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On Teeth and Failures

"You will never forget a person who came to you with a torch in the dark." -M. Rose

It’s been a minute… I’m always amused that when I make plans, life throws obstacles at me. In this latest case, my dentist decided my jaw had healed sufficiently that it was time to come back in for the next step in my oral surgery series at the end of November. And we had an unexpected house guest early in the month. And of course all the cooking that comes with Thanksgiving–even though I only contribute appetizers these days. (And my nieces’ and nephew’s appetites have hit that uncertain point in adolescence where they eat … strategically? I came home with a LOT more deviled eggs and hot artichoke dip than I would have ever guessed, given how popular those offerings have been in the past.)

So. No NaNo win for me this year. And, honestly, I’m starting to think I’m an experienced (dare I say, trained?) enough author at this point, that I’m not sure I will again. These days, I spend much more time considering where I’m going than just running with the next random plot twist to pop into my head. I’m still only at the halfway point of this novel, and have yet another new deadline.

As part of my process change, I now read out loud to hubs for his feedback. Reading out loud is also effective at pointing out where language is repetitive, weak, or stilted. It’s just slow. And coordinating our schedules to make it happen is also an interesting exercise. But so far, it really does seem like my writing continues to improve book over book. (If I’m allowed to say that myself. 😀 ) Hubs is also massively helpful when I’ve backed myself into plot corners. That last was my real downfall in November: I couldn’t figure out what would make an effective bridge between the plot point I’d just completed and the next plot point… in two chapters. I spent a week just considering possibilities.

Along the way, I read about things like the dangers astronauts face from space radiation; research on a global fertility crash; and all the ways humans have tricked themselves into believing in time. Then there was the excerpt from a new book that talked about the storied history of women’s work in the kitchen. Given the experiences I’ve had with my Instant Pot, there was a lot of resonance in the thesis that our labor was always assumed, and never offset by understanding the impact of those hours we’re obligated to work outside the house.

Which ties logically to a summary of ten well-known authors who had interesting day jobs. Counterbalancing that was an author who documented all the ways the American Dream is killing us. Particularly relevant in my experience: the profoundly ingrained “sense” that if you work hard you will be rewarded, as well as its toxic corollary that if you’re facing hard times you must be lazy and are therefore available to exploit. Taking that argument a step deeper, that “billionaire-ism” could be a religion, I ran across this quote:

If you find yourself in possession of one billion dollars, and keep it, then you are willfully refusing to stand in solidarity with the whole of the rest of the human species.

Tom Whyman, November 5, 2019, “The Outline”

These thoughts all play through my mind at night as I weave plot points and worry about my day job responsibilities. So I lie awake with relative frequency. (Shout out to @farmgeek who tweeted my WHOLE mood today: “Spare a thought for all the struggling writers of dystopian sci-fi having to compete with this current reality.”) So articles that reinforce my sense of being a congenital night-owl, or that talk about the romance of sleep are particularly apt to catch my eye. Or an article on the nature of consciousness that concludes after a thoughtfully logical argument that:

Consciousness may be fundamental in nature—an inherent aspect of every mental process, not a property constituted or somehow generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain.

Bernardo Kastrup, September 19, 2017, “Scientific American”

These things all weave into my storytelling in ways obvious and subtle, and underline my feeling that each of us is in some way an individual stew, brought to boil at different temperatures and pressures and flavored to range from spicy to bland… to disastrously burned and congealed. I’m glad there are enough Dodo videos in the world to remind me of the good people out there, but I’ll warn you now, the assholes in my stories will be dealt with appropriately to their crimes. If I can just finish writing the book.

NaNoWriMo or Bust

This too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

Fair warning to friends and family: This year I’m trying to complete book 2 of the Planet Seekers trilogy by the end of November. Since it’s National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve had success following that path in the past, I’m aiming to get my final 50,000 words for this book by hopping on that bandwagon. You can follow me on the site, if you really want to see how I’m doing.

All of which is to say: I’ll be disappearing from view from an online perspective.

