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Another Year Gone

Image of a red squirrel with its paws outstretched with the caption: "And just like that... POOF! Weekend gone!"

So 2023 begins. Actually productively. I finished a big editing job this weekend for a nonfiction book that has my cogs turning about the power of the spoken word. Interestingly enough, this particular job is in trade for finally getting one of my novels read into audiobook format.

I’ll keep you posted on when the audiobook is available, as well as when that nonfiction book goes live. In fact, you’ll know about that one because it’s ponderous enough I’m planning to post a review. For a preview, the author has posted a YouTube video outlining some of her thoughts.

Of course, we’re in the midst of the darkness of winter, and have just passed the various holiday celebrations of the return of the light. I’m grateful we’re enjoying a mild winter in our new place, and have had our windows and doors open today again, for the third time this week. In fact, I recently learned that there’s an Irish tradition of leaving the doors open to allow the old year to pass through – which was enough to generate its own meme. But there are other interesting, local traditions elsewhere in the world. And there is a long history of caroling during festive times, as well as a much newer tradition of sending Christmas cards. (Which we don’t, for a variety of reasons, so this blog serves as my general update on life in progress for friends, family, and other readers.) That also raises the question of what even is Christmas spirit? Along those lines, research done by one of the Pew groups is starting to highlight the contrasts and similarities between being religious, spiritual, and atheist.

To which survey I might respond with some of these well-stated “stay out of my business” quotes. Though I do appreciate the people who shared their family holiday traditions.

It seems that some of the various treatments I’ve been undergoing in the past year have given me the energy to make more progress on my creative work. So my goal for this year: To release at least two more novels – one of mine, and one co-written with Gayla. I’ve already heard the first two chapters of my audiobook-in-progress, so imagine that will be coming out sooner than later as well. And if things are really flowing well, who knows how many more words of fiction I might produce. But since I’ve been fallow for so long, we’ll keep things manageable with these three. I’ve already begun as I mean to go on, so we’ll all cross our fingers that the year allows them to come to fruition. As ever, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Plot Twist

When something goes wrong in your life, just yell "plot twist" and move on.As the observant among you might have noticed, it’s been a month since my last blog post. In that time, I managed to finish the edits on books 1 & 2 in my Red Slaves trilogy, as well as get a decent start on edits for book 3. I’d hoped I would finish those this weekend, but needed to clean house in preparation for guests this week.

Book 3 should be out this week. Mainly because the whole trilogy is included in a Review Roundup event that ends on May 5th, so it needs to be available to those readers, too.


However, the reason I’ve had the time to do all that work is a source of great sadness for me. After almost three years with my current employer, the company went through a restructuring process that made my role redundant. Friday was my last day at the office. I’m now officially on a full-time job hunt. Again.

In those moments when I have some perspective on the experience, and in particular on the one colleague who precipitated these changes, I have to marvel at the parallels between my editor’s complaints about my chronic lack of viable antagonists, and the real-life lesson in knowing a person who thinks they are a good person and yet is able to create this level of havoc in my life. In the six months this process has been underway, I’ve had stomach issues and insomnia to the degree that I’ve finally managed to lose 20 of the pounds all the fertility treatments had packed on. It’s a life lesson on as many levels as I can unpack.

I had to laugh when I saw reporting on Japanese Macaques that indicates their use of thermal springs helps reduce glucocorticoid metabolites. In other words, spa days have a measurable impact in stress reduction. It might be a message I should heed.

Another cogent article relates to giving the “how are you” question a make-over. Reframing that to something more like “what’s the best part of your day today” avoids non-answers and helps focus people on why their existence is worthwhile.

I’m grateful that I have a little time to recover my health and refocus on my creativity through this transition. And if it so happens that anyone reading knows of a company looking for a senior manager who has successfully managed more than 20 staff, 10 sub-contractors, and $22 million in annual contract value, and has the required credentials (MBA, PMP, CSM) to be listed as key personnel on government contracts, I’m available.

As part of my work transition, I caught up on my continuing education requirements for my PMP, but also read a few articles about the Pandora’s Box of Artificial Intelligence. The Economist wrote in depth about the strategic moves cloud services providers are undertaking, while big consultancies buy up small data analyst firms. Similarly, the New York Times wrote about tech firms trying to address privacy and hacking concerns by incorporating the other buzzword technology that’s been in the news recently: block chain. The counterbalance to these technologies is Edward Tenner’s interview breaking down what he calls the efficiency paradox. Tenner points out there are some things computers do very well, and others where it’s best to rely on humans. To me, the key quote in his interview is this: “By removing so much trial and error and productive mistakes, platform efficiency can lock us into existing patterns.” He’s particularly concerned about the impact on artists in our relentless pursuit of efficiency.

Which makes a neat segue to the other category of articles I read. One outlined a whole cadre of female fine artists and pondered the bias against retrospectives for them. Another considered some of the take-aways for writers from the successes Ready Player One has enjoyed. Finally, there was an article by Molly Ringwald about her rear-view mirror perspective on having been an actor in The Breakfast Club. Her view on what it was to be recognized as John Hughes’ muse and her take on the exploitation that represented a strong undertow in the industry were framed with the phrase: “I have felt the need to examine the role that these movies have played in our cultural life: where they came from, and what they might mean now.” It was a thoughtful approach to the era, but also interesting commentary on how societies evolve. And in particular, what impact and role art has in that process.

