11 December 2018

Further thoughts on the past few days


So a few more things have come to mind since I am now back in my warm office and sipping HOT cider. Like a first-worlder. Like a person who lives in the wealthier part of my town and got their power restored first while Simon and I waited and shivered.

Wow, that escalated fast. For anyone concerned that I was just having a bit of a lie in on Monday or that I decided that I just didn't want to turn up this morning - have a look at that picture and then remember that I drive a Honda Fit. We got a bit stuck when we dropped the girls off this morning and - small car FTW - Simon was able to push me off of the snow drift I'd become stuck on because I drive a matchbox car. That was my street on Sunday afternoon I think.

So things we learned:

  • It doesn't matter how many days you have been snowed in/without power, you will continue to try to turn on the lights in your bathroom because it doesn't have a window and it's dark in there.
  • Dogs handle adversity much better than humans.
  • You cannot use a generator that is less than $300 ish to provide heat to your house because they can't manage more than 6.5 amps.
  • If you wait till the day after Snowmaggedon, no one in Greenville will have generators, propane heaters, or, more importantly, propane.
  • Harbor freight sells fantastic flashlights.
Okay, now I think I'm finished...unless Duke Energy misses the deadline tonight.




How to avoid Whamhalla and other Holiday Fun

What do you mean we have to leave this warm house? - Ciaragh
Oh, y'all. It has been a DAY already, and it isn't even 1pm yet (almost, though). Let me just recap the past few days for you, my Lettuce Readers.

Last week we heard that there was snow moving into the area over the weekend. Yucky and cold and wet Saturday, snow and sleet on Sunday, and moving away by Monday. Great! Now, normally I like a snow day as much as anyone else does, but not this week. This is final exams week at work and that is a schedule that shall not be interrupted.

For those that weren't sure, that was the point at which Mother Nature asked the southeast to hold her adult beverage.  Sure enough, the cold/wet/freezing happened on Saturday and snow overnight Saturday/into Sunday. What also happened was that at 5am on Sunday morning, Simon woke me up to tell me the power had gone out.

If you were not raised in the South or you haven't lived here long, what happens here rather than a "snow event" is an ice storm, where layers and layers of ice coat everything that it can find - including trees and power lines. (Do NOT get me started on a country as rich as the US that can't seem to understand the UNIVERSAL benefit of burying power lines.) So anyway, the freezing rain and sleet make ice that coats the trees and causes them to bend and sometimes break. It also coats the power lines and poles, making them so heavy that they too sometimes bend and break. If you can avoid that horrific combination, watch out for the ground which will also be covered with - you guessed it, ICE. That makes walking and driving very dangerous.

Let me just take a moment here to ask those that want to make fun of southerners for not being able to "drive in the snow." Just shut it, okay? This is not the snow you are accustomed to - I can drive in that, and did when I lived in West Virginia. This is trying to drive on a sheet of ice that is masquerading as a road. It is very dangerous and while most of us down here are taught to drive on it safely back in driver's ed, we are also taught that it is smarter and safer not to attempt it at all.

Right. So anyway, back to me.

5am Sunday, the power goes out. By 5:19am on Sunday I have reported the outage to Duke Energy. I got back a canned response that they were assessing damage. Groovy. Tuck in the duvet and try to go back to sleep. By 3pm Sunday when it was getting a little chilly in the house, I checked the webpage for Duke Energy again. The little triangle by our street still said Assessing Damage an hour prior while another similar one about two streets over said On Site. But this time, the one a few streets over said On Site still and ours said Enroute. Fantastic! This is the service we are paying so much to have.

Well, not so much. Nothing happened by 4pm, or by 8pm Sunday. We were still not freezing but it was getting uncomfortable, so we decided to go to bed around 10. I checked a few more times before I fell asleep and nothing. It was still Enroute. From where? Roanoke?

On Monday I called into work and Simon and I decided to formulate a plan - buy a non-electric heater or a small generator and a small heater to get warm - buy a camp stove so that we can have coffee and warm food. Surely when we decide to do something like that, the power will come on, right?

Not hardly. It was still Enroute until late last night when they sent another text message that said that it would be fixed by 11pm tonight. So we did what any normal people would do - we gave up on the generator and heater and crashed at a friend's house.

But what did we learn - and are still learning, because I'm not expecting that power to be back on until 11pm on the dot - from this experience? Several things.

  1. We are keeping the camp stove even though we did not use it. Just the thought that we could make tea in a pot on that little stove brought spirits up.
  2. We have amazing and wonderful friends. Callie brought us THE BEST pumpkin oatmeal I have ever tasted in my life along with some coffee from Starbucks yesterday morning. I could have floated up to the shops after that. Anne and Damien let us sleep in their guest room last night, along with our rowdy and ridiculous girls (who think they are on the vacation of a lifetime right now). Last but most DEFINITELY not least, Robin and Laze are keeping our girls today so that they didn't have to be tucked into their crates in a cold house while we went to work. And all of the FB messenger and text messages that I am still getting asking after us are so welcome and appreciated. It is easy to think you are literally alone out in the cold when you have no electricity or heat in December. We are not.
  3. We have so much more than we need and are far better off than so many. Sure, it was cold, but we have a roof and lots of clothes to pile on and blankets. So many folks affected by this cold have none of those things and it truly gives me pause when I complain.
So if you were affected by Winter Storm Diego (Carmen San's wayward brother), I'm thinking of you and holding you close and hoping that you have power and heat...and that you aren't staring down the total cleaning out of a refrigerator and freezer. Ick. But I haven't heard the Wham song, and I am in my warm office with heat and internet so this holiday season may get on track sooner rather than later. I just hope it isn't sooner that our power coming back on...

04 December 2018

In which my inner language geek speaks...

GEEK spelled in British Sign Language.

People ask me all the time why I do what I do - lately, my answer is to carefully shrug my shoulders whilst trying NOT to reinjure my right elbow or smack my right hand against anything - but the answer, if I'm honest, is language, or languages. I did not go into interpreting because I have a need to help people. I did not go into interpreting out of some need for social justice or a desire to work in a disability-related field. I don't see Deaf/HOH people as needing help or as a disability community - I see them as a language minority. I went into my current field because it means I get to work in my second language every day - to the point that I think, dream, and even speak verbally in ASL (take a moment and feel sorry for my husband, won't you?).

Well, today I had a moment when I just got all giddy and, since interpreting tends to be solo work for the most part, I had no one to share it with that would understand it. I was watching some British Sign Language videos on YouTube in the name of professional development and I had just watched a video showing how to sign 'meeting' in BSL - and I got it. I don't mean I could see and understand the sign and then reproduce it. I mean I looked at it and due to my knowledge of ASL, I could understand WHY that was the sign for 'meeting.'

Last week, hubs and I had a discussion about why it is harder for some people to learn a second (and third and so on) language than it is for others. I likened it to the reason why it is hard, at times, for Deaf/HOH kids in school to learn English without a firm foundation in ASL first. If I had not had such a good education in not only vernacular spoken (American) English, I would not have been able to understand ASL to the point that I could then extrapolate that onto BSL and that video. You cannot learn a second language if your first language isn't strong enough to form comparisons and, to use my favorite metaphor, hooks. You can't learn ASL without a strong foundation in English, for example, to hook that new set of grammar rules and vocabulary to what you already know.

For people who say that isn't true, and that as long as you have a rudimentary understanding of your native or first language you can always learn a second language through study and repetition, sure, you can I suppose. But think of it this way: I never had a good grasp of mathematics. Never. I mean I can't even do the four basic functions without having to get a calculator to check my answers. I have no confidence in my own ability in that subject. I have no solid foundation in maths, so when I went to hook my new level of maths (Algebra and the like) into what I already knew, the hook fell. The foundation wasn't solid enough to hold it.

But my borderline obsessive love for learning languages has come from the fact that growing up I not only knew that you say 'I was going to the store' but also that it is not acceptable to say 'I were going to the store' and why. Miss Pritchett and Madam Gring-Whitley would be proud to know that they were right - I hated those verb conjugation sheets, but they helped me understand why you must change the form of the verb in order for the time component of your message to make sense. It helps me now when I remember to add the sign that indicates when the verb is happening, has happened, or will happen - so that I am clearly understood.

