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

Qet!

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...


23 March 2019

Ongoing Scrivener Saga

So after many hours of struggling with my own lack of patience, I finally cracked the code and got my enormous work in progress into Scrivener. Seems that two things were working against me: 1. My laptop was trying to run the program in a compatibility mode with Windows 8, which -much like Windows Vista - was really pretty and about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. 2. Scrivener is a multi-faceted program that takes a file and manipulates it into several different formats, so when you have a HUGE file like the manuscript I was importing it's going to take awhile.

By 'awhile' I mean ten minutes. I timed it. From clicking on 'open' in the import dialog box to the title page appearing on my screen it took ten solid minutes. The fact that I thought to time it is a completely different issue.

This is a good time for me to admit that I had an idea about what Scrivener would do, based on my use of the program for a screenplay several years ago. I had taken a manuscript then and used the formatting in Scrivener to set it up properly for a screenplay. I remembered simply cutting and pasting and poof! Screenplay!

First, I was missing a few steps in between the cut/paste and poof. So when I put my 143,000+ word manuscript into the Scrivener software I spent a few good long minutes looking for the POOF button. What I found instead was a fantastic tutorial that I watched and I did the steps along with it. The result was not a poof, but an almighty 'oh, that's how it works' that was almost as satisfying as the poof I erroneously remembered.

Second, the keyboard shortcut to "split" the huge behemoth into smaller chunks (chapters) was an amazing find. When you have more than 50 chapters, finding anything that speeds up your work is a huge plus. It went on from there - the corkboard, the ability to move chapters around, the outline contained on index cards - and I am sold.

The only thing left is that I feel a bit like I am stepping out on Google Drive. I did find this wonderful article that explained how to sync up my Scrivener data with Drive so that I can work on more than one machine and have a backup that I trust. So I guess I'm not completely leaving Google Drive behind - it is still my weapon of choice for beta reading and editing. And the current work in progress was 3/4 written in Google Drive, but I'm going to work on it in Scrivener and see what the difference will look like. I'm also going to do April's CampNanoWrimo in Scrivener so we will see how it goes starting from scratch.

The saga continues - just as I was getting excited about working on my novel from my phone. Stay tuned.

22 March 2019

Crawling back out of the rabbit hole...

First, let me say that if that image there was my rabbit hole I would never come back out. Ever.

Right, so back to the topic at hand - rabbit holes. I am using this term not to describe an underground warren, but a distraction one encounters while trying to be productive. For me, social media is a big rabbit hole that I try to avoid while working on my current round of edits. But today I encountered an even bigger and deeper hole - Scrivener.

*Quick disclaimer: I am not in any way financially supported by Literature and Latte, the company that makes Scrivener. I also hold no grudge - if anything, I desperately want it to work because I feel like it would improve the quality of my work, if only it would behave itself and start working for me.*

I used Scrivener a few years ago after a Nanowrimo win that led to a discount on the software. I downloaded it and used it during a Script Frenzy - the Office of Letters and Light's now-defunct scriptwriting month - and loved it, but never went back to it because, at the time, I wrote with Word. I still think about going back to that big white 'W' on the blue now and then, just because I used it for so long and understand how it works.

A beta reader and editor suggested that I write in Google Docs after working through edits in between Google and Word and finding Google to be easier. I was already saving my work in that cloud after losing half a manuscript to a bad hard drive, so it was not a huge leap to writing in GDocs. I write everything there now and love it. I even spent an hour today learning how to compare versions of documents! So when voices that I trust from the other rabbit hole, Twitter, suggested Scrivener, I decided to give it a try. After all, I have a 143k word document that needs to be divided into three novels so that I can see where I need to add more meat on the bones and I'm SO VERY TIRED of holding the button on the touchpad while it highlights half my manuscript.

So now I find myself in a new diversion - four hours of my life given to uninstalling and installing Scrivener, watching tutorials, waiting for the program to open (5 minutes) and to import a .doc (10 minutes, I wish I was kidding), and I just don't see the point. The latest version of Windows mentioned in their help files is Windows 8, and I'm on 10. Maybe it was just not meant to be.

Sadly, I'm too stubborn for that and it's back to the Scrivener Rabbit Hole for me. Ugh.

11 March 2019

On Daylight Savings Time and Writing Workshops ...

I hates it, precious. I HATES IT!