Finally, there were multiple articles about Barbara Ehrenreich’s newest book. In it, she explains that she finally feels “old enough” not to go for all the tests and do all the preventive things and in general follow the dictates handed down by western physicians. The review in The Atlantic, by Victoria Sweet, written from the perspective of one of those western physicians, was the one that stuck with me the most. It centers on the fear of dying that drives most of these interventions. In another strange reflection of my editor’s critique of my work that brings us back to the starting point for this blog entry, there’s a particularly gripping quote regarding agency–the ability of a being to choose to act:

Researchers are now finding this same agency everywhere, Ehrenreich reports—in fruit flies; in viruses; in atoms, electrons, and photons. Such discoveries must mean that agency, the capacity for making decisions—electrons jumping up a quantum level or not, photons passing through this hole in a screen rather than another—is not the rare, and human, prerogative we once thought.

That ability to make choices, on a micro and macro level has far-reaching implications. I’m still pondering them. And having this mindset is making my revision process interesting. Everybody has something driving their actions; whether those choices make sense to the rest of us drives whether our observations label the person making those choices a good guy or a bad guy.

All of this, and I still averaged 4,596 steps so far this month, according to my phone, as well as 7 hours 20 minutes of sleep at night. And hubs and I started watching the remake of Lost in Space. So far, I love it, though it’s a little more adrenaline-fueled than what I usually enjoy. But the action is leavened with flashbacks and characterizations that make the characters’ responses to each next catastrophe compelling.

Also, even though I’m late, I still need to outline my goals for this Round. I’ve already accomplished the first two–revise and re-release books 1 & 2. Here, then, are my goals for the remainder of the Round, which I think runs until the end of June:

  1. Find and start a new day job.
  2. Edit Fire to Dragon and release it.
  3. Blog weekly with my ROW80 updates.
  4. Decide on which plotbunny to follow next, and begin writing my 11th book.
  5. Walk at least a mile a day.
  6. Sleep at least 7 hours a night.
  7. Keep the sanctity of my weekly date night with hubs.

Until next week, then, I have plenty to keep me busy. I recommend you do as I do and keep tabs on the others participating in ROW80 until then.

Saving Time

Daylight Savings Time: "We've just sucked one hour of your life away. Tell me... How do you feel?"Apparently this meme has been making the rounds for some time, but I saw it for the first time today, and almost fell out of my chair laughing. So this is the first place I thought to share it. Naturally.


Mainly because my hate for the idiocy of DST is epic. Maybe even legendary. There is research that proves it’s bad for our health, and that gets reported regularly this time of year. The best framing of this nonsense, though is this:

‘Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.’

Not sure which native tribe produced that fount of wisdom, but it’s posted on the Lakotah’s site, so that’s where I’ll give credit.

The rest of the week, though, I was reading more about psychology. I learned about the Ben Franklin Effect, wherein if you ask a person for a favor, that person is more likely to think of you as a friend. As the psychologist leading the session explained: It’s thought that our brains can’t handle the cognitive dissonance of having done something nice for someone without thereafter imagining friendship to have been the underlying motivation. A different psychologist, studying academic achievement, wrote almost a decade ago, that based purely on this measure, our world should be a matriarchy. So the people at Nautilus went to interview her to follow up. Turns out there are some interesting nuances to the choices women make and the things they prioritize in their lives that could be an explanation for why there aren’t more women in senior leadership roles. From the other side of that equation, there was a thoughtful piece on work-related depression, and things that could cause it–including a sense of disempowerment, lack of meaningful work, and toxic work relationships. Finally, a cartoonist featured in Mental Floss gave some powerful insights into the different mindsets of apology vs. thankfulness.

Apart from learning things, I spent yesterday volunteering my time at my company’s Women In Computing event. I built almost 50 Google Cardboard devices as part of one of the sessions teaching about how 3D vision works in 2D environments. It was exciting and funny to hear the girls exclaim things like: “This is part of your JOB?? You have the best job, ever!” We may have succeeded in part of our mission, based on those comments. I hope the girls stick to their enthusiasm.

The other excitement of the week: The ever-excellent Kelley York, of x-potions designs, created a logo for me:

I love everything about it, so you’ll be seeing it anywhere you see my work.

In my free time… (Friday night!) I read a new novella by Ekaterine Xia, Goddess in Waiting. It took things I love about fractured fairy tales and upped the ante: This is the story of a minor goddess in the Chinese pantheon, married to Thanatos (Greek god of death), who has accepted her “fall” into humanity, but learns she has to fight for her god-hood. The pieces about (minor spoiler) her miscarriage ripped me to shreds and the ending would be all of my wishes fulfilled, but the story in between involved Ra (the sun goddess), Gaia, and several of the archangels trying to address the underlying question of whether Earth were Ascending at a rate commensurate with its achievement of space travel. There was plenty of fertile ground for my brain. I would highly recommend this book for its blurring the lines between fantasy and scifi and its ability to see parallels across cultures.

On the editing front, I fought through another 25 pages. I’m getting closer and closer to halfway done, so I keep imagining it might get easier. But then my editor throws me another suggestion, and for the moment, I’m back at the beginning, weaving in additional early clues. My phone says I averaged 4,051 steps last week, back up in the acceptable realm of exercise for us. Sleeping, though, remained stubbornly at 6 hours and 10 minutes per night.

So we’re down to the final 9 days of this Round. I’m at least glad I’m back in the habit of facing my manuscripts regularly during the week, but I’m not sure I’ll finish the first book in time for the end of the Round. Regardless, I’ll be checking in with my ROW80 mates and returning again next week to report on my progress.


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.

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