So back to the BSL video - it was because I know the ASL signs/classifiers for a person, the concept of 'meet' and 'meeting' and because I know what the word meeting can mean in English, that this sign made perfect sense to me:


That is building on your foundation. That is what made my inner language geek so very happy. I love it when I come across things like that and often don't make that connection until afterward but man. That is why I do what I do. THAT RIGHT THERE.

14 November 2018

Well, that escalated quickly.

[Disclaimer: Nothing like that, no books were harmed in the making of this post. It's just that my nano has taken off again, rather like a house - or, in this case, book - on fire. Book burning is still awful and closed-minded and useless. Don't do it. Read. There we go.]

So for a few days, I was stuck - horribly stuck - at best, my nano word count was falling behind. At worst, I had lost my voice as a novelist and all of Orana had abandoned me. Same thing, really, if you throw a panic attack in the middle over a poorly elbow in your dominant hand when both of the things that define you (interpreting and writing) involve the pain-free movement of your right hand and arm.

I did what any rational adult in my shoes staring at a blank page would do - I hit the panic button and freaked WAY the heck out for a little while, and then I started thinking about my support system as a writer. You may think that we sit at our IKEA desks all alone in our writing sheds, surrounded by lovely greenery and sipping a mug of tea as the ideas just flow out of our heads into our novels, but I am here to tell you this: if that is the truth, I'm not sure what it is that I am doing because it involves sitting on my worn leather couch, laptop on my knees, wolfhounds clambering about on clobberpaws and crying. Lots of crying. Anyway!

I have recently gotten to know someone that I'm fairly certain I already knew from another time in my life - a fellow novelist who attended the same college I did in the mountains of northern Georgia. So after all the crying and panicking, I sent him a simple text that said that I was struggling to find an antagonist and that my protagonist was stuck, sitting on a horse in the Outlands and watching someone ride toward her. For two days, I literally did not know who it was that was riding toward her. His responses led me to my antagonist, and to the rider who is merely the catalyst for the main story arc. Since then, I have written more than 10,000 words, and even though I am not at my daily wordcount target it is in sight. I still am not sure what the antagonist's story is, but at least I'm back heading in the right direction.

So writers, lean on each other. It doesn't mean that you don't know how to write or that you are a phony (impostor syndrome, anyone?), it means that you are using the community we find among like-minded individuals. You are doing the work, and you do not have to do it alone. Now, get your characters off those lonely roads and into some good plot points!

12 November 2018

It isn't writer's block, it's writer's uncooperative neighborhood.

You know that feeling when you have started another Nanowrimo and you're cruising along and your story is basically WRITING ITSELF and... Wait, no? Yeah, me either.

It has been going relatively well until I was sidelined by an outrageously strained elbow over the weekend (it's a thing, y'all, and I'm almost certain it came courtesy of my day job but moving on...). I'm now 4,000 words behind the target for today, but that's not the worst of my troubles.

THERE ARE NO BAD GUYS IN THIS STORY SO FAR. No bad hombres. No tortured and vengence-seeking souls. So far there are three characters. Let's not dwell on the fact that I've written 16k plus words with only three characters, shall we - FIND MY VILLIAN!  While this sort of pantsing - a nanowrimo term for writing by the seat of your pants, with no outline or anything - is fairly normal for me, this is the first time that I haven't been able to come up with any sort of climactic plot point...so I'm scared, really scared.

Okay, not really. Maybe a little. My point here, though, my Brave Lettuce Readers, is to heed the words of your English teachers (or, in my case, my mother) and DO THE WORK - in this case, an outline ahead of time. My main character has been begging for an origin story since before Wanderer so I give it to her and what does she do? Wander around in the Outlands on her magical horse and THINK DEEP THOUGHTS.

I'm telling you what, if she doesn't stumble into something awful soon I'm gonna have to start killing off characters, and since I only have three - three and a half, actually, since one is only writing letters - it isn't going to be pretty.

Are you working on a nano this month? How's it going? I'd love to hear about your projects in the comments - maybe that would help me kick her in her robes and get this story going.

01 November 2018

Well, here we are again.

In my Facebook feed this morning was a list of "memories," things that I posted on Facebook on November 1st all the way back to 2008. Apparently, since 2010 when I discovered this sickness addiction wonderful program, I have been posting that I'm starting a new project every November first.

Dull FB status. Exciting and potentially life-changing real life. For once I am not working on a revision or sequel or prequel related to the Orana Chronicles or Clobberpaws/Proud Racer. I know that I said that Clobberpaws 2 would be this year's Nano but I just can't make it a daily project. Daisy has been gone for almost two years now, but it's still too raw and the last book had her in it and - you know what? It doesn't matter why, really. It is happening, and more will happen with it after the first of the year, and that's what needs to be said about that.

Nope, this year's Nano is another attempt at something that doesn't exist in a fantasy world or have talking animals. Boy, that's one heck of a description of my writing, huh? Nancy Dunne, you say? Oh, yes, she writes about dogs and cats that talk and elves. You know, no big deal.

Boy, I hope no one is really saying that about me as a writer. Anyway, moving on...

This year's Nano is a crime novel first and foremost. I've tried that before and failed miserably. But try, try again, as they say. Because it's me as a writer, there will be supernatural characters. Because it's me as a person, it's set in a theatre and there are both Deaf and hearing characters - though that part may fall through because I'm nervous about portraying genuine Deaf characters. The theatre part will hold, though. It's going to be a play within a play, like one of my favorite One-Act Plays, The Real Inspector Hound. Watch this space. I'm sure that it will get weird before it's over.




29 October 2018

(Not actually on the) Bus Poetry v4

Dismantled

Piece by piece
I'm taken apart
The sum of my parts
Weighed. Measured. Found wanting.
Not enough
Never enough
The parts don't matter
Until they add up to respect
The sum of the parts is a colleague, an equal.
The sum of the parts commands respect.
I'm being dismantled.
First go the desks and then the walls
The shelves and the drawers
The kettle
The tea towel
All taken apart
Because they were never enough
I am never enough
Before I am even dismantled.

24 October 2018

Pre Nano Freak Out

So there are always loads of voices in my head, pulling me in different directions and begging me to tell their stories. Seriously. Being a writer should carry a DSM diagnosis some days because I'm honestly not always sure that all these voices are coming from me. Gin would say that she is the loudest, with Sath a close second - but then there are the Proud Racers and the Clobberpaws and the Baskervilles and, and, and... It gets a little out of control in there.

Autumn is here and finally the weather is cooperating - I have worn a scarf to work all three days so far this week! With fall comes another opportunity for sleep deprivation and fast food/coffee binging: NaNoWriMo. Long-time Lettuce Readers know that I have been a nano fanatic since my first foray into 50K in 30 days way back in 2010. Don't tell Gin, but it probably does mean that her voice is the loudest - she was there in 2010 and has been for all my nano "wins" in the eight years since.

This time I had planned to focus my nano-ing on the second in my Clobberpaws series - now that we have both Willow and another Irish Wolfhound, Ciaragh, it just seems right - but that story is moving more in spurts than the slow, steady chaos that marks my other projects. I had just about decided to return to Orana next month, focusing on a backstory novella for a character - Tairn is jumping up and down and waving her hands madly, as are Elys and Hack - when an idea popped into my head during a class I was interpreting yesterday. Without disclosing too much, this project is my exploration of meta - a play being performed that mirrors a real live event happening to the players - and because it is me you KNOW there will be supernatural something or another involved.

By the end of my lunch hour (aka sanctioned noveling time at the workplace), I had a plot outline, a cast of 11 characters, and an older piece of work that I could insert as a prelude or prologue for this... this... whateveritis. There are actors and Deaf characters and interpreters. So, away we go with the normal "Pre Nano Freak Out" which seems to be morphing into a "Pre Nano Planning Session."

Y'all - there are bulleted lists and reference materials, and this is not about Orana or elves or anything like that. Who am I?

(Shut it, Gin.)

