of desensitization. Not that we shouldn’t be empathetic and kind with our fellow humans, and learn from our mistakes when we legitimately make them–let’s just not encourage more people to be mired in mental illnesses that can be treated in safe and humane ways.

As for my other goals… We started a walking challenge at work this week, so I know I’ve taken 27,815 steps, which beat the week’s goal, but I haven’t taken the time to calculate miles exactly. (I suspect it’s around 12 for the week, so that finally beat my goal.) I haven’t gotten to spend much time with hubs because of all the other things I’ve had on my plate, so the Thanksgiving holiday will be a good reminder to enjoy his company more, too.

Otherwise, check in with the other ROW80ers to see how they’re progressing, and I’ll be back next week with my next installment of my own forward momentum.

Fear Less

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." -Marie CurieSince yesterday would have been Marie Curie’s 148th birthday (if only radiation had the effect of extending life…) and I’m science-ing scifi with my newest story, this quote spoke to me. Not quite with the eerie voice of atoms colliding, but more like the world-building thoughts that come from twisting what we know in our world in order to introduce a first-contact situation. In fact, there were some insights in a recent io9 article outlining world-building failures that helped spark my imagination. Not enough to drive speedy typing that might help me catch up with my slow start to this year’s NaNo, but enough to add weight, shape, and dimension to the story that is building in my mind. This is the fun part of writing: half an hour here or there, then a pause to consider what has just happened and brainstorm about what it might mean, and another half an hour at writing. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

😀

It’s especially apropos considering I discovered today that my protagonist has severe PTSD issues, and the fears she has to overcome have made a sharp turn in the narrative I expected when I started. So I’m working to understand more about PTSD, emotional trauma, and its treatments. I discovered an amazing, new-to-me writer’s resource that described some of the sequelae for trauma, which led me to learn that Ketamine can induce vivid hallucinations in some patients. It was the first shivery moment of recognition that I’m on the right track with this story.

As for my other goals? Blogging and commenting? Check. Stay-at-home date night? Not so much… though we ended up spending some quality time together battling the madness at Costco this week because our second car failed inspection… for badly gouged tires. I guess shopping together is one of the great American pass-times, given the hordes we confronted, and it was nice to be together… It’s just… all those people. I cracked up this week when I saw a Diply post speculating about being an introvert, and later, more to the point, that I might be a crazy Husky person, because I saw a good many parallels between the two articles… and me. smile

As for walking, we’ve been lazy, mainly because we were out of time for it because of the errands we were legally obligated to complete (see above). We managed two that I recorded for a measly 1.9 miles, though we did short quarter-milers a few times that I didn’t record.

I also re-established Felix’s home. Hubs decided we shouldn’t risk any of the old aquarium elements, so took advantage of a sale at one of the local pet stores to restock, but this time I also decided to boil anything I put in the sanitized tank. So far our Betta boy seems to be settling in well, and he certainly seems to enjoy all the new habitat options he can hide behind or wiggle his way through.

So I need to head back to my WIP… I’m glad I’ve so far at least managed to double the ROW80 goal I set for fiction word production. I’m a goofy nerd for being motivated by an online bar graph and the badges over at NaNo, and am excited that even though I’m behind, I seem to be gaining some momentum. In the meantime, check out how my ROW80 cohorts are doing.

Foolishness

"The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month." -Fyodor DostoevskyIt was silly to think just one weekend of extra sleep would see us fully recovered… especially since it seems we’ve both been fighting some kind of ick that has different kinds of cold symptoms associated with it.

