No Rush, But Done Now

Don't try to rush things that need time to grow. @ForSelfSuccessIt was the week that felt like a year. It started very well with an intimate evening of music, listening to Eddie Jobson and Marc Bonilla pay tribute to prog rock greats John Wetton and Keith Emerson by telling stories about them and interpreting their songs rather impressively for a two-person gig. An actual date night with hubs, so one of my weekly goals met immediately in an environment entirely conducive to getting the creative juices flowing.

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By Wednesday, though, the cold I thought I was getting over morphed into laryngitis with a burning sore throat. So I spent two days sleeping. Thursday, I began panicking: I had four days to write 7K words to meet my editor’s deadline. Thursday night, I managed 400. Friday night, I reconnected with my #wordmongering buddy and managed 1,810 words. It was the first time I’d been that productive since I’d begun my MBA in September 2012. Last night… I blew that effort out of the water and wrote 3,052 words. I woke up this morning knowing that I could finish the story I’ve been promising my readers for at least four years.

I did it.

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The story only needed another 1,393 words to reach its end, and then there was much rejoicing. I’ve had finishing Fire to Dragon as a ROW80 goal for longer than I care to admit. I did a cover reveal for it almost exactly two years ago. The second book in the series came out in March of 2013, so it’s taken more than four years of teeth-gnashing to get myself to a completed manuscript.

I’ll tease you with the page I had open to spur on my creativity to blast through the final stretch.

(Pro tip: Finish what you start when you start it, and don’t go chasing after plot bunnies. I’ve released five other stories in the interim.)

That I would manage to finish on Mother’s Day, when a component of the transformation Anne undergoes includes becoming a mother, is bittersweet to me. (It’s not a coincidence that the three Russian dragons she meets have the initials IVF.) I ran across a reference to artist Martin HudÑček, a Slovakian who created a memorial to the child who was never born. It blew the scab off of my recent sorrow, and reinforced the irony that the woman who campaigned for the creation of the holiday died hating how commercialized it had become.

On the other end of that spectrum, I learned about Brene Brown this week, and the quote from her book: “We are the brave and brokenhearted. We are rising strong.”

Which leads me directly to an article hubs shared about the current American psychiatric dogma that labels anti-authoritarian folks as mentally ill. It makes a lot of sense when you consider how hard it is to follow a herd when there’s an outlying voice drawing your attention away from the common conclusions of your society. So I’ll pour fuel on that fire and point you to a link that helps you submit a comment to the FCC to advocate for a free and open Internet.

For my final weekly goal, I still kept my average daily step count over 3K–despite two days of barely leaving my bed. It’s a testament to how much Tashie has improved that she races out the door with as much enthusiasm as the two younger ones these days, and has the stamina to keep going for well over a mile. On one of our walks this week, we learned that one of our neighbors is originally from Tibet. When she heard me calling Tashie’s name (because Tashie was DETERMINED to be the family ambassador and meet this lady!), she told me that in Tibetan, Tashie means “joy”. A nice congruence for how much happiness she brings our family.

I’m at such loose ends having completed my major goal for this round I’m almost light-headed. I’m not sure which project I’ll pick up next, either. (If you want to vote, I have an idea for another in the Katarr universe; I have the trilogy that builds on Wytchfire; I have the option of a follow-on to Dementional; or even follow-ons to The Builders; or a story based on a dream about sentient caves that needed humans to give voice to their needs; or some more nebulous, entirely new ideas…) This week, though, I think I’ll give myself space to breathe. We’re talking about a date night to go see Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which has me entirely too excited. I have a number of big deadlines at the office, though, too, so it will be good not to be worrying about personal deadlines for once. In the meantime, here’s the link to the rest of the ROW80 crew. I’ll be back next week to let you know if I’ve come to any decisions.