11 October 2018

Slow Gin

My concept drawing of my character, Ginolwenye, from the Nature Walker Trilogy.
[Disclaimer - wannabe authorly post ahead. Read at your own risk.]

It seems that I am constantly in edits. The first part of the Nature Walker Trilogy, Wanderer, took me fourteen years to write. Now, mind you that was not fourteen years of writing every day or anything crazy like that. It was fourteen years of write for a while, put the manuscript away for a while, take it back out and fall back in love with Sath and Gin for a while, rinse, repeat. This face, rendered via Adobe Fuse CC, was always in my mind just like that, with that expectant look on her usually freckled face. She is still in my mind, almost constantly, repeating her mantra:

You aren't done yet.
Finish my story. 
Get the manuscript back out.
Sath and I miss you.

I always do as she asks, being the ever obedient author and alter ego. Even when I was working on other things (Proud Racer, Clobberpaws, and The Baskervilles-coming soon - just to name a few) or not even close to a Nano month of any sort, she was always there - I don't want to say nagging, because that's negative, but yeah, she was nagging. She's still there, wondering what is taking me so long.

A funny thing happened in the more recent years, though - thanks to a beta reader of mine who carried on his own nagging campaign. He said that he wasn't buying how I was writing Gin. He said that after everything she had been through, to come out the other side still bowing and scraping and apologizing seemed inconsistent. I raged against that feedback for a long time. Fought it. Ignored it. But he kept on me about it, and as much as I hate to ever admit it, he was right.

I've come back to thinking about all of that in light of the recent political climate and the #metoo movement. At first, I was afraid that I should put a trigger warning for domestic abuse on the books because there are bits in there that are tough for ME to read, and I wrote them. No, said my Wise Beta Reader, people need to see that she was in those places and experienced those things and came out of it with her dignity and her mercy still intact. She came out with a better sense of who she was - what is more inspirational than that? She is an example of a woman that was bent to the point of breaking - but who never broke.

That isn't who she was initially. It was a long time before she stopped quaking in fear at every stern expression or jumping out of her skin at loud noises (like Qatu knuckles cracking). She would burst into tears at the drop of a hat as much as she would the drop of a weapon. Be glad that he convinced me that she needed to show the strength that she had - I'm not sure she would be worth reading otherwise.

More importantly, though, it was through those conversations that I realized it wasn't only Gin who needed to be stronger, and tougher, and more authentic. That isn't who I was - or who I am, depending on the day, if I'm honest. But again, without knowing it, Wise Beta Reader was right - Gin is who I want to be, and who I'm sure many others in my situation want to be as well, and I hope she resonates with them as much as she does with me. Everyone's situation is different, obviously, but if Gin can give someone the strength to just take one step at a time in the direction of safety, then she is doing the work - I am doing the work.

I also hope that this doesn't make Wise Beta Reader turn into Full Of Himself Beta Reader, but you never know. I suppose he has earned it. 

09 October 2018

Impostor Syndrome, la maladie du jour.

What?!?
So with my last post, I covered some pretty heavy topics and unpleasant truth, and this time is no different, really. Last time I still had faith in my country and my senators to do the right thing. No, I didn't, that's a lie. Last time I still thought that maybe enough of the people elected to represent us would want to represent us and listen to us. No, again, that is a lie.

Let me start again. This time I'm going to talk a little bit about something that I face on a regular basis, in all facets of my life - sometimes with a bit of help from colleagues and co-workers that I am positive are not doing it on purpose. I didn't cross that out, but it's still not 100% true.

I found an email today with an excellent article on impostor syndrome in academia from the Chronicle of Higher Education, linked here. While this article specifically speaks to academia and even more specifically to the faculty that work in this field, I found some points that were salient to my own life, both my professional life (as a nationally certified sign language interpreter) and my avocation (a novelist or an author or whatever you want to call me - well, not whatever you want, that could get a little ugly). 

You see, I am really good friends with Impostor Syndrome. I'm sitting here right now - having finished working hard to get my software ready to provide real-time captioning in a class on campus and arrived at said class to find no one there and nothing in my email about why - worried that because I decided to use the time I should be typing 
Female Student: [cannot hear him/her] 
into my software I am blogging, I will be seen as a fraud and fired. Rational Adult Nancy thinks that is ridiculous. But there is another me living in my mind that not only does not share that opinion but spends a great part of our conscious hours working on plans B-Q for what we will do when we are found out to be the fraud we are.

On any given day, I know that what I do for a living isn't easy.  It doesn't matter that I have been actively thinking in and about a visual and spatial language since I was about 12 years old. It doesn't matter that I love languages so much that I fell in love with the process of working between two languages and can't crawl back out. It doesn't matter that I have a Bachelor's degree in American Sign Language/English interpreting from a top university in that field of study - the first one to offer said degree, if I am not mistaken (Hello Maryville College! Go Scots!) - and I was nationally certified as a transliterator (spoken English to a signed form of English) and interpreter (spoken English to ASL) by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. in 1997 and 1999, respectively. It doesn't matter that I have interpreted for celebrities, politicians, authors, Broadways shows, and for students attending Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK.

None of that seems to be enough to make me feel confident about who I am and what I do. Currently, I'm sure that the fact that I am the only one in my family of origin without an advanced degree (my father had two of them!) doesn't help. When you're surrounded by grad students and people with all sorts of alphabet soup following their names and all you have is BA, CI/CT to show for it, you can feel pretty less than. But the author of the article I linked above had a great bit of insight into that part of the syndrome:
Learn to see yourself in context. If you feel like an impostor because you don’t know or can’t do a particular thing, think about that thing. Is that skill or content crucial? If so, can you acquire it? Not because you want to belong but because it may make you more effective or productive. And if it doesn’t actually matter, think about why it is that others have it and you don’t (assuming you really don’t and aren’t just being hard on yourself or inflating other people’s capabilities). Maybe there are real and good reasons why that wasn’t part of your background or education.
I don't want a master's in interpreting. I don't see the point in it, to be honest. I learn on the job, every day. I go to workshops. I study other signed languages. But then I see someone sign something so perfectly, so succinctly, with so much meaning packed into such an economy of movement and handshape and I just want to turn in my letter of resignation and go home.

But I don't do that. Of course I don't. Not even when - on various occasions, from the beginning of my career to present - colleagues that either don't sign at all or don't sign well enough to interpret or aren't really even sure what it is I do try to make decisions for me about my work. I should be incensed! I should be furious! I should stand up for me and what I know!

Instead, I scuttle back into my place in the universe and wait for the inevitable revealing of me as a fraud. Writing has done nothing to help this syndrome, either - if anything, it has made it so much worse. I give my manuscripts to my beta readers, breath held, heart rate on par with a disco beat - and I fully expect that they will look at what I have done and know that I am not a real author. My sentences are run-ons and full of too many ellipses and dashes. My characters are stock, storylines/plot so ridden with outdated tropes that you almost don't have to read them to know where they are going. My dialogue swings madly from stilted to entirely too much in the vernacular of both South Carolina and West Yorkshire that it makes no sense to anyone.

And while we're at it - international expat? Ha. You lived there two years, and you let the death of your pets in the first two months color the entirety of your life in the UK. You're no expat. You're just a frightened child. You're a fraud.

WOW, who let her out? The author of the article goes on to mention a specific piece of advice that I am trying to follow in my daily life - something that would be hard even without the aforementioned voice screaming in the back of my head. (Interesting side note: to those that have read my fantasy series, this is where the idea for how Ben communicates with Gin came from: THIS RIGHT HERE.)
Stay concrete. Impostor syndrome feeds off vagaries and generalities. "I’m not good/smart/charismatic/funny/self-assured enough." What’s enough? Who is all of those things? What is "good" anyway?
What happened politically in the US this weekend has cranked up the volume on the impostor syndrome, let me tell you. Remember the woman I mentioned last week? All of those feelings, all of those experiences - they not only lead to a strapping case of this syndrome but they help feed it and make it worse. Everything from why would you think anyone would listen to you to the ever present you must be remembering it wrong because why would anyone want to do that to YOU?

