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Simply Happy

It is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.I’m still recovering from an intense series of weeks that also included my 19th wedding anniversary. Between preparing for a work project’s phase II kick-off, our celebration at home, out with friends and then colleagues, and then the long trip for work, it feels like it’s been months since I’ve had anything like a normal schedule. Top that off with ongoing news about fundamental disturbances to the strength of the US democracy, and my propensity to get lost in fictional universes while I’m traveling, and it’s hard for me to feel grounded. But I’m home again, and that is my simplest recipe for happiness.

Hubs and I enjoyed our weekend of having been reunited by catching up with cuddles and The Expanse. That show is not for the faint of heart, but when I think back to Babylon 5 or any of the Star Trek franchise TV shows, the effects representing space travel are so realistic and such eye candy it’s hard to look away even as disaster looms. The character development, and especially the acting to give the Belters their own accent and patois, make the world so real it’s palpable. The political machinations and the fearful nature of the threat the majority of the population doesn’t know about make the themes timely–if bleak for humanity.

In comparison, the most recent scifi story I read, The Druid Gene, by Jennifer Foehner Wells, is quite restricted–even though the backdrop against which the action plays out is a galactic empire rather than one “merely” limited to Earth’s Solar System. Told from the perspective of an American medical student with a white mother and a black father, it’s an entirely different take on an alien abduction story, and adds the fillip of a lost alien progenitor somewhere in Earth’s history to make a certain sub-set of humans more than human. It was fun to be absorbed by it, even though the long stretch of fight training wasn’t my favorite fiction mode. Wells’ blog post about the nature of the “casting” choices she made in the story provided an interesting backdrop to stories I’ve seen emerging recently about “sensitivity readers” and reinforced some of the choices I made last year as I was writing The Builders.

As I worried when I set up my Goodreads reading challenge, I’m now as invested in keeping up my books-read numbers–and beating them–as I am writing. That does not help my word count grow, and I obviously blew past my original deadline for Fire to Dragon in the run-up to my work obligations. Reading, while delightful, is not helping me get back on track. I need to change that orientation this week to avoid missing out on my editor’s adjusted time slot. I’m also anticipating that Gayla will have her next book ready for my editorial pen in the next short while, so there will be clashing deadlines if I’m not careful.

The surprising part of my travels was that I walked quite a bit more than I had recently. And we’ve continued on that path since I’ve returned home. Tashie is still limping, but she’s at least finished her round of Doxy, so she has more energy these days–even if she remains less active than our younger two. According to my phone, my daily step average was just three off from three thousand, so I doubled my distance from my previous reporting.

I think this week will be less stressful than the most recent two, and should leave me time in the evenings to get back to my first goal, but we’ll see whether that’s true with next week’s check-in. In the meantime, I suggest you look at my ROW80 buddies’ check-in posts for this week to keep you entertained.

Being Kind

"Be kind. Make art. Read good books. Take no shit." -Word PornAt work, we’re in the run-up to a phase II kick-off on one of our projects, so my week was a series of much longer days than normal. While I caught some news coverage about Congress introducing a bill to abolish the EPA, a heartbreaking Tweet-storm about the reality of being a refugee, and facts about minimum wage, I mostly came home too tired to do much more than eat and sleep. Today I found an interesting aggregation site that caught me up on more of the week’s disastrous headlines. Minus the even worse headlines about Fukushima, where radiation from the 2011 disaster has apparently already had health impacts on babies born on the western coast of the US.

All of which adds up to the fact that we’re living the epitome of the curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

And reminds me that in my life, I can really only control my own actions. So when the image I’m including in this week’s post scrolled by, it resonated. I do my best to be kind and supportive, even when I’m frazzled. And especially when I know how much is going on in my friends’ lives. The first one to face surgery is now recovering nicely, though they still face the standard course of chemo. The second friend’s surgery comes this Friday, and we had them over for some preparatory acupuncture in hopes that we’re setting the stage for success there, too.

As for making art, I managed 1,742 words this week. There’s no way I’ll make Friday’s deadline, but I’ll keep chipping away at my story. If I can manage even just 500 words a day, I’m only a month away from finishing. But… we still have to finish our phase II kick-off prep, and then travel to Florida to participate in the meetings for that, so the days required to make up that month seem likely to stretch out longer than that. Unfortunately. Especially since I recently realized that April 21 will be the five-year anniversary of the release of the first in the Red Slaves series. I hate it when I have to wait forever for an author to finish writing a series I love, so now I’m vicariously hating myself for making my readers wait that long to finish mine.