Made It

It's been a rough week, but I made it...How about you?I’ve been worrying about my latest dental procedure for so long, it’s odd to be on the other side of the experience–and it wasn’t nearly as terrible as previous extractions have been. Except that my niece was kind enough to share her cold virus, and it kicked in about the same time as I was getting used to the new holes in my jaw. While I was right not to count on a lot of time being coherent, I was wrong about the reason. So when I saw this week’s picture on Facebook, I laughed, which was enough reason to share it here.

While I was imagining myself elsewhere, I discovered there’s a hotel in Germany that has tree houses for its guests. Visiting is now on my bucket list–though with the distance to shower and toilet options… I’d be picky about time of year and duration of visit.

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Fellow blogger Alicia Anderson wrote another thought-provoking piece this week regarding the subtle differences between complaining, whining, and venting. In circumstances where the status quo is shitty, most of us stop talking about the same old problems on yet a new day, with the unintended consequence that we shut each other out from the experiences we’re suffering. While my affliction over the past month is obviously nothing on hers, it was interesting to note in my life how easily others were able to forget the baseline of pain I was working through–mainly because I was doing what I could and didn’t want to be anyone’s Negative Nelly. It makes for a useful take on the old truism against judging others, as we have no way of knowing what tribulations they suffer.

An article about a woman raised in a fundamentalist cult and The Oatmeal’s recent piece about beliefs pushed that thought further for me. In both cases, perception guided decisions and reactions. In the former, a woman repudiated her family for forcing her into the Quiverfull movement, based on the first step of having read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In the latter, we’re introduced to our own emotional barometers, the amygdala, which “makes us biologically wired to react to threatening information the same way we’d react to being attacked by a predator.”

It’s ponderous to imagine (and witness!) how experience can calcify thoughts in such a way that we literally can’t accept truth because of our emotional reactions to threats to our core beliefs.

Ironically, during our stay-at-home date night this week, as we were watching Designated Survivor, Kiefer Sutherland’s character trotted out the fallacy about George Washington’s teeth being made of wood–a statement I wouldn’t have laughed at a week ago, not having previously read about that research before The Oatmeal introduced it to me.

Together, all these bits of information provide some interesting fodder for those of us in the business of building characters that somehow need to come to life in someone else’s imagination: What is it that prompts a person to ask for or accept help? What is it that allows a person to imagine they are solely responsible for fixing a given problem? While I completely blew my word count goal this week, producing only 211 new words, my protagonist is at that point in the story where she has to confront who she is and how she’s changed. She has to face her own blind spot and figure out what is actually important to her. So understanding why that’s such a visceral process is helpful to me and has sparked my imagination in ways I hope to actually write this week.

Since my editor’s deadline is next week, I’m down to crunch time.

As a public service announcement, I’m also sharing the link regarding the Google docs phishing scam that has been spreading this week, since many of the authors I know and work with use these Google tools.

For my final weekly goal, somehow I managed to stay over 3,000 steps per day despite the oral surgery and the miserable cold. Part of it may be due to the fact that Tashie is feeling so much better she sits by the front door when the other two go out back to get her own special walk time. I’m beyond grateful that she is healing up so well, so am happy to indulge her request for exclusive treatment.

Given my deadline, we’ll see whether I have the time to blog next week, but if not, the ROW80 group will still be plugging away and reporting. Wish me luck, meantime.

The Way In Me

"Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfill the way that is in you." -Carl JungI’m beginning to suspect that really, there is no such thing as a “normal” week–or even one that falls neatly into the expectations of what the intersection of my work and social calendars tell me will be on the agenda for the week. My work hours can easily expand all out of proportion to my plans, as happened again this week. Or my days can be filled with the distraction of a toothache that really wanted to be a headache, as also happened this week. So I would have anticipated that nothing much would come of such a week.

Except I found out about Patrick, who is trying to mitigate for the drought in the Tsavo by driving 70km to deliver water to watering holes throughout the park several times a week, and has a gofundme set up to help him make that support more sustainable. I also read news that mastodon bones in California show evidence of human activity there … 130,000 years ago, 100,000 years before archeologists thought there would be anything of the sort.

