21 October 2019

On stalls, false starts, and the writing process...

This is my writing process, lately...
So, Nanowrimo is coming up next month. A writing conference down in Georgia is coming up next month. Two appearances at the Carolina Renaissance Festival are coming up next month, one with the Hounds of East Fairhaven and one as a SciFi/Fantasy author signing copies of Ignite and Wanderer.

That's a lot right there, enough to give anyone pause and to force normal people to take a break. But y'all know I am not normal people, not even close. I'm trying not to freak out about the book signing - literally, that is a daily struggle between OMG SO MANY PEOPLE TO SEE MY BOOKS  and OMG SO MANY PEOPLE THAT MAY WANT TO TALK TO ME. That stressed me out just typing it!

In order to keep from packing my bags and running away, I thought I'd focus on Nanowrimo. Every November I have again been swept away in word counts and nefarious noveling. I am an absolute pantser and have no plans to change...though I do sort of know what my project will be this fall. Or at least I thought I did. I thought that I would continue to ride the wave of the anonymous first-page critique from Broadleaf and start over with my Baskervilles. I thought I would get at least a rough first draft knocked out in November. I thought wrong.

I was moving at a nice clip doing research until I got stalled out by a pretty vicious head cold. I started again, but this time the fire is gone. Cold. Non-existant. I am thinking that I might just put my poor, neglected Baskervilles away for another Nano season and haul them out next year for Camp Nano. Again. Poor Lucy and Annie.

This has been my writing process this year, and I am normally good at reminding myself that 2018 and 2019 have nearly ruined me as a person, both emotionally and physically, and I'm still coming out from under that - me, not me-the-author or me-in-my-day-job. ME. But those of us that are servants of the storytelling are some of the worst for forcing ourselves forward when all we really needed was a few steps backward to see the right path.

Ugh. I'm hoping to get myself together by the end of this week, but no promises.  What do you do when you are stalled out and can't make yourself move forward?

08 October 2019

On JR Ward and Rune-Carved Bedrock

"A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone
without corporeal friend." ~ Emily Dickinson

I don't think I'm alone, as a writer, in seeing another writer's work and thinking IF ONLY I COULD WRITE LIKE THAT! Well, recently I stumbled across this perfect little paragraph in The Savior by JR Ward:

As the cold wind blew his hair around, and sadness darkened the night even further, he realized that even though the pair of them were not destined to be together, they would never fully be apart, either. Their relationship had carved runes in the bedrock of their souls, the suffering on both sides longer lasting than any resonant joy could have been.

We all have these people in our lives I think. More than one, generally. We have good examples: those other souls that we thought were our perfect match, and they were, just not as a life partner or spouse. Those folks stay in our lives, maybe close by, maybe far away, but they always are there when we need them. I wrote about one of mine a couple of years ago here at the Lettuce - he showed up in a dream when my brain was searching desperately for familiarity and comfort. The runes we carved in the bedrock of each other's souls became anchors. Silver threads. A constant in an often unstable world.

Then there are the others who are the embodiment of the passage as written. One such, for me, was the inspiration for Taeben in my Nature Walker Trilogy novels. While that relationship is still present, more or less, it is much more virtual than visceral. I know that I can never fully be apart from him, and I think the same is true for him. We turn up in each other's lives from time to time, remind each other of a distant past when our lives were very different, and then fade out again. Each time I wonder if it will be the last time. Each time I hope that it won't - but have learned to expect that it will. I think that's what Ward meant by "the suffering on both sides longer lasting than any resonant joy could have been."

We are not together for a reason, in either situation. In the first case, we both had much better things on the horizon, and our relationship is only made better by the distance and the significant others (and children, in his case) that we have found in the time since. In the second situation, we were and are two very different people - and in this case, our differences would have been our undoing. We are traveling different paths - the first parallel and the second divergent.

We all have these runes in our bedrock - some are just carved more deeply than others.