😛

Naturally, that means I took a night off and read another Hotel Paranormal book. The Fox’s Wager is by Tawdra Kandle and features a kitsune and psi-gifted human as its protagonists. It was a lot of fun and a perfect snack of fiction when my brain was too tired to focus on my own world-building. Oddly, this means I have somehow gotten ahead of myself on this year’s Goodreads Reading Challenge. It’s something I came to late last year for the first time, and I’m still on the fence about whether it’s a good thing to encourage my inner competitor about something that makes it so easy for me to lose days and days when I’m on a real book binge.

Another night off was to keep up with the date night promise to hubs. There wasn’t anything to laugh about in the season opener of The Expanse, but it’s such a compelling show we’ve been talking about it ever since.

We’ve also managed to keep pace with our .75-mile-a-day walks. Tashie had a follow-up visit with the vet specialist this week, and it seems there are multiple reasons for her limp. On top of the Lyme, she also has a partially torn MCL, and it’s likely she ruptured a disc in her mid-back about a year ago. She’s such a trooper to have dealt with the pain that long without showing any signs that I’m doing everything I can to make sure it doesn’t go on any longer than necessary. She’s so happy to be out on family walks, though, it’s hard to hold her back from what she really wants to be doing. At least now we have analgesics for her and she’s happy to be able to hop up on the futon in my office (i.e. closer to our bedroom) to sleep at night.

I’m not sure how much progress I’ll make with my writing, but I’ll keep trying, inching closer to done as work and life obligations allow, while taking the breathers necessary to re-acclimate to something like a normal life. We have our 19th wedding anniversary to celebrate this week, too. In the meantime, I’m keeping up with my ROW80 buddies, and encourage you to do so, too. We’ll see whether I manage a post next week from the road, but I will always return to my blog eventually.

Not Neutral

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." -Desmond TutuAnother perplexing day, another perplexing week. Fair warning: I’m dipping my author’s toe into politics (publicly) once more. I had worried about the new US president’s fascistic tendencies for quite a while before his illegal executive order, but given the extent of vetting refugees already submit to, this week’s surprise strikes me as not only cruel, but given reports of detentions, a violation of due process. So I can’t be neutral. Due process is the bedrock for democracy, so I can’t agree with an oppressor who is explicitly encoding discrimination against one particular religion. But also, only in cases where it wouldn’t harm his business interests.

I can’t say whether registering my resistance will be a one-off; if something as egregious comes up again, I will stand up again.

All of which makes for significant distraction from what I had planned to be doing this week and weekend: Continuing research on North Korea for my third Red Slaves book. I did find an interesting, old article about N. Korea’s bid to handle toxic wastes of various kinds. It plays into my storyline nicely, even if the dateline is from 2008.

And hubs has been working at his own brand of distraction. We’ve agreed that staying focused on things we can directly impact in our own lives is important. As is finding shared laughter. To that end, he’s been looking up comedians on Netflix, YouTube, and wherever else he can find them to remind us of how to laugh. One of the funniest so far has been Sebastian Maniscalco. His embodiment of Sicilian/Italian-Americanisms in his routines makes both of us giggle. We watched “Aren’t You Embarrassed?” as our date night this week, and laughed even harder when Maniscalco started describing some of the differences between himself and his wife. There were a few parallels.

😀

Another link from hubs was to a PBS program about Emery Blagdon and his Healing Machine. As much as anything, this seems to point (to me) to the power inherent in a strong connection with another person. I’m connected, now, to two people who are facing entirely different medical crises, and am hopeful that being there for them as they face the labyrinthine medical establishment will provide the kind of healing relief Blagdon’s visitors described.

Also tickling my brain: News of a new form of matter, being called time crystals. This discovery could be yet another plotbunny–and could change the nature of time travel scifi, should an author choose to embrace it.

As for goals, my phone says I took it with me for an average distance of a little over a mile each day this week. After a specialist ordered extra tests on Natasha, we came back with a diagnosis of Lyme from titering. Apparently that disease has a high incidence of false negative reporting, so the test our regular vet had used when we’d first gone there after noting the limping was wrong. That means our oldest husky will be on doxycycline for three weeks, and we’re anxiously awaiting some indication that her gait is smoothing out. She seems looser in the hocks, but after exercising, she stiffens up again, so this could take some time.

On the writing front, I finally finished incorporating the years-old feedback from the writing workshop I participated in in 2015. And finally started drafting new words. With everything else, it is slower going than I’d like, but 1,406 new words isn’t bad. If I can’t manage at least that on a daily basis from now until my deadline, though… my deadline will make a lovely whooshing noise as it flies by. We’ll see.

In the meantime, Gayla has released Convicted Heart (for those of you who are interested in contemporary romances) as well as a short story in the Discord Jones world called “Little Star.” Both are lovely ways to escape reality for a bit.

