21 September 2020

Music Monday: Lex

 [Spoilers for Rift, continue at your own risk.]


I know, Imagine Dragons again. Is it my fault that their music is PERFECT for the movie adaptations in my mind? Hardly. 

I had all but forgotten that I had this song on my playlist while writing Rift. I mean, any time you are writing any kind of fantasy novel, a song titled Demons is bound to be in the mix somewhere. But I took a second and really listened to the words today - this is Lex, all day long. Is he a monster? Is he Alex? Is he real?

[Really spoilery bit:] Lex struggles not with a lack of memories but with memories that he can't trust. He is anyone that has a past that has been purposely (or not) forgotten, who suddenly has to deal with the recurrence of who/what he used to be. But for him, it's worse - are any of those memories, good or bad, real? Or is he just an algorithm that has become self-aware? And through all of that, he feels so bound to Em - regardless of why he feels that way - that all he can do is try to protect her.

Anyway, this song is for Lex...please enjoy this version with another contender for my fantasy movie score, Halsey.


Demons

Imagine Dragons


When the days are cold

And the cards all fold

And the saints we see

Are all made of gold

When your dreams all fail

And the ones we hail

Are the worst of all

And the blood's run stale

I want to hide the truth

I want to shelter you

But with the beast inside

There's nowhere we can hide

No matter what we breed

We still are made of greed

This is my kingdom come

This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat

Look into my eyes

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

Don't get too close

It's dark inside

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

When the curtain's call

Is the last of all

When the lights fade out

All the sinners crawl

So they dug your grave

And the masquerade

Will come calling out

At the mess you made

Don't want to let you down

But I am hell bound

Though this is all for you

Don't want to hide the truth

No matter what we breed

We still are made of greed

This is my kingdom come

This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat

Look into my eyes

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

Don't get too close

It's dark inside

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

They say it's what you make

I say it's up to fate

It's woven in my soul

I need to let you go

Your eyes, they shine so bright

I want to save their light

I can't escape this now

Unless you show me how

When you feel my heat

Look into my eyes

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

Don't get too close

It's dark inside

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

18 September 2020

Putting on my Confessor Face: on Terry Goodkind and Inspiration

Read this one, I mean it.
Yesterday I learned of the death of an author that had a profound effect on me as a wanna-be fantasy author, Terry Goodkind. While I did not read everything he wrote, I did read the entirety of the Sword of Truth series. A review of this series never made it to my book blog, Well Read, but I wanted to do an overview here, and tell you why I believe this to be an important series to read.

I am one of a few, I'm learning, who write fantasy but aren't really fans of the "classics" in the genre, such as - steady yourself - Tolkein. I loved the Hobbit when I read it in 4th grade (age 8/9) but I moved on immediately to try to read The Fellowship of the Ring. While I'm sure both of my parents thought me to be a reading prodigy and sort of a genius, that book fell flat with young Nancy and I will admit that I never picked it up to try again. To this day I have read bits here and there and seen the movies, but I just couldn't.

If you look at my list of life changing books, the genres are all over the place: Wuthering Heights (with a modern understanding of the problematic parts), The Historian, The Percy Jackson novels. It was probably not until I discovered The Sword of Truth series, at the recommendation of a good friend and fellow gamer, that I had the idea that I might like to write novels. I had written other books in niche genres, but you know that feeling when you are reading something and you think that either you wish you could live in that universe or "I wish I had written this?" Both of those applied to Wizard's First Rule.

As I said in my Facebook post about Goodkind's passing, "the Mother Confessor, the Seeker, the Mord Sith, even Darken Rahl were such well rounded characters, dancing right up to the edge of being a Mary Sue (Richard) but not faling into that trope." We all want to write the character that saves the world. Goodkind reminded me that you can do that as well as show all the trials and tribulations leading to that win, and still have the story of the everyman at the end of the novel - or series. 