27 September 2019

On crowded spaces and weird moments of podcast clarity

(photo courtesy of the Anderson Independent: Clemson students on the library bridge at class change)
This morning, as my bus hurtled down I-85, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts: And That's Why We Drink. It is one part paranormal stories, one part true crime stories, and several parts humor. But this morning I listened to an episode recorded after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The tone was angry, accusatory, afraid, resigned, and just sad - and I felt every single one of those as I listened. As usual, storytellers Em and Christine spoke my truth along with theirs about this issue.

But then, as also often happens on a dark bus before 8am on my way to work, my mind started to wander. Christine had said something about people who are now afraid to leave their homes, afraid to go to crowded places. Em was talking about how people who want to go to the premiere of a superhero movie think twice now after the Aurora Theatre shooting. I thought to myself that I haven't really changed that much of my daily life, but that could just be because other than my friend who died at Virginia Tech I haven't really had a personal connection to the other shootings.

But on closer inspection, I do have some alterations that have happened. One glaring one is related to the picture above. In order to get from my office to two of the buildings in which my students often have classes, I have to cross over that bridge and it often is just that crowded. I don't do that anymore. I go under the bridge and take the elevator up to the top of the stairs at the other end. I thought I was just doing that because I was lazy - and I am, don't misunderstand - but it is also because I have become rather uncomfortable in large open spaces that have loads of people in them. Places like college campuses. Places that could be targeted.

I tested that theory the other morning by walking across the bridge rather than under it, and sure enough, by the time I got to the other side and was walking up the steps to the sidewalk I was full of anxiety. On my walk back from class I go across the bridge all the time with no worries - because there aren't that many students on it then, I suppose. As much as I hate to say I'm letting the terrorists win - however melodramatic that is - I am because to arrive at my class to interpret with a ball of anxiety in my chest is not doing anyone any favors.

I wonder if this is a permanent thing? Will I be resigned to side streets and outdoor elevators for the rest of my life? Will someone somewhere that is in charge finally do something about the root cause of these shootings?

23 September 2019

Conference Post Mortem and the ETR™

Graphic Courtesy of Broadleaf Writers Association
So, what did you do this weekend?

I spent my weekend investing in my impostor syndrome anxiety myself at the Broadleaf Writers Conference, held at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta. This is the second writers' conference I've attended but the first one run by Broadleaf (which I joined after the Atlanta WDW back in March). 

The two events can't even be compared! The WDW was a bit...haphazard? That's how it felt to me, anyhow. BWC19 was professional. It was not what I had feared - a get-together for the members of the BWA. It was welcoming and friendly, where WDW seemed like an "every writer for themselves" sort of situation. Could that be related to the fact that it was my first writers' conference? Probably. There were more panels at BWC than individually taught workshops, and that format - for me - has both pros and cons. I like the instructional nature of the individually taught workshops (especially ones that mention the Kobayashi Maru) because I am not coming from any kind of formal writing education perspective. But at the same time, the introvert in me would like to just sit back and take notes, and a lot of those sessions involve hands-on work. I may need it - I do need it - but it makes me anxious.

The panels should be just what I am after - a large room, lots of perspectives, no one asking ME questions, but at times they tended to drift off-topic. The tangents were useful, don't get me wrong, but I came to the panel for the topic. Still, it is not enough to register as a complaint, per se - the caliber of the panelists was high enough that I was there for them to say whatever they wanted, topical or not. Furthermore, this year I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and submitted a piece to the First Pages Critique session. 

Yep, that was not a typo. I asked someone that I don't know - FIVE someones, to be exact - to listen to the first page of a piece I am working on and give feedback. Now, I went to the First Pages Critique at WDW and came away CRINGING at some of the comments. But I have been struggling for long enough that I thought it was time for some objective feedback. Full disclosure: I was certain that they either would not get to mine or that someone would have looked at it upon submission and relegated it to the rubbish bin.