All this to say I don't have an answer for this yet. I haven't found a magic pill that will take these feelings away and silence that inner voice that delights in waiting until I'm about to fall asleep to remind me of all the reasons I'm going to be found out very soon. But I'm still looking, and in the mean time I'm trying to keep her as far as I can in the background.

01 October 2018

...must be Monday...

As found on FB, original artist Courtney Privett.
Man. Are you guys tired? I'm exhausted.

I'm not just exhausted because I didn't sleep well or I was out all weekend because neither of those things is true.

I'm exhausted because #metoo and #whyIdidntreport and all that. I'm exhausted because I've been in a state of hypervigilance since about last Tuesday. I'm exhausted because I simultaneously NEED to do something for all the others who don't feel heard and can't bring myself to speak up.

I am still not able to speak up and share. One day, maybe.

I want to share a story, though, that I heard recently that has restored some of my faith in mankind - and yes, I used that term deliberately. There was once a girl that was a freshman in college (I have her permission to share here, before anyone asks) who had been sexually assaulted in high school by a boy that she really, really liked. In the course of that rape, she managed to get her hands free and she punched him in the diaphragm to get him off of her. Even though he had held her down and threatened her with the knowledge that he had a gun under his bed, he was angry that she had punched him and knocked the wind out of him.

She carried that experience around through the second half of her senior year of high school. She went to the prom with the same boy because she was all but certain that she had done something wrong, and if she was just nicer to him he would like her back. At prom, he tried again by enticing her to come back to his house. She said no and that was that. He left, and again she felt she had made the wrong decision. The first memory was now joined with the second one - and notes started arriving in her locker from other boys that she knew, asking her to meet them in the parking lot for a quickie between classes or if she would meet them under the bleachers where it was private. She wasn't sure what to make of these advances - on the one hand, it was attention that she had never gotten from these guys in the past. But on the other hand, she wondered if it was just for sex and not any sort of relationship, so in the end she turned them down. An image of a piece of paper is still burned in her brain that said "But that's what I heard you do."

Heard from whom? What did she do? Graduation led to a summer camp job. The job led to a very wobbly start to a potential relationship with a fellow staff member. But she was still carrying that shame and her unerring conviction that she had caused the cascade of events of the second half of her senior year. She started uni that fall and the wobbly relationship steadied a bit, until one unfortunate evening when things were going well with her new beau and he happened to grab her wrists a bit too hard - absolutely and totally by accident, she is certain and since I know the beau in question I'm certain she's right - and she freaked out. That relationship wobbled to a pause, and later, still at uni, she happened to fall in with a long time male friend and wobbled off in another direction.

Still with me? Here's the faith-restoring part.

She and the longtime friend became unexpectedly - romantically? Intimately? Involved, on some level, and one night they happened to fall into a conversation about past experiences during said involvement. She loved that friend and trusted him so much that she shared with him not only the original experience but the reaction of the new beau from the summer job, expecting that he would follow suit and that would be that. But he didn't. Tears fill her eyes as she recounts this every time, but through his own tears he was so tender and careful with her - as he put an immediate stop to anything going on so that he could just listen to her. She came away not feeling shamed or wrong, but HEARD. BELIEVED

They are still friends to this day, and she tells me that one day she will have the chance to tell him how much that one moment meant to her. It's been more than 30 years since, but she hasn't forgotten - and now, when faced with all the triggering ugliness of our world right now, she still calls up that moment to remind her that there are some people out there that she can depend on. And if she can, then so can I. So can we all.

#metoo
#IBelieveHer
#riseup

Back to the faire...sort of...

This is me and my girl - well, okay mostly my girl Bryn, with what appears to be a Mommy growing out of her head. This photo was taken by a patron (at one of the renaissance faires where I work as director of the Hounds of East Fairhaven) in November of 2013, when she was just 5 months old and had been mine for about 24-36 hours.

We bring period appropriate hounds (mostly Western European, 1500-mid 1600s, but we also include some Asiatic and Eastern European breeds as well) out to meet patrons and we talk about their place in history. We also wear period-appropriate garb (or as appropriate as possible when the threat of a Clobberpaw on one's skirt is a real possibility) and tell the patrons about how these hounds (sight mostly but a few scent hounds as well) lived and worked with people in this time period.

I used to work much more than I do now. We started with a small group (four members) and we were attached to the Lord Mayor's Court at the Carolina Renaissance Festival near Charlotte, NC. We grew in numbers and ended up with our own tent the next year, then our numbers dwindled down to almost nothing and we have gone up and down ever since. We also added more appearances to our schedule - we now appear in the spring with the Royal Court at the Georgia Renaissance Festival and in September at the Enchanted Chalice Renaissance Festival in Greenville, SC.

I can remember the early days of CRF when I had three greyhounds (out of my five) that did faire with me, often sleeping in my Honda in the parking lot with me so that I didn't have to drive the 2.5 hours (one way) on Saturday nights to just have to get up and drive back on Sunday mornings. Thankfully I moved about 45 minutes up the highway since that time, so it only takes me just under 2 hours to get there now, and I only work on Saturdays because I simply cannot physically do my job on Mondays after being at faire and in the car all day Sunday.

CRF opened this past weekend for it's 25th year, and it was the first opening weekend that I haven't worked since the two years that I was forced into behind the scenes work due to living abroad. After the year that 2018 has been for me so far, I decided that it was in the best interest of my health, both physical and mental, if I took some time off from faire this fall. Bryn doesn't like the setup there anyway - she is afraid of the booth that we have after some bad playtime-gone-wrong experiences with some of our other dogs, and as a result I have to stand out in front of the booth with her for the whole day. Both of us are ready for the car after closing cannon! We will see how Ciaragh does up there - she was a star at GARF this spring until she got tired, but she's almost two and growing up more every day, so hopefully she will be able to manage being in close communion with other dogs better than her big sister does.

All that said, y'all go to the faire! The Hounds of East Fairhaven will be in their normal booth at CRF across from the DaVinci flying machine. We have greyhounds, Irish wolfhounds, borzoi, Ibizan hounds, and Afghan hounds in any combination on any given weekend, and we have fantastic human cast members that can tell you anything you want to know about their canine companions. The faire runs from 29 September to 18 November, Saturdays and Sundays. My girls and I will be there on the 21st of October and 10th of November, and I will be there with an Ibizan friend on the 6th of October and dogless to interpret on Deaf Awareness Day, 27 October. Hope to see you there!

Huzzah!



07 August 2018

Post Camp (Nano) Blues

You don't know how many times I have tied that same canoe up to that same dock.

When I was a kid and went to Camp Glisson, I would always be out of sorts for the first week or so afterward. I loved camp SO MUCH that I couldn't bear to be back home, and it would take that much time to get me back to my normal routine. So that's where I am now - still in the outofsorts with no real ETA for the backtonormal.

Bear with me. I have this piece I just finished a week ago today swirling about in my mind, the Baskervilles first novel to finish (nothing like giving a manuscript to betas that doesn't have an ending!), and more of my prequel to the Nature Walker Trilogy to reverse engineer and do primary edits.  Oh, and in exactly two weeks I will be back at my Day Job, but my schedule this semester is going to give me an hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday evening to sit in my office and wait for the bus, so that's noveling time, right? Lemons and lemonade, y'all. 

09 July 2018

Camp Mail Call

Sometime in the early 90's, at Camp Glisson
Those of you that are familiar with me know about my love for all things camp-related and Nanowrimo-related. So the fact that I am a die-hard Camp Nanowrimo Participant should be no surprise, really. Every year I do three rounds of Novel Writing Month work, two for Camp Nano and one for Nano Proper in November.

One thing I love about Camp Nanowrimo is that since it is set up like virtual summer camp you get the daily inspirational emails in the form of #CampCarePackages and they are jam-packed full of advice that you can use even after camp is closed for the year. I wanted to share the care package from Friday because it speaks to who I am as a writer on a very deep level. Enjoy, and don't forget your bug spray or sunscreen. It's brutal out here in the wilderness.