For the record, it isn't Daylight Savings Time I necessarily hate. It is the tampering with time, both forward and back, that I hate. I especially hate it when it causes my alarm clock goes off at a time that my body thinks is TOO EARLY. (Though let's be honest here - it is always too early. I hate mornings, I am 100% certain about that.)

This year, DST had to come on a Sunday after I have travelled a considerable distance from home alone in my car on Saturday and was exhausted well before the time the great invisible THEY took an hour away from me and my sleep. So it was not going to be a good day, that was a given.

I remember being a kid and having to go to church on Sundays when it turned DST. Not my finest moments, and I should probably apologize to my mother RIGHT NOW for what I'm certain was a fantastic temper tantrum - but the worst, without a doubt, was when DST fell on Sundays that happened to be EASTER Sundays. There is nothing worse, in my estimation, than having to get up to go to a sunrise service that does not actually include sunrise because someone thought that we didn't need all the hours that Sunday and held one of them back. Is it any wonder I once snuck away from the service and instead tried to find a way to help the United Methodist Men work on the pancake breakfast in the church fellowship hall? Clearly, I was trying to save the rest of the congregation from the aforementioned tantrums. Sadly, I was the only one that saw it that way.

Before an hour of my life was stolen, however, I attended the Writing Day Workshops Atlanta Writing Workshop. This was my first professional writer event, and I was a hot mess going into it. But there was so much information presented that I had a blister on my finger from taking notes by the end of the second workshop. I came away with some important information that did not end up in my notebook - it is okay to be self-published. In fact, one of the writers that taught on Saturday started out traditionally published is now doing both, each for a different genre, and it works.

Something that people have been telling me for ages cemented in my mind on Saturday: All you have to do to be a writer is write. You don't have to publish, even. Just write. Enjoy the craft of writing. That's it! I went, ready to be intimidated by my fellow workshop goers and to some extent, I still was - but I also experienced the same feeling I have at interpreting workshops, of being with 'my tribe' and in the company of others who get me. Now if only I could find a fellow fantasy writer that is also a visual language interpreter and I think my life would be complete!

I also have more confidence to query and pitch and think that I have a pitch ready for the first book in the upcoming Baskervilles series...I just need to finish the manuscript first. I had some time to think over lunch, and while I still have a fairly robust publishing calendar for the Orana Chronicles books I'm going to work in some time to polish up the Baskervilles. It would be a good experience to pitch that one because while I love the story and the characters it is not my baby, if you will, like the Orana Chronicles. We will see how that goes.

For now, though, I'm reading over my notes, planning a potential thriller or suspense novel as a one off just to see if I can pull it off, and generally longing for a nap. Happy Monday, y'all. Happy Monday indeed.

04 February 2019

On staves, poi, flow, and damaged elbows...

[The image here is the effect created by someone spinning fire poi. Poi, in this sense, is a Maori word meaning "ball on string," and is combined with dance to make flow art. Before you grow concerned, none of my poi have ever been on fire, nor will they be anytime soon.]

Yesterday I attended a...skill share? Jam session? etc for people that are interested in flow arts/dancing with props. We worked with staves/staffs on various tricks that people knew. It was a great time - with the exception of my elbow.

To catch you up, I have tendonitis in my right elbow, most likely brought on by a semester of tactile interpreting in very odd classroom setups. While it is MUCH better than it was, I still have flare-ups of pain from my fingertips up to my elbow on that side - making my job SO MUCH FUN. I have an elbow brace that I wear and I take anti-inflammatory meds as needed. Easy. I was seeing improvement - until yesterday when I apparently forgot everything I know about taking it easy and carefully working my way back up to staff work.

Because the other likely culprit for my elbow issue is my age - the last time I spun a staff-like flag on a regular basis I was 17 years old. Apparently, your tendons become less stretchy after you pass the age of 40, which is seven years in my rearview at this point. Yesterday I didn't stop until my shoulders and wrists and all in-between were making their presence known, and last night I think I slept about 2-3 hours all total due to waking up with a dull ache in my arm over and over.

Well, learned my lesson, didn't I? Won't be doing that again, right?

Poi class starts this week at 8:30 on Thursdays. Since I already have experience with poi I can take it more slowly than I did with the staff yesterday, and I am certain the weight of the staff was harder on my arm than the poi will be. And if it isn't, I will sit out and watch for a while. But y'all, I am stooooopid excited about getting back to poi. It is meditative for me, and makes my heart happy.

Here's hoping it will make my elbow happy as well.