Apparently the yuck has impacted our Betta, Felix, as well: He’s been lethargic and not eating well for the past week. Today, he has a white, stringy poop hanging from his belly. I’ve been spending my evening researching what can be done, and discovered a few more sites dedicated to Betta health. Nothing from the Bubbles & Bettas site disease listing matches his symptoms, though it’s alarming to read the range of diseases Bettas are subject to. I had no idea they could carry Tuberculosis. The Betta Talk site disease listing is similar but talks about depression in Bettas as well. The closest diagnosis I can come up with is maybe parasites based on discussion forum responses at MyAquariumClub and FishForums. Given I’ve only ever fed him Betta pellets, and we’ve had him coming up on a year… I can’t figure out what might have introduced that problem. Aside from the fact that he was the only being in the house for the 5 days we were gone and doesn’t seem to have been pleased with his alone time, which could have impacted his immune system. Even though the Back to the Roots Aquaponic tank he’s in is advertised to be self-cleaning, I half suspect that the sludgy water (which prompted last week’s cleaning efforts) may be another contributing factor. So I’m debating how often I should plan on changing the water–despite the company’s insistence about not doing so.

If anyone has any relevant Betta experience and has any answers… I would appreciate your feedback. Right now I’m considering Octozin, Clout, or Betta Revive as my healthcare options for the fish… though I think Felix will have to live in a jar outside the tank while he gets treated, since I don’t want those medications getting into the healthy basil plants that are thriving on top of his tank. I’ve sent a message to the Back to the Roots community support folks to see whether they have any thoughts on this circumstance, but since this is my first fish-owning experience, and there aren’t any fish-oriented vets, I’m feeling far out of my depth.

With all of these worries, we’re still on the slow path to walking. I have three recorded from the past week, totaling a mere 3.7 miles. I miss our long walks, but was feeling pretty breathless and worn out from just the 1.6-mile route because of my ongoing battle with the cold, so don’t want to further stress my own immune system by overdoing things.

To further destress, we’re catching up on both Agents of Shield and “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” as part of our ongoing commitment to spending time together at home. Each series is providing some interesting insights into my ongoing issues with antagonists, so I’ve been mulling over conflicting goals for a few days as I consider my own stories.

I have managed to keep up with my commenting, as well as sent Kait my blog post for the ROW80 community blog. I guess it will post the week before Christmas. Until then, you can keep guessing about the gif I included that Kait said “just makes me happy.”

😉

All the ick factor in the house has left me wiped out of an evening, so my very minor bits of progress on Red Slaves likely won’t see me to the end of that story before NaNo kicks off. On the other hand, Gayla has started sending me chapters to edit for her next release, and I’ve granted her priority in my queue. Apparently her story spooked me enough that at 3:33 this morning I awoke in a muck sweat trying to scream “help me” when a scene she may or may not have written about psychic transference of a bloody crime played out against my mind’s eye. Or maybe it was a fever dream incorporating Cordi and her crew. Either way, another not-restful night didn’t help my sinuses, so hubs was kind enough to give me another acupuncture treatment tonight.

I’m feeling generally slow and behind these days, and am anticipating another crazy week at work while we have subcontractors in for two days in  preparation for quarterly progress report site visits in early November, so I’m not sure how much progress I’ll be making on my writing goals, though they are still hanging out there for me to consider. I’ll be reporting in again next week to see how I do; in the meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing on their goals.

Across the Rainbow

Kyra's final hoursWhere all my goals turn to ash,
where my throat is held up
  by the knives of your passing,
where my arms are emptied
  of your precious burden,
and where my feet drag
  to avoid walking past
  all the trails we forged
  that now echo with your loss.
-TMYC (2014)

RIP Kyra
January 26, 1998 – September 7, 2014

Even almost 17 years was not long enough to share her world. It was a shockingly fast, strangely peaceful, entirely unexpected, unearthly, and dislocating experience.

While Auden’s eulogy (made contemporaneously famous in Four Weddings & A Funeral) is where my heart is today:

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: ‘I was wrong’

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

-WH Auden

At the same time… My experience and soul tell me there is more, so Mary Frye’s words are a more appropriate memorial:

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!

-Mary Frye (1932)

Despite the tragedy, I still have to finish schoolwork, I still have to go to the office, I still have to take care of Natasha, and I still have to breathe, so you’ll forgive me if my goal this week is just to stop the leaky eyes and quit the headache from too heavy grief. We’ll see whether next week brings any emotional improvement. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit my ROW80 cohorts to see how they’re doing.