In the meantime, here is a reminder of very useful words from other languages that have no English equivalent.

I won’t say much about the stories I’ve been reading online, but will share links to stories about heroes old and new. And reporting on how rich idiots are set up for success despite themselves. And muckraking about how hard it is to stay current with evidence-based medicine.

While you catch up with what I’ve been reading, I will inspire myself after my day job hours with reminders of all the other authors who wrote after work. And I’ll jump up and down once more to celebrate hubs, whose two songs are continuing to climb the Euro Indie Music charts. He’s up to 112 and 122 this week, and we hadn’t even realized until yesterday that WE CAN SEND PEOPLE TO VOTE, too! If you’re so inclined, go here, select other, and paste in either “Lumen Jingos – Kintsukuroi” or “Lumen Jingos – DragonFly”. You’ll be supporting the other indie artist in our household, and making both of us very happy while I try hard not to be distracted by all the other things going on in the world.

Feed Your Mind

Your mind will always believe everything you tell it. Feed it hope. Feed it truth. Feed it with love.

It’s been two months since last I posted. Crazy how time flies. Especially since I was lucky enough to get to visit old family friends in Germany to stand up for their wedding. It had been … decades since I’d last been there. On the one hand, there was so much that was familiar, on the other, the Frankfurt area has seen as much explosion in building and failing infrastructure as what I’ve seen in the DC area, so it felt as at home to me as it ever has.

Upon my return, I switched job location/assignments at work, we had visitors, and I learned about the National Language Service Corps. If there’s anyone else out there who is fluent in other languages aside from English, I would encourage you to consider joining as well. I also discovered a source of 3D interactive globes that show a wide variety of data about humanity and climate information in an easy-to-grasp way… that was helpful background to my writing process.

With all that hubbub, I’m grateful tomorrow is a federal holiday. Maybe I can finally catch up with myself. And maybe even get back to writing. (Interesting article from Fast Company affirmed there really are no shortcuts to performance and productivity. As a reminder to everyone out there who thinks they can just keep powering through.)

I’ve managed the first third of the story so far, and made a couple changes based on an article about mushrooms. I’m not really a fan of them myself, and know people who are allergic enough to them that they can die of anaphylactic shock after exposure… as well as knowing that some mushrooms are poisonous enough to kill. But: if people are living in bunkers, that whole lack of sunlight situation would be a significant issue to overcome, and mushrooms would thrive naturally.

On a completely different front, Gayla has also been pushing to finish writing the final book in the Discord Jones series, so I’ve been busy with editorial tasks, too.

So I’ll close with a series of links that document how being a dog owner can help women succeed at work and remain emotionally balanced; what it is that makes dogs successful (love); the radical empathy of Deanna Troi (I still love ST:TNG); and a very cute animation of the Finnish folk tale about the fox responsible for the northern lights. These echo the conclusion in my most recent post about how important feelings of love and connection are to help provide balance and context to our lives.

This may be why I keep diving back into the romance genre, both as a reader and a writer, and certainly is why I treasure hubs for the heart-centered life we share. The fact that we also share a core value centered on creativity is part of why I’m also super-proud of him for his music having broken into the European Indie Music chart. I wish you that heart-centered connection, too, and will return again next month with another status update.

Detour Ahead

Signs: STOP, no right, no left, no back, no ahead, wrong way, do not enter

I should really have learned by now to be very, very careful about making plans. I’ve always laughed about the old truism that “the best way to make the gods laugh is to tell them your plans,” and yet it’s consistently played out as actual truth in my life. In the current circumstance, a tooth my dentist had been keeping an eye on for the past year went from OK to bad over the course of the past month. This was heralded by two weeks of migraines, and then necessitated oral surgery to remove the offending tooth. Unfortunately, it was so riddled with old cavities and new rot that it shattered in the socket, so the surgeon had to do a lot of digging to remove all the shards. Which means recovery has not been quick or easy either.

Meantime, hubs took a bad tumble and cracked a rib and nearby cartilage, so he’s been in excruciating levels of pain as well.