Camp Care Package: Writer's block v. "writer's laziness".
From: Camp NaNoWriMo
To: NancyEDunne

Author Claire Kann takes over as your first Camp Counselor this July! She's providing this week's Camp Care Packages:


I’m the kind of creator that doesn’t experience writer’s block. I suffer from what’s known as writer’s laziness—and I know I’m not alone. When this happens, I can’t even force myself to get my work done. But instead of sitting and staring at a blank page, I’ll give myself a set number of minutes to indulge in media that will inspire me to get back to work. Writing a romance? Watch your favorite romcom! Knee-deep in horror land? Find a book that has the same kind of spooktacular themes you’re exploring. I often find that’s enough to jumpstart my writing.

04 July 2018

Art...is art, is art, is love.


So today, instead of focusing on the holiday (that will come later when the yahoos in my neighborhood start lighting fireworks and my dogs think that we are under attack), I'm focusing on something a friend of mine said on Facebook - that today she is celebrating living in a country where she has the ability to create art without the government infringing on it or stopping it, at least not at this point anyway. (Apologies to Erin for that ugly paraphrase of the beautiful post she wrote this morning.)

My art is writing. I'm not a Tolkien or a JK, mind you, but I do find a great deal of katharsis and calm in writing. I let my characters do things I would never have the courage to do. I let them say things that I think ON A REGULAR BASIS but would never say because, well, SOUTHERN AMERICAN. They go places I only dream of going and live in worlds that if discovered to be real places - well, I'd never come back out, is the thing.

I create those sentences and actions and places. I create those characters - they may be based on real people, but I have given them life outside of the people that served as inspiration. I do all these things in this terribly creative art form, but it isn't usually called art. Why not? Is it less art because it is words? Because thank goodness for spell check? Because I have beta readers who point out to me that "a king would never talk like that" or an editor who finds the umpteenth time that I have used the phrase "beat feet" instead of hurried or ran? Because it relies on the imagination of the reader to give the characters voices - even though they talk to me in my own mind with their own voices, their own intonation, and their own accents?

Maybe it's because I want to hide behind my work - I am the first one to say that I'm not a REAL writer or author. But that's not the case, it seems. I am an artist - words are my paints, the laptop is my canvas. I put the notes of the words together to form chords of paragraphs, and those paragraphs link together to form the sonata that is a chapter. I choreograph my characters on the stage of the world I've built.

Well, either an artist or a fascist dictator, which brings me back to the holiday today and the fact that I need to think about shutting the blinds and finding something loud to watch on telly - or diving back into Orana, and only coming out when I absolutely must. Because I'm that kind of artist, and my writing is my art - or because we are four days into Camp Nanowrimo and I don't want to get behind.

30 June 2018

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!


It's the most wonderful time of the...every four years (except for the Women's World Cup which is even better). The FIFA World Cup is going on right now in Russia, and what that means is I get a month of football on tv almost every day, and for the first two weeks, it's on 2-3 times a day!

Yeah, take a moment to feel sorry for my husband. He's not as into it as I am, even when his own country is playing. My country's men's national team didn't make it into the tournament at all, but I'm still hooked. I'm sure there are those that would criticize my choice to watch football instead of BECOMING VERY LOUDLY INVOLVED IN EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD AND THE UNITED STATES RIGHT NOW, but - and this is tremendous personal growth on my part that I can say this out loud on my blog - I don't care.

There is nothing wrong with getting lost for a good two hours at a time in a football match. It brings a lot of things into perspective and teaches lessons that I think are incredibly important in the current political climate. It's also good for my author brain to tune out of rhetoric for awhile and focus on fast-paced strategy. Trust me, you'll thank me when you read the battles in my fantasy novels.

But back to the topic at hand - how football can inform politics. There are the obvious things like the fact that nations that cannot stand each other somehow can set that aside for 90 minutes on a football pitch. That said, there are disputes that come out during these matches between these nations that teach me more about the wider world beyond our current president's playpen - sorry, country. For example, during the group stage match between Switzerland and Serbia, there was controversy over a motion made by two Swiss players of Kosovoan descent followed by a complaint about the referees for that match being nationals of countries that do not have the best relationship with Serbia. None of that made sense to me at first, but it prompted me to look further into the double-headed eagle sign that the players threw up after the goal, and by that to learn more about Balkan Politics. Now I pay more attention to the nationality of the referees at all the matches.

The differences in play style remind us that there are differences in cultures, in climate, and in the people themselves - but that when it comes to the offside rule, we are all the same. The introduction of VAR in this World Cup allows for the objective (hopefully) assessment of penalties and fouls on the field - but it is still up to the referee to make the call at the moment on the field, and regardless of how fair or unfair the call feels, it is what it is and they move on. They move on to play smarter and harder and to avoid stupid mistakes fueled only by emotions.

I'm trying to use the lessons in my own life. Resist and call out tyranny and discrimination and hate without resorting to penalties and red cards that do nothing but make the rage louder and more fury filled. Find another way - a more civil way, to use an oddly vilified term right now - to make my point and stand up for those who cannot. Does interpreting for rallies rather than screaming in the street and waving a sign mean that I am not truly committed? Hardly. It means I am doing what I can to bring the message to even more people that hopefully will join the resistance. Offering food and shelter to those in need for whatever reason is JUST AS IMPORTANT as confronting the evils of the world that left them in need in the first place.

I was watching the Mexico v Sweden match the other day, being called by Jorge Perez-Navarro who is well known for his passion and excitement as well as his seemingly never-ending "Gooooooaaal!" He had called the previous match for Mexico and was very excited for everything that the Mexican team did. Makes sense. But in the match with Sweden when Mexico did almost nothing that warranted any excitement or passion, when Sweden scored he let loose with his famous "Goooooaaal!" anyway - because that's what you do. I am certain that it wasn't the result he wanted (even though Mexico and Sweden both went through to the next stage THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND HOLY MOLY HOW DID THAT HAPPEN South Korea?!?!?) but it would do no good in his position to be surly (even though it is VERY clear which team a lot of the commentators are following - glory chasers. Anyway. Where was I?). That is civility, ¿verdad?

This is who I am, who my parents taught me to be, and - once more for those in the back - this does not mean that I am resting in my privilege or supporting fascists. This means that I know myself and I am true to myself, and that is ALL that it means. I use the Gandhi quote quite often: "An eye for an eye will only leave the whole world blind."

Now, if you'll excuse me, Argentina have just equalized against France and I have got some cheering to do for the second half. Allez Les Bleus! Vaincre l'Argentine!

(and with editing...Argentina have pulled ahead and I clearly need to leave this and get back to cheering on France!)

20 June 2018

Just...wow.

I waxed poetic in my last post about how long it has taken me to get to this point - years of living with this story and these characters - and how surreal it still feels. Wanna know what will kick that feeling of being just on the verge of an anxiety attack right over into full-blown WHAT HAVE I DONE?

One little post on social media, from a real-life friend who happens to be KIND OF A BIG DEAL in the Rennie world saying she can't wait to start the new trilogy in the picture she posted: The Nature Walker Trilogy. She is about to find out about Gin and Sath and Orana and all the rest. The horrible little voice in my head says that I am about to be exposed as the imposter I am. Exposed - by someone that is my friend.

Now, all of us living in the rational world know that none of the drama described in the above paragraph is realistic. She may hate the trilogy. But she may also love it. In fact, there is a good chance that she will love it. And if she doesn't, my world will not end. Right?

There is a good chance that a lot of people would love it, and if only I would GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY and let them experience it then they will love it and share it with their friends. But that's the rub - getting out of my own way. I suppose this is something that all writers (and artists and dancers and anyone of a creative ilk) have to face. The tiny voice in my head is firmly standing in the way of me returning to dance class. But on the positive side, the tiny voice in my head kept me from following a traditional publishing route, and so far I'm quite pleased with the results of indie publishing (or self-publishing). I have a great team that provides me feedback and editing and creative support - a team that the tiny voice can't touch. One dissenting voice in the face of a supportive chorus is drowned out most of the time.

I hope that my friend's post on social media will lead to more people giving Gin's story a try and falling in love with her and Orana. But most of all I hope she enjoys the story because that's why I wrote it and published it - for people to experience and enjoy. All the wow moments pale in comparison to that.