On the sad side of the scale, a cousin’s classmate lost their son to suicide. Because of that, I learned about the Trevor Project, and encourage you to consider a donation there, too. I also found out about the legal horror a stalker can inflict on his victims through Lenora Claire’s story.

Then there was the article hubs forwarded, regarding the four insights empathic people are most likely to overlook. And fellow author and blogger Alicia Aderson wrote about the shadow side of fatherhood.

Taken together, these pushed me to consider both how I take care of myself and how the smallest health issues can impact daily life. How subconscious and societal preconceptions tend to try to herd us into neat categories, when our experiences make each of us much more than what we even expect of ourselves. So this week’s message from Carl Jung is pertinent. We can only walk the paths we are able to follow. Indeed, we set ourselves up for failure when we let some stereotype–or even just comparison-mind with what we see friends and colleagues managing to accomplish–mislead us into pursuing something that is right for someone else, but doesn’t fit our needs.

I’m grateful hubs is able and willing to give me regular acupuncture treatments, as those were the reason I was able to get as much done this week as I did. And my phone says I averaged 3,399 steps a day this week, up 400 from last week. Today we managed our first walk of over two miles in months. Tashie’s evident happiness in that exercise was its own heart-warmer, even though the heat and the distance were unaccustomed enough to make her pant for a good long while.

Also unaccustomed: My second week in a row of beating my word count goals. Across five days, I managed 2,397 words.Β  On one of those days, I even managed over 1,000 words for the first time in … I don’t know how long. I slowed down some from last week’s report, and I need to watch that I don’t slow down more, but it’s still not outside the realm of possibility that I could actually finish the third in the Red Slaves series this round. (In related funnies, there’s a meme/movie running through my Facebook timeline about an imagined conversation between an author and a reader that has too many of us groaning with the the relatable reality of TRYING to finish a series.)

On the date night front, we caught up on Designated Survivor. It’s another lesson in making sure the villains have an understandable, possibly even sympathetic back-story to drive the plot’s tension.

Taking a lesson from last week, even though we will be celebrating a nephew’s 16th birthday (seriously, how did he grow up so fast?!) and the pesky tooth will finally leave its haven, I will try to avoid panicking at the thought of all the hours I could lose to those two events this week. Somehow I will continue to churn out the words I need to, to meet my deadline–most likely because I continue to be blessed with an inordinate amount of support from hubs.

Check back next week to see how I’ve fared. Otherwise, check in with the other ROW80ers to see how they’re managing their goals.

Resilient

"You are resilient. You have survived so much and here you are. You have dreams that are worth being brought to life." -Maryam HasnaaYou might have noticed last week’s unexpected absence. I certainly did. At the risk of being overly graphic, some kind of gut bug hit me hard enough to make me cry in pain while spraying poop for the first time in my life. So any thoughts of blogging were entirely subsumed by the worry that I was actually dying. Naturally, that was an overdramatic fear, as 48 hours later I was well enough to get back to the office.

I also avoided the dental hell I’d been dreading, mainly because of the incompetence of the guy who had been my primary dentist, so I’m waiting for the actual appointment to get the tooth removed. And looking for a new primary care dentist. The tooth (which harbors an infection at its root) is my prime suspect for the unexpected, quick-moving flu experience. So an extraction is still in my immediate future and will likely still raise its own existential fears.

But once again, a random Facebook quote drew my attention this week. It spoke to me, and is a message worth sharing. Especially since dreams are, in my case, the source of inspiration for a great number of my stories. In fact, that was the essence of a guest post I did for Pauline Baird Jones’ blog on the topic of “Why I Wrote The Builders.”

For the first time in months, too, I managed to beat my weekly word count goal. This week, I manage 2,868 words across four days. I rediscovered my old buddies at the #wordmongering thread on Twitter, and for some reason, getting back in the groove of time-bounded writing sprints has gotten me out of the writer’s doldrums. If I keep this up, I will make my deadline.