ROW80 Check-in: Puppy Birthday

Puppy in her party hatAnother week of graduate school under my belt; all assignments turned in before their due dates/deadlines. That is actually starting to feel like a major accomplishment (and a goal worth reporting on), since this week I was assigned a literature review in preparation for the final paper for the course. That meant I wrote close to 1,700 words on that assignment, and at least 5,000 for the various discussion board/class participation assignments. Since I’ve been caught in the indie publishing revolution, I decided to study up on that and the management decisions that go with it for this series of assignments.

So I was lucky to churn out my handful of hundred words on my WIP. We’ll see whether I can manage the goal of 1,000 next week.

Part of the reason I still think it will be possible to write creatively: today was Natasha’s second birthday. (You can see her wearing her party hat in the picture to the right; even though she’s up to 47 pounds, she still manages to be a lap dog when she wants to be.) We decided to make the weekend special for her by taking her on a long trek through Lake Park yesterday, and an even longer trek along the Menomonee River tonight. We also stopped at the Dollar Store to pick up some cheap stuffed animals for the girls to dismember and a few other goodies to keep the girls entertained and full of good food.

🙂

I’m grateful my back is back to normal, though I spent a LOT of Saturday just catching up on sleep, so this week should be more productive for me.

Please find more Row80 participants HERE.

Review: The Trouble with Tuck

The Trouble with TuckI rang in the new year with a quick trip to visit family in Virginia, where I have a niece in the third grade. My brother honored me by giving her my name as her middle name and making me her godmother, so I try to pay close attention to what she’s up to–despite the distance that separates us. So while I was at their house and found her notebook with this book casually placed on top of it (and her brother informed me that it was for a class assignment in that funny way older siblings have), I thought I’d browse through it a bit while the house was quiet in the afternoon.

I did not expect to be sucked into the story in such a way that I found it impossible to put the book down. Author Theodore Taylor wrote The Trouble with Tuck in 1981 after having heard of a real-life tale of how a young girl in California dealt with her dog’s Progressive Retinal Atrophy. It’s set in the mid-50s and feels rooted in that time. From the product description:

Helen adored her beautiful golden Labrador from the first moment he was placed in her arms, a squirming fat sausage of creamy yellow fur. As her best friend, Friar Tuck waited daily for Helen to come home from school and play. He guarded her through the long, scary hours of the dark night. Twice he even saved her life.

Now it’s Helen’s turn. No one can say exactly when Tuck began to go blind. Probably the light began to fail for him long before the alarming day when he raced after some cats and crashed through the screen door, apparently never seeing it. But from that day on, Tuck’s trouble–and how to cope with it–becomes the focus of Helen’s life. Together they fight the chain that holds him and threatens to break his spirit, until Helen comes up with a solution so new, so daring, there’s no way it can fail.

The story moved me to tears–twice. Even reading the last three chapters aloud to my nephew was challenging, as Helen’s stubbornness warred with Tuck’s.

While this really is a story about the depth of relationship available between humans and their pets, the interesting subtext is how that relationship helps the human side of the equation grow as an individual. Helen isn’t even aware of her parents’ reasoning in giving her the puppy as a gift, but comments by her brothers, and, in the final chapters, her own self-evaluation, clarify her evolution in self-confidence.

I could deeply empathize with Helen’s drive to keep Tuck alive and appreciated the creativity she brought to bear in pursuing that end. On top of which, two days later I got to help my niece write up her first book report and talk with her seriously about the merits of the book she had just finished reading (while laughing internally at the irony that I write these essays for fun, while she faced the daunting task of stringing sentences into paragraphs in a logical way for the first time). For all these reasons, I’m happy to recommend this book to any animal lover–and certainly to any parent or care-giver who wants to enthrall their charge with a moving story about how life with even a disabled pet can enrich the life of the person who is dedicated to their care.

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