11 June 2018

It's here! Guardian: Rise of the Nature Walker

Well, I have to say that almost two decades ago, when I first started playing an MMORPG, I never would have guessed that experience would lead to the gorgeous book cover over there. Even a decade ago, when the late nights, guild raids, and TeamSpeak chats were just a happy memory, I was sitting on a manuscript that I couldn't share - wouldn't share - but it wouldn't let me go. It took another ten years for me to finish it, polish it, rip it to bits and start again. It was a Superginormous chunk of memory in my cloud drive. It turned into a private blog, and that's where the first beta reader not only gave me feedback but encouraged me to keep writing and keep working on the story.

Wanderer came first and is the most similar to the original superginormous manuscript. Everyone hates exposition, and that's what I thought Wanderer was...but it isn't, not really. It's an introduction to Ginolwenye - Gin for short - and to the world I created for her to inhabit. Next came Tempest, arguably the most dark, personal, and difficult thing I have ever written. The majority of those two books were written years ago, and only needed some revising.

Guardian was different. Guardian was the end of the story that I couldn't quite make myself write. At the time that I wrote the first two, Guardian was somewhere I didn't want to go because I didn't want Gin's story to be over. I wasn't ready to leave Gin's world. But, as people started to get to know her and became invested in her story, I knew I had to be brave enough to see this story through. And so, Guardian came into being. And here it is, launch day for this last book in the Nature Walker Trilogy, and I still can't believe all of this is real.

Funny thing about Gin, though. She isn't done just yet. She is just coming into her own - her birthright, her inheritance, herself. Gin has a lot more to do, and I can't wait for her to point me in the direction of her next adventure. For now, though, you can get your copy of Guardian by clicking on this link. Ta very much, y'all. Very much indeed.

08 May 2018

#funnynotfunny

Mr. Allen, White County High School
Grief is a funny thing. Not funny ha-ha or funny "that is so interesting," but funny "what the..."

My default for handling things that are generally unpleasant, sad, upsetting, or otherwise is not to handle them. I use what I call the Interpreter Protocol - I close the door on whatever it is, build a wall to keep it out and try not to bother it again. And before any of you point it out, I know that isn't healthy or at all recommended.

I've been saying to anyone that asks me how I'm doing since losing my dad that "I'm okay" and "really, I've had the last few years to deal with it" and "He hasn't known me since about 2014 anyway" as though any or all of those phrases are the gospel truth. In fact, however, those phrases have been my protection - my wall that keeps my emotions safe from interaction with the pain and the guilt and all of those side effects that come with losing a parent.

The other day I posted a picture that I saw while at the farmer's market that I thought he would have found terribly funny. I can still hear his laugh and see him wiping away tears that always came with something tremendously funny. At the moment, when I posted it, I was not sad. I was not grieving. I was happy that I could see something and have a pleasant memory of my father that made me and Simon laugh to share. But that laughter - that humor - that's just another brick in my homemade wall.

Today I've had moments of profound sadness and I dealt with them the only way I know how - I ran. I pulled out a manuscript to work on, I cleaned out the makeshift food pantry in my desk because my summer hols from work are coming on, I did anything I could to stop thinking about whatever it was that set me off earlier. It worked - I cannot remember for the life of me what the trigger was this time.

But the sadness remains. I still miss him, even though it is not as visceral a feeling as the loss my mother and my sister are feeling. I miss him in the way that I missed both my parents during my first summer working at Camp Glisson, the first night of staff training week when all the fun and noise and laughter faded into the silent realization that I was alone in a new place with strangers. I miss him in the way you suddenly realize that something is gone as you pull away from university after graduation. This new reality is not that different from the one I was in a month ago, or a year ago, or even three years ago - and yet it is completely different and funny - and not funny, all at the same time.

The sign in question is the one on the right. Their tagline, "All Natural. No Doo-doo.
No kidding," would have made Daddy laugh until he cried, I am fairly certain.

24 April 2018

"I lift mine eyes unto the hills..."

Here is the public obituary (written mostly by my sister with input from me and our mom):

Hoyt A. Allen, 1933 - 2018

Please, if you knew him, or even if you didn't, take a moment and have a read about a life lived so well and with so much love by this soft-spoken gentleman from the hills of Cleveland, Georgia. You can even leave a message if you feel so inclined. We would love to hear your favorite memories of my father.

For now, that's all I can say, other than I am so very proud to be his daughter, and am ever thankful of the kind words, prayers, memories, and love we are receiving.  I miss you, Daddy, and I love you. Thanks - for everything.

03 April 2018

Bus Poetry, Vol 3

I think I timed this wrong...
Comparisons on the Bus

Espadrilles.
Ankle trousers falling perfectly at the sandal strap.
Delicate fingers holding pistachios and a very literary novel.
Patterned blouse containing the hue of the trousers - exact match.
Hair pulled up in a messy bun that is far from.

Old Clark's shoes.
Gray yoga trousers masquerading as business casual.
Too many beaded bracelets paired with a Fitbit the same color as the faded Clark's - exact match.
Worn navy top, at least three inches shorter than when purchased.
Artificially straight hair, complete with a midlife red stripe.

Which is which?
She is awake and ready.
I am tired and ready for a nap.
She will take on the world today while I will sit...and compare.

25 March 2018

March for Our Lives

View from the old courthouse steps at the end of the march
So there was this thing yesterday, this public gathering, this demonstration called March for Our Lives. It was started by the Never Again MSD movement that was born out of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This is a group of high school students - kids - that have decided that if the adults are not going to act like adults and make sure that they are safe in their schools, it's up to them.

These are amazing kids, and the groups that have sprung up all over the country are made up of even more amazing kids. I feel like I say the word AMAZING too much, but in this case, it is warranted. Millions upon millions of people came out yesterday, all over my country and indeed, all over the world, to join with this group of kids - whose pain is still so raw - to say that enough is enough. They are asking the adults of their world how many more of them have to die before someone in charge does something to make them safe.

I came out yesterday and joined the March in Greenville. I have never in my life seen that many people crowded into the NOMA square at the top of Main street! Now, normally I am not a fan of large crowds, and I will admit to being trepidatious yesterday - there was a point that I found myself spending too much time trying to decide if a man nearby us, who was wearing a clerical collar, had something hidden under his blazer. That's how nervous it makes me - but yesterday was different. I wanted to surge up to the front of the line yesterday and surround those kids to keep them safe from the 2nd Amendment counter protest that we heard was going on just a few blocks down. That's been my motivation in this whole thing - to protect. I don't even have kids, y'all, but the thought of my niece, my friend's son, or anyone having to go through a lockdown drill at school just hurts my heart. It is so preventable! I wanted them to stay kids a little longer because if you hear them speak at rallies or on television, they sound so poised and intelligent - like the young adults they are.

They are often more adult than the actual adults.

But protection wasn't their bag yesterday. They led the march, heads held high, and passed by the...five or six?...2nd Amendment counter-protesters and kept on going. They held signs reading "Am I Next?" and "The NRA is a terrorist organization" and "Thoughts, Prayers, ACTIONS!" There was a rally at city hall, and it was peaceful - but forceful. I have never been so proud to live in my town as I was yesterday.

Tell me what democracy looks like? THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.

20 March 2018

Fáilte go dtí an taobh dorcha...

So this happened...
Welcome to the dark side indeed... for her, anyway. This is Ciaragh, (Kee-rah, the feminine form of Ciaran, which means dark in Irish) and she has joined our house as a foster, for now. She is 14 months old, and we are already terribly smitten with her. She is the spitting image of Bryn when she was that age. Actually, she looks more like Bryn at five months because she is so very tiny. A pocket IW! She is curious, sweet, submissive to Willow and so far completely in love with our backyard. She would stay out there all day, whittling sticks and digging to China if we let her. So...things here at The Lettuce have derailed a bit, but all is well: we are puppy-proofing as we go and generally getting to know this precious little muppet. I mean come on, how CUTE is that face?  More Muppet Shenanigans can be had over at Bryn's blog, Our Daily Bryn (as soon as I get caught up, that is). Also, be sure to watch for the next in the Clobberpaws series - I think Bryn's story just got a whole lot more interesting! As for Miss Ciaragh, she may be making her debut at GARF! Stay tuned...