Neither thing happened. They read out my words (which - y'all. I am so wordy! Ugh) and gave me some great feedback which at no time involved the words "Don't quit your day job." I don't think my feet touched the ground for the rest of the conference - or at least until the self-publishing panel where it seemed that the only way to make a living as a self-published writer is to go with an indie press or already have amassed a considerable fortune. I went with an indie press for my first Proud Racer book and it got me exactly nowhere, so that was discouraging to hear.

Overall, though, it was a fantastic experience. Every time I attend something like this, I come away with a list of things to do (or not to do) that will make the next one even better and this time was no exception. The thing that I learned about conference attendance this time is that if you are not careful as you are loading your car to head south to Atlanta, you will leave all of the clothes that you intended to wear to the conference HANGING IN YOUR BEDROOM AT HOME IN SOUTH CAROLINA. Thankfully I have a marvelous sister who, when I said, "We may have to make an Emergency Target Run," was already halfway out the door with her keys in hand at 9pm on a Friday. Big thanks are due to her, my brother-in-law, and my niece for folding me into their lives for the weekend. We MUST do that again, complete with the ETR™ and maybe a late-night bobbin winding lesson. I mean NEVER let it be said that I am not the life of the party.

09 September 2019

On Tired Bones and a Still Too-Raw Heart

How many Wolfhounds can YOU fit on one loveseat?
This summer was spectacular in that awful, soul-killing, exhausting way, and so far autumn has not been much better. I mean, can you even call this autumn? The forecast for today is 94F/34C with no clouds and sun. To me, this is more summer than the actual summer, more summer than even AUGUST. This is a level of hell that even Dante hadn't encountered.

I have not been able to do much when I'm not at the DayJob™ but sit on the sofa and binge-watch telly. I hear this is part of the healing process from trauma, but to me it just seems lazy and indulgent, in a lazy and indulgent sort of way with which I am familiar, seeing as how I am lazy and indulgent. However, this seems different because before I COULD get up and do things, I just didn't want to do that so on the sofa I stayed. Now - well, it's just hard.

Before I could at least bring the laptop to the sofa and write or edit or research. On Saturday, I managed a character sketch, and when I say that, I mean I wrote out a background for a character. I still have no idea what she looks like or what her internal/external conflict may be. I managed to do some research and get that into my research folder. But that's it. Most of the day was dedicated to binge-watching.

There was a dog recently where Hubs works who was coming up on his last day and Hubs really wanted to foster him just to keep him alive. There was a family that was interested but they bailed. He was on a bite hold for a bogus claim from his most recent adoptive family. He is heartworm positive. And try as I might, I could not feel good about telling Hubs that I really didn't want to foster him so I agreed. Lucky for me, he is going to a rescue group, but I spent entirely too much time crying over a dog I had never met.

It's all related. It is all a function of trying to function when you are tired right down past your bones and into your soul. It is what happens when you are looking for your heart of steel but the only one you can find is too raw to manage. Thus, retreat into the sofa cushions until further notice. With those fuzzballs up there in the photo for therapy.

If you need me, I will be in between Mindhunter and Agents of SHEILD with a jaunt here and there to Babylon 5. Until further notice. Until my heart heals a bit and my bones rest - because I think for my soul it is going to be much longer.

24 August 2019

Beams of Heaven, As She Goes

Hoyt and Martha Allen, circa 1970.

"I’ve always loved this picture of my parents. The looks of joy and happiness on their faces is what I imagine today. Gentle souls who enjoyed all that life had to offer together. Always together. Beams of heaven, for sure." -Susan Allen Grady

I miss you, Mom. Give Daddy a hug from me.

23 August 2019

And another hot minute passes...

Wild Horses Statue, Providence, RI
Right, so where was I? Ciaragh was back, I was done with GARF, and life was settling down so I could get ready for my inlaws to come for a visit.

Yeah, that didn't happen. Not even close.

For those that don't know, my mom had some sort of major neurological event around the 3rd week of June, and she has not been able to recover completely. She is in hospice care now, and we really don't know what the next step is there.