And we’ve been pulling out all the stops to prepare for his first album release in 20+ years. Since neither of us was completely incapacitated, we managed to set up his Bandcamp site, update his musician site, and do all the necessary marketing to promote the gig that will officially mark the music’s release. In fact, if you’re in the DC area, I will strongly encourage you to join us this Friday for an evening of excellent, thoughtful music provided both by him and our good friends, the Slambovian Circus of Dreams.

In those moments of free time I’ve carved out, I haven’t had enough brain to write, but I have been reading. A lot. I’ve blown past my second revised GoodReads goal. And read quite a few articles. One by a popular author in SFF, Mary Robinette Kowal, reviewed all the ways women have had to overcome structural hurdles built into the NASA space program to even be able to get into space in the first place. Another one relevant to the book currently languishing in chapter-one-land, is that the Bystander Effect is not quite the negative thing people imagine it to be… though this was proven by reviewing surveillance footage, so the irony that the Nanny State is how we learned this is not lost on me.

Then there was the fascinating study that showed a tree stump with no external signs of life, was actually fully integrated into the New Zealand forest where it was found. The study speculated that the dead tree might have integrated its root systems with others, and was therefore actually more like “retired” than dead, and that there could be benefits to the surrounding forest and ecosystem to have these kinds of stumps.

In my mind, that somehow links up with the study that shows when lovers touch, their breathing and heartbeats sync, while pain wanes.

That last has been helpful to hubs and I as we nurture each other through our wounds, but in a broader way, reaffirms some of the principles found in Romancelandia, where a happily ever after forms the bedrock of the genre. Acknowledging the power of connection–whether between plants or animals–and its ability to transform individual experiences, provides such a rich playground for my imagination. Now I just have to find my way back to the writing path to explore what research results hint at.

Another Year Wiser

"I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become." -C.G. Jung

I observed another birthday recently. I’m glad I no longer have that date floating out on random social media; being private with that information makes those who remember without those reminders feel more authentically connected. So I’m marching inevitably closer to the half-century mark of my life and am glad to say I’m more committed than ever to supporting what’s meaningful to me: Love, art, and friendship.

So it was no small celebration when we got word that hubs is the official opening act for the Slambovians when they play locally again next month. He’s hard at work making sure his EP is ready for release at the concert, so I’m practicing my marketing skills. Check out the promo poster, and join us if you’re in the area.

Apart from that work, I’ve been reading. There’s news about a nanofiber “skin” that could help revolutionize burn and wound care. And speculation about entangled time, both of which could have implications for book two of the Planet Seekers series. Not that I’ve made much progress with that, given all the other activities, but I do have an October deadline for getting my completed draft to my editor, so I don’t have much more time off from writing.

There were also two articles on memory that stuck with me. The first outlined tips to help us memorize. The second was much more deeply philosophical–at least in that it addressed the centuries-old falsehood that animals certainly couldn’t share the capacity for episodic memory with humans. Accumulating evidence that species as diverse as rats, dogs, dolphins, scrub-jays, and elephants are able to recall past events and replay them in their minds has been a painstaking task, unnecessarily burdened by the bias that pushes “truly scientific” people to believe mere animals couldn’t possibly share cognitive traits with humans. (Sorry-not-sorry for that sarcasm…) Now that some have jumped that hurdle, it looks like humans might benefit by gaining access to new treatments for Alzheimer’s.

Even further down the path of opinion and philosophy were two articles in The Atlantic. The first pointed out that the ubiquity of cars and driving were driven by policy changes, while the second questioned exactly what we give up by joining our lives in marriage. Both worried the disregarded hazards to health and reduced social connections were bigger than our society’s enshrinement of both institutions allows us to recognize. My take-away was that… my post-apocalyptic story might need more consideration of how relationships change when mobility is extremely restricted. And that somebody on Twitter nudged me (and other authors of post-apocalyptic stories) to include more bicycles in those settings. It totally makes sense when you consider the details. So there’s been a lot of thought percolation over here. More words are likely to result. Soon.

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