14 March 2018

Writing a Writerly Post, Vol 1

They didn't know they were a cliché, clearly.
There's a theory going around that all Disney movies have one thing in common in their storytelling - dead/missing parents. Look at the ones that stand out in your mind, the classics: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty...at least Sleeping Beauty's parents died because she was asleep for so long, but it is still important. Look at current Disney blockbusters: Frozen's Elsa and Anna lost their parents at sea and Brave's Merida almost lost her mother to...being a bear. I remember when some friends and I sat down to finally watch Frozen, my friend Brian said that he already knew the plot: Introduce hero/heroine as a normal so-and-so, kill off parents, so-and-so becomes super somehow and saves the day. How mad was I when it turned out that he was right?!

Don't get me wrong, I love a good Disney movie. And that's why I started thinking about the post for today - I've seen a lot of them! But what really set me off on this tangent was a post on a writers group on Facebook that talked about the "overused trope in fantasy writing" of the hero/protagonist losing their parents, and how that spurs them on to greatness.

Well, of course it does! Revenge is a mighty motivator, as is just wanting to honor the memory of a parent or make that parent proud, even if it is posthumously. In my books, my protagonist is taken from her comfortable life and thrust into the great unknown to avenge the deaths of her parents. Overused cliché? Maybe, but let me tell you why I think it is so well worn (rather than overused): I think that it is a metaphor for life in general. A person can be the most well-rounded, confident, mature individual and live an independent and fantastic life, but as long as that person's parents are still living, that person is still someone's child. To see that relationship through to its normal and natural conclusion - with the parents living to an advanced age - provides time for the child to grow into the role that he or she will take on in absence of the parents: the "grown-up," if you will. To take away the parents before the child has naturally reached that point forces growth and maturity that may not be complete. It is that shock to the system, to the natural order of things, that makes some into heroes and others into villains.

Why wouldn't we take that and use it in writing? For the unlikely hero in a fantasy novel, what better jumping off point for the rest of the journey? Granted, that point has seen a lot of feet, but I think that what makes the trope well-worn is that every hero has the potential to jump off in a different direction. My protagonist takes up the mantle of revenge as a side arc, really, but it is a sub-plot that informs the rest of her journey. Other writers have protagonists that spend their entire story arc plotting and carrying out revenge for their lost parents. Every protagonist needs a catalyst to set them on their path - I chose the Disney route.

Now, if only I could choose the Disney route to see my books become movies...

13 March 2018

In which I may have to give up my nerd card...

I don't care which fandom you follow, this is funny.
Last night, Hubs and I were watching (finally) Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access. Initially, I had refused to watch since CBS was forcing us to pay to watch something that had always been over the air, but then the 7-day trial with Amazon Video became available. So we now have five days to watch 12 more episodes. Easy Peasy.

During the episode, it occurred to me why Star Trek was more accessible (nevermind the pay-to-view status of ST:D) and easier to fall into and get stuck than Star Wars was or would be. Don't get me wrong, I am a Star Wars fan. I don't acknowledge 1-3, and only marginally accepted 7. Rogue One (which is what...3.5?) and 8 renewed a bit of my faith. Chewbacca is my spirit animal. Han shot first. A woman's place is in the resistance. Etc.

But last night as I was watching this brand new iteration of a very familiar universe, I started thinking about why it was so familiar. It has to do with good storytelling, something Star Trek has in spades and Star Wars doesn't always (minus 4-6 as I stated earlier, which are perfection). It also has to do with being able to take a franchise, a story, characters, a universe - and re-create it over and over, adding to canon without re-writing canon. If you can do that as well as Star Trek has, then you can even re-write canon (the reboot of the movies) without sending millions of Trekkies screaming back into their parents' basements.

It could also be the familiarity of the Star Trek universe. It includes our earth. I said to Hubs last night that even though the Klingons at the beginning of the pilot don't really look as much like Klingons as they do like something out of the Underworld movies, I still have no trouble accepting them as Klingons because the language is right, the cadence of speech is right...and the message of Klingon First is right. The Starfleet uniforms change in small details, but at the end of the day, they are all still basically the same thing with different touches to indicate rank or discipline.

What does this have to do with anything other than me declaring myself a Trekkie? It's storytelling. It's world-building, even when the world already exists and you have to go a few million lightyears out into space to build onto what you already have. It's what I do as a writer, and I find myself utterly fascinated with the craft and the ability. It's bringing the galaxy far, far away into the realm of my possibility, while still taking me where no one has gone before.

Yeah, okay, maybe I will hang onto that card.

12 March 2018

Houston, Part Two and Three

Hobby Airport, Houston
So, yeah, Thursday was pretty bad. I stayed in a hotel that might have actually been in the middle of the highway, judging from the volume of the traffic noise. Miraculously, I did not end up smelling like hot dogs (seriously, what building material makes a new building smell like that?) but I didn't get much sleep.

I got up early and got myself breakfast, and then got myself over to the Marriot just in time for the first workshop of the day. I have to admit that I was not expecting much, but there were more people signing than speaking and that workshop was amazing. I got into my room at the Marriot which was CRAZY POSH and a little bit extreme, but no hot dogs or NASCAR so I was happy. If I had been able to have that room starting on Thursday night, I think that I might have had a better attitude.

Friday's workshops were great. Friday night's entertainment was great, and I'm so glad that I didn't talk myself into skipping it and having an early night. Saturday morning I had planned to skip the 8am workshop and just chill until time to go to the airport, but I soldiered on and had the chance to experience a great workshop on self-care for interpreters. Such good information!

I was positively floating by the time I got to Hobby (plenty of time to catch my flight) and the flight from Houston to Atlanta went off without a hitch. I found an Atlanta Bread in the concourse and had a (vegetarian) sandwich that I recognized AND a place to charge my phone whilst I ate. I rang Simon. I rang Mom. Everything was turning up Nancy. And that's when I did it, that's when I spoke aloud to the universe that EVERYTHING HAD WORKED ITSELF OUT and the rest of my trip would be FINE. And the universe responded, "Hold my beer."

I was at my gate about 7pm; boarding was supposed to start at 7:20pm. My boarding number was A5, so the chances I'd get a good seat were high. At 7:30, they told us that the flight crew wasn't on the ground from New Orleans yet, so we wouldn't be boarding until after 8:20 when they arrived with a view to takeoff being pushed back to 8:40. The woman in the Breast Cancer Survivor shirt across from me put in her headphones and started singing. The owner of one of the most adorable Westies I have ever seen put him back in his carrier and left - I assume the little fella needed the loo? I played games on my phone.

8:30 comes and the flight crew isn't there yet. A large crowd has gathered in the pre-boarding area and none of them are using wheelchairs, were elderly, or had a stroller with them. At 8:45 the flight crew arrived and only one of them decided not to look sheepish as they cut through the crowd and headed down the jetway to the plane. 8:50 and we are boarding. 9:05 and we are away. I'm not sure a Southwest flight has moved that quickly, ever, but I can tell you that the entire plane let out whoops and wolf-whistles and a loud round of applause when the plane touched down in Greenville at almost 10pm.

So all in all, I guess my problems weren't Houston's fault, but I'm not in a hurry to go back...roll on RID Region II in...oh man. Gulfport MS in July. Yee-haw.

09 March 2018

Well, howdy, Houston.

Yeah, I know that people don't really say howdy just because this is Texas. But to be honest, my first hours in this part of the Lone Star State have been so very weird that I first thought I'd booked the wrong flight and was actually in Austin, but that weird is a good weird. This weird is like a WHEN AM I GOING TO WAKE UP FROM WHAT IS CLEARLY A NIGHTMARE weird.

I don't think that it is Houston's fault though... To be fair, I'm not even sure that I'm in Houston proper. I flew into Hobby because the hotel where my conference is being held only runs a shuttle to Hobby - a fact that, in retrospect, should have told me loads about the hotel. But I will get to that in a minute.