I'm updating right now from a hotel in Rhode Island because I am attending the RID conference. I had completely let this go to the wayside with everything going on at home. I happened to look at the webi

Nope, let's start again.

This has been the weirdest summer of my entire 47.5 years of life. I sort of feel like I'm in the middle of that groovy statue I got to photograph in Providence - only the horses are real and in motion, and if I don't watch out I'm going to get trampled.

Over the summer, I wasn't watching out, and I was most certainly trampled. Ciaragh was back home, and I was settling into my regular summer routine of freelance interpreting, planning for upcoming faires, and writing as much as I could whenever I could. The final draft of the second Clobberpaws book was starting to sit up and pay attention. The first novel in the Forest Wars saga was being actively edited for the...I don't know, umpteenth time, and was on track for publication at the end of July.

And then, my sister took my mother up to see my dad's grave on what would have been his birthday. And then there was the night about four days later that I was talking to my mother on the phone and she was slurring her words and was very confused. I rang my sister who went over there, spent the night there, and then took Mom to Emory the next day to see the doctor.

From there, she was fast-tracked into the unit that treats stroke patients, only she hadn't had a stroke. There was no evidence at all of a stroke. And then she had a seizure and slept for about five days - as one does when one is 86 and has a massive seizure. Her advance directive said no life-prolonging measures - no feeding tubes, etc. And then she was on the hospice unit for something like three weeks, so because nothing was happening, they discharged her to her home, where she died about two weeks-ish later.

Now, none of that is about me. It's nothing to do with me. But the aftermath is everything to do with me, my sister, and our families. I spent a good day after Mom died wondering if I was an orphan now. Is that something that only applies to children? More time than was probably necessary was devoted to wondering what would happen to my sister and me - we had been texting all day almost every day since that fateful phone call because I am a state away from them. Now that the crisis time was over, would we fade back into our typical roles, only communicating now and then?

So here I am, a month and two days from waking up to a phone call from my sister that Mom had passed in her sleep, and I'm still wondering. Still waiting. Still an orphan - I decided I wanted to own that, so I did. Still struggling to find someone to talk to on long days at home or long car rides when I usually would call Mom. Still not quite able to listen to the stack of voice mails from her still on my phone - recordings that underscore what a neglectful daughter I am for not visiting her more often.

Here I am, with a book about to launch in a week's time, a "First Page Critique" away to the folks running the writer's conference in September that I will be attending (in the hopes that it will be chosen to be anonymously ripped to bits by a panel of literary agents), and a big signing event in the works for November.

Here I am, suddenly winning at being a writer for at least a few minutes, and the number one person I want to tell isn't here. I hope she knows. I hope she is pleased. I hope she is proud.

24 May 2019

My Little Irish Wanderer...and the Aftermath

Well, so it has been a hot minute since I last updated this - or wrote anything if I'm honest, but work and life have not given me a second to breathe, let alone open the laptop.

That little face there is my Ciaragh (Our Cailín Ádh), and she has had a marvelous adventure this week that nearly ended me. She and I were working at the Georgia Renaissance Festival this past Saturday and I completely forgot that there was a cannon shot from the bow of the pirate ship until it went off with us standing right there. She started to vibrate and I tightened up a bit on her leash to make sure she didn't bolt. My wonderful niece was there with my sister and she tried to comfort Ciaragh, but as soon as she moved away and I slacked up the slightest bit on the leash, C saw her chance and bolted. Now, for the initial escape, I was still holding onto the leash, so I spun around and was dragged behind her (through the gravel) until she could dash through the exit. Sadly I did not make the graceful turn through the S-bend of an exit that she did and instead bounced off the large wooden fence that marks the boundary between onstage and offstage.

Two of my group's volunteers and a GARF cast member pursued her as a third volunteer and my sister and niece stayed with me. At first, all I could do was make a primal growly sound because gravel+skin=OW but I was (and am) all right. It took a minute to walk up to my car, but that was where I fully expected folks to be waiting with C.

They were not.