So I’ll be back again next week with news and updates, and once again encouraging you to see how my ROW80 cohorts are doing.

Choosing to Smile

"Choosing to smile even when you are having a bad day doesn't mean you're being fake. It means you're choosing to focus on all the reasons you have to be thankful instead of the reasons you have to be stressed." -Dave WillisSo. We have a new president, whose preference for “alternative facts” was enough to spark the biggest protest(s) the US has ever seen. My entertainment of the weekend, on the other hand, was whoever was running the DPRK News Service Twitter feed. (Fair warning, it’s NSFW.) Since I’ve gotten back to work on Fire to Dragon, in which North Korea is the regime benefiting from trapped draconic energy, this counts as research, right? At least I won’t be catering to the audience drawn to the bizarrely jingoistic movies Peter Berg and Marky Mark continue to make of national tragedies.

All of this to say: Observing the world through the disconnected lens of mourning makes for interesting perspective and odd juxtaposition. And a never-ending string of plot-bunnies. I see great promise for a scifi story spinning off from news about a revisioning of the doctor’s office. For a fee. After my fabrication of the 100 Billionaires Club in Russia for Dragon’s Pursuit (based loosely on information like what the Business Insider reported last summer), it’s somehow not surprising my stories are veering more into dystopian worlds ruled by oligarchs. Even though they’re supposedly speculative fiction.

Which brings me to this week’s quote. It’s been six weeks of bad days for hubs and me. We’re starting to find our footing and choosing daily to count the blessings we share. Now we have a friend facing surgery tomorrow after an unexpected hospitalization. Another friend hobbled by a mysterious knee injury. And another friend is facing her own existential crisis. To say nothing of the friends who struggle with lifelong disabilities compounded by migraines. The dumpster fire that was 2016 for us is spreading to others in our circle. It’s yet another reminder that life is short. (On a side note on that point, a new entry on my to do list is a creative will, per Neil Gaiman’s recommendation.) I’m beginning to appreciate the first of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths in an entirely different context. While the author of that article encourages us to stretch beyond the traditional translation of Dukkha as suffering, I don’t see any reason to argue with the premise that life IS suffering. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t suffered something.

That means to me that as hard as it is not to get trapped in despair and darkness given all the evidence in our world that evil is winning, we do have things to be thankful for.

For me, for this past week, that’s meant I’ve started hitting some of my goals again. My phone says that despite the number of times I left it at home, I’m averaging .78 miles of exercise-level walking per day. Less than last week (probably because of all the rain we’ve been getting), but more than goal. As I mentioned earlier, I’m back into revision mode on Fire to Dragon, and am down to the final eight pages of that effort before I can pour on the steam with new words and power through to the end.

Hubs and I also watched the season ender for Sherlock. That was the closest to a miss of the entire series for me, mainly because the twisty evil it personified was so difficult to sit through. (I won’t lie, I got up and stood behind a wall to avoid watching some of the worst of the graphically violent scenes.) And yet. There was a story of redemption in it, too. (SPOILER WARNING) How someone so lost in psychopathy can find their mental footing and sense of connection is a profound and moving scene. Given how popular Cumberbatch and Freeman are now, it seems likely this will be the series ender as well as the season ender, so Moffat and Gatiss faced the impossible task of wrapping things up with the most challenging antagonist possible, while still allowing audiences the possibility of living on in that space–if only in their minds. We may re-watch it to try to unpack all the layers they crammed into it.

I’ve begun baby steps down the marketing path for my author self, too, having discovered several blogs working on publicity features, as well as guidance on some of the new tools KDP is offering in the Amazon Marketing Services suite. Since I have a gift card that came with the stipulation that I spend it only on myself, this seemed like an interesting opportunity to pursue. It’s also a fun throw-back to stuff I learned in school and at previous jobs, and may even prove itself enough to warrant a continued investment in the future. Don’t be surprised in coming weeks when I get serious about setting up a newsletter with subscriber-only perks, as opposed to leaning on the integrated features that come with Word Press or Draft2Digital.

I’m also waiting on the final version of a novella from Gayla, who’s branching out to contemporary romance with her latest. Convicted Heart should be out sometime this week (if you want a sneak peek, go join her Fiction Tavern, where she’s posted the first-draft version of the first eight chapters), and while I can’t help but anticipate the inclusion of some paranormal creature in the storyline each time I mark up her copy, it’s a different kind of story of redemption. And there’s a hot cowboy in it.

🙂

So I’ll be back again next week to report on my progress, and I’ll be cheering on my ROW80 buddies as they report theirs. And keeping a smile on my face despite everything.

I Don’t Quit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing in Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

😀

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

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

One Day

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

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

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

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

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

😀

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

A World Full of Peril

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Time and Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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