I flew Southwest for the first time and after wrangling their wifi (good gracious, I've been here less than 24 hours and I said wrangling) mid-flight, I find that was the only complaint I have with them. It is definitely worth it to do what you need to do to be Passenger A 1-10 to board, and make sure you can check your bag, and it's really a pleasant airline for short haul flights. The seats aren't as comfy as the Delta Economy Comfort that my rear end has grown to love, but the flight crew was nice and it was a good experience...at least until the landing at Hobby.

We were coming in for a landing - literally, I could read the words on the buildings - and then out fo nowhere we started climbing again. Apparently, the plane on the runway to take off was not going fast enough so our plane couldn't land. I guess there is a first time for everything. Poor hubs was watching the flight online and said that it told him I'd be on the ground in ten minutes and then JUST KIDDING, we were circling. But we landed, and I made it off the plane, got my bags, all before my phone's battery died. JUST.

I followed the signs (once I wandered around till I found them) to the "Hotel Shuttle Pickup" spot and waited...and waited...there was lots of waiting. The couple waiting there with me probably wished that I would go away - it should be no shocker to anyone that knows me that I am very bad at small talk. I was two clicks out from going back in the airport to regroup and charge my phone when the shuttle for my hotel arrived. Back on the plan!

Sort of.  The couple I was waiting alongside was either on the phone or on the net from the airport to the hotel (which y'all, is like 5 minutes) and talking about transplants and stem cells and how someone whose name I didn't catch was "expendable...well, not expendable, but expendable." I tuned out at that point. Got to the hotel and they had given my room away. Now two weeks ago I rang the hotel to let them know that I would be there on Thursday instead of Wednesday - which made their website tell me that I had to start over and the hotel was sold out this weekend. The very nice woman I spoke to said she straightened it out, just took the Wednesday arrival off and send me a new confirmation email. The man who clearly could not have cared less had he been dead told me that wasn't the case and they were putting me across the street at another hotel for the night at no charge. Since that was NOT the point, I argued and told him I had a confirmation email. He told me it didn't matter, he did not have a room for me and here's the shuttle, come see us after 8am tomorrow and we will have a room for you.

Well, you can just imagine my happy face at THAT good news. So I come to the HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS - which by the way has not made me any more intelligent by my staying here - which has no restaurant. Did I mention I ate lunch in Greenville at 10:45 and was starving by that point? So I got the shuttle back across the street (which isn't a street, it's a HIGHWAY and very busy and loud) and tried to find the registration for the conference. The terribly unhelpful man that gave away my room answered my VERY REASONABLE question about the location of the registration for TerpExpo by saying that he only registered people for the hotel. What?

Still with me? BECAUSE THERE'S MORE.

So I'm wandering around, nearly in tears from hunger and frustration, feeling an anxiety attack building toward panic when I saw a line of people leading to food. I got in the line, but as it drew closer I found that the food in question was ice cream. There's another group in the same hotel - a church group from Waco learning about mission trips. And best of all, they brought all three million of their children. I got out of that line and wandered around till a very helpful member of the waitstaff from the hotel restaurant took pity on me, got me a table and a menu.

Two things about that meal: The hotel serves Pepsi products and "basil cream sauce" on pasta is basically pesto.

Made it to the registration table, got myself sorted out, and made it into the last workshop of the day. All in all, I'm not that impressed with TERPEXPO so far, and the registration issue was just one of the problems. What kind of interpreter conference has that much talking without signing? I think I've learned that these conferences are not for me, thank you. RID seriously has nothing to worry about in terms of losing folks to this circus. I hope it's better in other cities.

So after hours and hours of "this must be a dream" and "please, I'd like to wake up now," I am in my room across the highway and I feel a little better. Must be the pesto...because it isn't Houston.

05 March 2018

The Silent Child and The Shape of Water, or Why I Stayed Up Too Late Last Night

Those that know me know that I live a lot of my life straddling two very different cultures, languages, and groups of people: The hearing world and the Deaf Community. I was born into the hearing world - I have no Deaf parents, siblings, or indeed any family that are Deaf. I am a NERDA: Not Even Related to a Deaf Adult (as opposed to a CODA - Child of a Deaf Adult - or SODA - Sibling of...you get the idea).

I started learning American Sign Language when I was about 10-11 years old, from a Deaf friend of mine and fellow clergy kid. We saw each other at United Methodist events for clergy and summer camp, and she taught me to communicate with her - which, I learned when I was much older - was her idiosyncratic "dialect," if you will, of ASL. But proper ASL or not, she taught me to think in three dimensions, to see everything as a picture rather than a string of words, haphazardly strung together and exhaled in an attempt to communicate. Whereas English is clunky and burdened with rules and auditory cues for intonation and emotion, ASL is streamlined. There is grammar, of course - it is a proper language after all - but learning it felt less like the verb sheets in high school Spanish and more like being let in on a magical secret. I can communicate with someone in another car with the windows rolled up. I can tell you that I am paying attention AND that I understand what you're saying all with a twitch of my nose. Truth be told, I fell in love HARD with ASL (and all signed languages, really), and I haven't bothered to get back up and brush myself off. Not to be maudlin, but while English is my first language and therefore (most of the time) the language of my mind, ASL is the language of my heart. I can say things in ASL that I physically, mentally, and emotionally CANNOT in English.

So, when I learned about the crowd-funded short film called The Silent Child, you know I had to learn more. I only wish I had known about it sooner! I fell in love with Maisie Sly, the actress that plays the lead role. To have that much ability and emotion at the age of six is extraordinary. If you can get a copy of it (currently on Google and YouTube here in the US, not sure about other parts of the world yet), DO IT. I was explaining to a co-worker this morning that Maisie's character Libby is just like so many Deaf children here in the US and around the world who suffer lasting effects from language deprivation just because they are not allowed to sign when they are young. And before you come out from behind your sofa and shout at me that they need to learn the spoken language of their country of origin, there is no reason why the signed language of that country can't be used in that respect.

I sat down to watch the Oscars not expecting The Silent Child to be another Children of a Lesser God, but had fingers crossed just the same. The nominees for that category were AMAZING, all in their own right - but when they announced the winner, it was like a victory for ASL. The writer and starring actress, Rachel Shenton, is a qualified BSL interpreter as well as an actress, and it was her passion for making sure Deaf children have the same access to APPROPRIATE language as their hearing peers that made this film possible. I bought it from Google Movies this morning and have watched it twice today..and to say it hits me in the feels is an understatement.


I can't say as much about the Oscar-winning picture, The Shape of Water, because I haven't seen it yet. When it first came out, the trailer was plastered ALL OVER MY FACEBOOK WALL because it has signing in it. "Is this a Deaf actress, Nancy?" "What do you think about this?" "Are you going to see it?"

At first, the answer to that was no. The movement now to fill Deaf roles with Deaf actors is very important to me for many reasons, not the least of which being it is a point where my two dearest loves (ASL and Theatre) intersect and overlap. So on first blush I was afraid this was yet another one of THOSE films and I pretended that it didn't exist. That's about as much as I do these days as far as protesting something goes. It was a monster movie, too, and those aren't my usual genre of choice, so it was a win-win for me.

Until it wasn't. The role was filled by a hearing actor because the character is mute, not Deaf. She signs to communicate expressively but hears to communicate receptively, and therefore a Deaf actress would have not been the right choice for the role.

I have other rants already prepared about only casting Deaf actors in roles written as Deaf rather than as a viable choice for any role in the name of diversity, but I will put that back in my pocket for now.

If I can get myself to sit through a monster movie, I will watch The Shape of Water now, not only because it won Best Picture or it has ASL in it, but also because it looks to be a visually stunning film - and that is part and parcel of the Deaf experience, isn't it? Conveying emotion and story by showing rather than telling? On my list of to-do after watching this film is to stop feeling the need to correct everyone that is WRONG ON THE INTERNET about how Rachel Shenton could barely sign the acceptance speech at the Oscars last night or how the parents were vilified for making the choice to force the child to learn speech rather than ASL...but, for now, I'm going to take a nap. If you have the means, though, see both of these movies.  Hollywood is making small steps to bring more diverse stories to the big screen (Coco, Black Panther, etc) so I can't wait to see what is coming soon!



New Year, New You? Nope.