In addition to my life as a writer, Goodkind has also influenced how I think about my life as an interpreter. I have blogged before about how much I identified with the character of the Mother Confessor, Kahlan, in respect to my DayJob™ and interpreter decorum here:

Terry Goodkind has quickly become one of my favorite authors, and he describes in his Sword of Truth series a character who serves as a judge of sorts...she is called a Confessor, and he talks about her wearing her Confessor's face. I do that. I wear my Interpreter's Face. Impartial. Objective. A mask. The line "sometimes I wish someone out there would find me" rang out to me, causing me to recall those times that I stood outside the huddle of support, wishing for someone to hand me a tissue or take my hand in comfort...but remaining quietly in the background, Interpreter's Face on.

and here:

I've compared this before to the 'Confessor's face' that author Terry Goodkind created for his character, Kahlan Amnell, in the Sword of Truth fantasy series. Confessors are women that are born into a magical sisterhood and have the ability to discern truth from lies (by basically taking over the mind of the person and leaving them a slave to the Confessor, but that's beside the point here). From Temple of the Winds:

Kahlan was wearing her Confessor's face: the blank expression that showed none of her feelings.

We are taught as interpreters to do this - to an extent. We are conveying communication and by necessity that involves emotion, so I am never that 'blank,' but it is not MY emotion you are seeing. It should never be my emotion.

So I am properly mourning a life that never, ever, intersected with my own save through a recommendation heeded, a book series read/consumed, and inspiration sought and given. Thank you, Mr. Goodkind, for sharing your work with us and inspiring us to go forward, better understanding ourselves and our world.

In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. -part of the D'Haran devotion to Lord Rahl, Sword of Truth series.

16 September 2020

Notes from Exile: That Author Life, Tho

Looks like I've worked at Waterstone's before, eh?
I recently took part in an online vendor showcase for Beach Bound Hounds, an event that I used to attend every year when I had greyhounds. As a result, I now find myself swimming in extra book stock, so I'm trying to find ways to make it pretty.

The yellow tote in that photo (and the one beneath it) is filled with BOOK SIGNING BITS AND BOBS and copies of The Nature Walker Trilogy and the Tales of the Forest War. I've stacked the rest of the stock waiting to be autographed and mailed out on top, and I think it creates an interesting visual representation of my career (hee hee!) as a writer. 

The closest book to the camera is Proud Racer: An American Greyhound in Yorkshire, written in 2011 about my two years in Keighley but told through the perspective of my greyhound, Daisy. I JUST got that delivered TODAY because indie publishing cares not for deadlines nor my own sudden realization that I had no copies of it on hand. That's my beautiful Daisy's eye, there on the cover- which if you will indulge me a bit of self-promotion, is one of the best covers I have ever designed. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway... To me now, that book reads like it is telling someone else's story. 

Just behind it are copies of Bryn's book, Clobberpaws, and Ciaragh's book, Clobberpaws, Too! and there are only a few of them (that I found, y'all, what are the odds?). The Irish Wolfhound Association of the Mid South blew me away last week ordering all the stock I thought I had and enabling me to make a donation of over $200 to the Heather Burns Memorial Fund for Veteran Hounds. I blogged about my friend Heather's death last week, and IWAMS set up this fund to help adopters and foster homes take in the hounds most dear to her heart, the seniors and those with medical issues. I'm just glad I could do something to help - though it doesn't come close to repaying all the help that Heather and IWAMS have given us since we brought our big girls into our family. Wolfhound STRONG.

Along the back, there are copies of Rift, Scorch (Tales of the Forest War), and Guardian (the last in the Nature Walker Trilogy) and I am looking at them like the Waterstone's Bookseller I was when I lived in the UK. I used to love days when I could just hang out in the stacks and look at all the books on the shelves. Now, that isn't a shelf, but it motivates me to do more/write more/be better so that one day that will be the shelf in a bookstore where the Nancy E. Dunne books are.

I'm still home, I'm still working remotely, and the pandemic rages on as people take unnecessary chances and chose not to wear masks. But this week I am happy and overwhelmed with the little writer life that I've created, and that makes a difference.

PS-no word back yet on the pages request I got as a result of #PitMad back at the beginning of September, but if nothing comes of it that won't end me. I feel that, for the first time in a long time, I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing, and that is enough for now.