She managed to evade capture for three more full days, and I drove back to the site every one of those days to keep looking for her. Finally, on Tuesday night around midnight, I got a phone call from someone in the area - Ciaragh was on his front porch and could I come get her, please?

Once I got my heart started again, I made some calls and arranged for some folks to go get her and keep her overnight until I could get back on Wednesday. I still don't know how I did not get a speeding ticket on my way to Atlanta that morning, and yesterday (Thursday) we got her into the vet for a checkup - she is fit as a fiddle. An Irish fiddle.

Aftermath: I have helped out with many lost greyhounds in my two decades of having pets in my life as an adult. I have always just gone where I am needed and done what needs to be done, but I have not until now been on this side of the equation. Sure, my greyhounds occasionally got out, but I never had to spend a night without them back home safely - I sent thoughts and prayers to those that did, joined the search, rejoiced in the eventual recovery, but never really got it, until now.

I have ideas percolating (as does hubs) about non-profits that not only look for lost pets but care for the owners of those pets. I had so much love and support that it was overwhelming, especially since I was convinced that Ciaragh's loss was my fault, but when it came to trying to pay for gas to keep searching, tracking teams to bring in, other pet recovery specialists who need money for materials and time - it is an expensive prospect to find your pet if they go missing, and mine was only gone for three days! So, I will let that idea keep rolling around. There has to be something that can be created that will harness the talents of EVERYONE that wanted to help rather than narrowing down the field of helpers to only those affordable options. What if we had not had a breed club behind us to help? I already have some ideas that were born from the search for Ciaragh.

So, enough of me. My girl is back, and she has effectively helped me write the last chapter of her Clobberpaws book, and I'm going to go snuggle her on the couch before I get back to writing. Make sure your pets are chipped and tagged, y'all...and loved.

22 April 2019

Camp Nanowrimo, April 2019

Taking notes like a boss writer
Oh y'all.

Somehow this month's nano has been so hard for me. I mean worse than that time that I wrote for two weeks and then completely changed my WIP and still came out a winner.

Worse than last April when I almost abandoned what I was writing because in the aftermath of my dad's death I just didn't have anything to say. (Disclaimer: if you have read my upcoming Baskervilles debut as a beta reader, then you KNOW that I had nothing worthwhile to say.)

I have a fantastic character who is technically a ghost, and she is the most three dimensional of all the characters in this story. I have a tremendous MC who is darling and unsure and brave and afraid and everything that you want your MC to be so that she is not a Mary Sue. I have two other characters that I have lived with for four and six years, respectively, who should be able to just write themselves at this point. No real effort required.

And yet I always find myself 1-2K words behind my target. I catch up, and then somehow think it's okay to take the next day off. I am trying to be the director of the Hounds of East Fairhaven and perform on the weekends at the Georgia Renaissance Festival, but that is really just like hopping from hot mess to hot mess. Oh, did I mention that my school year at my day job is winding down, and I'm looking at expense reports and future planning and scheduling and all that fun stuff? Yeah, it's a real party around here.

[Here is the file room in my office suite because...well, we have already been over that. Soon here/my office will be the sofa in my sitting room in between bouts of HOLY HOUSE OVERHAUL, BATMAN to be ready for the arrival of some of my British family in July.]

So I have eight more days not counting today to get this manuscript up and moving - two of those days are Renn Fest days, so make that six days. How do you find motivation when the genuine threat that what you're writing is awful looms? This is not a new piece - this is the last in a series, and it has a lot of eyes on it. It's like the metal footfalls of the Cybermen are tromping through my head, trailed by the Daleks, Reavers, the Borg, Control, and the entire bloody Empire - and all I can do is sit and wait for it all to arrive.

If you need me, I will be behind the couch. Writing. Maybe.

11 April 2019


TlhIgan Alphabet
Yeah, some of you didn't need the caption to know what the image is, did you? It's okay if you didn't, I won't tell anyone. The language-loving Trekkie in me recognizes the language-loving Trekkie in you, friend. Qapla'!