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But this week I also discovered that Peter S. Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn (one of my long-time favorite stories), is facing writer’s doldrums of an entirely different sort. Evidently he’s had to bring suit against his former business manager for elder abuse and rights management shenanigans, so I’m doing what I can to spread the word about supporting a fellow artist. Anyone who can so clearly state the hero’s journey has obviously earned that assistance:

β€œThe true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch’s door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.”
-Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Which brings me to two articles about happy endings. These are the genre requirements for every romance, per the Romance Writers of America professional association, as well as the inciting author of the Hotel Paranormal series I contributed to. Her entirely relevant argument is that genre labels are there to help manage readers’ expectations. If you market a book to a reader under the “romance” genre, you will have an upset or even angry reader if you don’t play by the rules you’ve claimed as part of your marketing. The second article talks about the cultural relevance of a genre that outearns the next-closest to it by an almost two-to-one factor and accounts for 34% of the US fiction market. As that author states, going far beyond the trashy label that yet clings to the genre is also part of what pushes me forward in my writing. I like to imagine that my concept of what it means to be a woman might have some resonance outside my personal, everyday experience, and may also contribute to the mental models other people build of other women.

As for my other goals, we’re definitely picking up steam on the walking front. My phone says my daily average this week was 2,981, up 200 from my last check-in. The date-night with hubs, thing, though… well. We got a couple of unexpected days together, even if those were more about getting over a bug than truly enjoying each other’s company. And we had a friend and her boys down for a day of doing something completely different.

It was enough juice to keep me pushing forward with my goals, and I encourage you to visit the other ROW80ers to see how they’re doing. See you next week.

Natural Example

Nature is always giving us examples on why we should never give up.I’ve seen pictures of this tenacious tree a number of times over the years, so this week I figured it was time to share it. I notice I’ve blogged regularly on the topic of not giving up; indeed, it seems an element of stubbornness is required of anyone who endeavors to string together more than fifty thousand words of a story. For me, when I track my word counts these days, that doggedness has to have an element unrelenting optimism. Last week, across three days, I managed 665 words. Less than a third of my stated goal.

There are always good reasons for this, too. Last week, one of my employer’s longest-serving employees finally gave notice and moved on. It turns out, a lot of what he had been doing is now going to land on my plate, so there were a lot of very long days as we coordinated that hand-off. And no small amount of sadness at losing a valued colleague, even though the opportunity he’s pursuing sounds exciting.

This week, I will be enduring the “joy” of another tooth extraction. Because of how long my days were last week, I may not even have to take any leave time for my scheduled day off.

Oddly, I also read about research released recently indicating Americans are skeptical about the likely return for investing hard work in their careers. It’s a different take on the issues inequality raises, so I was heartened to read, “if the increase in inequality results mostly from factors largely beyond the ability of individuals to control or counteract, then a strong case can be made for a public policy response.” From the reporting in that story, it sounds like there will be some interesting results over the next several years from the new investments headed to six large US cities.

At the intersection of silly and science, then, I saw a Buzzfeed article about training a neural network to generate recipes. I’m totally down with Chuck Wendig’s request to try some Beasy Mist:

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As for the rest of my goals? Tashie is definitely improving, so my phone says I averaged 2,760 steps per day this week. It feels good to be walking more again, though it’s funny to recognize just how out of shape we’ve become while we babied our furbaby through her rehab. Hubs and I also snuggled up to keep up with our two favorite shows, maintaining our weekly in-home date night plan.

I even indulged myself with a book that won a contract with Amazon by participating in the Kindle Scout program. It was so gripping (despite a need for a final copy edit/line edit) it kept me up most of Friday night, and I’ll be writing a review at some point.

This week, in addition to everything else, I have all my monthly reports due at work, so I’ll be pushing hard to meet all my requirements before I drop off at the dental end of the week. I’m not holding my breath on catching up on my word counts, but I will keep digging among the roots of my story to grow my word count. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, check out how my ROW80 buddies are doing, and I’ll be back again next week.

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