I am hereby outing myself as trying to learn Klingon. Yes, that is the language created for one of the fictional races in Star Trek. Yes, it does have a lot to do with the fact that Lt. Commander Worf is one of my favorite characters from Roddenberry's creation. But there are two other reasons, one that should be plain if you know me and one that might not be so plain, but will make sense, again, if you know me.

Reason the First: I love languages. When I was little, I had a book - it was called The Book of Knowledge - and the book had listings of most of the nationalities of the world and their languages, and gave a few sample words in each language. It fascinated me to know how you say "Hello!" in Spanish or "Pardon me," in French. And then there were the languages that did not use the same alphabet that English does - languages that use Cyrillic characters, for example - it was like code! Trying to see similarities that weren't there between those characters and the Latin script that makes up the languages I understand filled my afternoons as a kid. It was a true tragedy that my school system didn't teach languages before high school as so many do today, or I would have taken every single one I could fit into my schedule.

It is no wonder that I do what I do for a living - one of my best memories of the time I have been in my current job was a day that my co-interpreter and I were watching music videos in American Sign Language on YouTube and being just overcome with the choices the performer was making. We were out of our first language altogether and just allowing the beauty of our second language to live and breathe on the screen and then on our own hands as we tried to recreate what he had done first - the efficiency of his sign choices and the beauty of the meaning that he conveyed was just more than I could take. ASL to me is like magic - linear language becoming three dimensional and alive.

Who is surprised? No one, I'm sure.

Reason the Second: I am a very mousy person. Very few people have experienced truly ANGRY me who is so ANGRY that she expresses that ANGER. I am introverted and shy, and I hate that about myself because it seems that it is NOT THE RIGHT WAY TO BE, according to most of the people in my life. I am more expressive in ASL than I am in English, oddly enough, because ASL lends itself well to that sort of communication. There is no whispering in a visual language.

Klingon is harsh. It is a gutteral language. It is loud. There aren't words for Hello or please or thank you. I still won't speak it out loud unless I am asked how to say a particular word. It is a language whose culture is completely opposite of who I am every day, and I love that. But y'all, the best thing that has happened since I started this process has been the ability to understand some of the Klingon used on the different programs in the Star Trek world.

This new understanding of aggressiveness and harshness is helping me with some of the races that I have created in my novels - and it is helping me create languages for those races. While Sath may seem like a pussy cat, he has another side to him that is more rough and animalistic, yet developed - that is how Qatu'anari should be, and to date, it isn't really. Maybe the Klingon will help me with that, as well as with other races that live on the Dark Side of the World that has yet to be discovered, or with D'leesh spoken by the dark elves, or even Eldyr. This makes my heart so happy.

Conclusion: Am I nerdy? Oh, no question. Most definitely.

Will I be able to fire back at you in Klingon when you call me a nerd, with that derogatory tone in your voice? 'oH net poQbej Har SoH!

02 April 2019

Here I go again, on my own...

It's another Camp Nano, y'all, and I'm heading out into the metaphorical wilderness with my shiny copy of Scrivener for organization (that I'm not supposed to be doing but since I'm already a panster here we are) and my tried and true Google Docs for actual writing. This month's foray into madness is the next (and probably last, really) in the Clobberpaws series, and is about our Ciaragh. More wordcounts and general angst can be found over on my Twitter page, but for now, I'm still sorting out the already planned material (which is none) and working on the first chapters (always the hardest).

This will also include a special character, Roxanne, whose mom won the right to have her Bridge Angel included by winning an auction. The funds raised support the Greyhound Health Initiative, and I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. So far I am loving getting to know Roxanne through her mom and working her into the story. So much fun! Clicking on the picture above will take you to a page where you can follow my wordcount progress if you are so inclined.

In the meantime, an admission:  Yeah, I stole the title from S4Ep10 of the Magicians, "All That Hard, Glossy Armor," or, as our DVR explained, "Margot hits her step count." No spoilers but HOLY MOLY that was another amazing musical episode and I only love this show more.

 Speaking of which...