14 September 2020

Music Monday: Love in the Time of Arcstone

Oh, this one is hard not to make spoilery. So hard. There are several interesting relationships in Rift, and this song - to me - speaks to all of them. I have long been a fan of Florence + the Machine, but I heard the original version of this song for the first time while writing Rift. It grabbed me around the heart and wouldn't let go - one of those times you hit repeat on Spotify, you know? Florence's voice is magical and ethereal, and this particular version reminds me of everything from how Em is in love with the night sky in Arcstone, to Valentin's terribly complicated heart. Enjoy, and make sure you look up the original and add it to your playlist. You will not be disappointed.


All This and Heaven Too

Florence + the Machine

And the heart is hard to translate

It has a language of it's own

It talks in tongues and quiet sighs

And prayers and proclamations in the grand days

Of great men and the smallest of gestures

In short shallow gasps

But with all my education

I can't seem to command it

And the words are all escaping me

And coming back all damaged

And I would put them back in poetry

If I only knew how, I can't seem to understand it

And I would give all this and heaven too

I would give it all if only for a moment

That I could just understand

The meaning of the word you see

'Cause I've been scrawling it forever

But it never makes sense to me at all

And it talks to me in tiptoes

And sings to me inside

It cries out in the darkest night

And breaks in the morning light

But with all my education

I can't seem to command it

And the words are all escaping

And coming back all damaged

And I would put them back in poetry

If I only knew how I can't seem to understand it

And I would give all this and heaven too

I would give it all if only for a moment

That I could just understand

The meaning of the word you see

'Cause I've been scrawling it forever

But it never makes sense to me at all

And I would give all this and heaven too

I would give it all if only for a moment

That I could just understand

The meaning of the word you see

'Cause I've been scrawling it forever

But it never makes sense to me at all

No, words are a language

It doesn't deserve such treatment

And all my stumbling phrases

Never amounted to anything worth this feeling

All this heaven never could describe

Such a feeling as I'm healing, words were never so useful

So I was screaming out a language

That I never knew existed before

09 September 2020

On saying hello, knowing you have to say goodbye.

 

IWAMS members in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Charlotte, NC. March 2018.

The Irish Wolfhound community lost one of its fiercest warriors, defenders, and supporters yesterday with the death of Heather Burns, a member of the Irish Wolfhound Association of the Mid South. Heather worked tirelessly to find placements for IWs that needed rescue/rehoming. She possessed a wealth of knowledge of the breed: history, temperament, health concerns, etc. I've put this picture up even though you can't see Heather and Mark in this shot, it is representative of who she was and why those of us lucky enough to have known her are grieving today.

This was the day before she drove our Ciaragh all the way from her home in NC (almost VA) down to us here in Greenville. Hubs came with me to the parade this time to watch from the sidelines and brought Willow-Pickle along for the ride so she wouldn't have to stay home alone. If you look right in the middle of the picture you will see her, straining to get out in front of all those long-legged wolfhounds because she was the security for the IW contingent. Simon happened to run into Heather along the parade route (I had already taken Bryn to the line-up point) and, being the force of nature she was, she managed to convince my 6'4" Yorkshireman and our snappy little terrier mix to come with her and join the parade. "Willow can be a Wolfhound today," she told him - which is exactly what Willow believed in her heart already. 

You see, that was Heather. In a world of kennel clubs and rare breeds that could foster a sense of elitism and snobbery, Heather was there to make sure that everyone felt welcome at the table - at HER table, the Irish Wolfhound table. I was already familiar with her because she not only saved my bacon and my sanity plenty of times as we were raising Bryn, but she found members of Bryn's extended family that we didn't know about, like her litter brother, Barley, and his family, Tamara and Marc. Or Bryn's older sister Keira and her mom Stacie. Heather knew everyone and everything, and if she didn't know something you'd better believe she would find out for you.

What I knew from the time that I met her was that she had cancer and that it was terminal. She told me with a smile on her face and in her heart that her plan was to outlive the IWs she had (at the time I think there were three) so that when she passed, her husband wouldn't have that to deal with on top of everything else. Heather NEVER thought of herself first. So I knew that as I was saying hello to her, I was also getting ready to say goodbye. She was one of those warrior women that you just thought would live forever.

Go raibh cead míle maith agat, one hundred thousand thank yous, to Heather, for taking me under her massive wing and teaching me how to be a good mom to Bryn and Ciaragh - and for your example of strength, compassion, and love. I hope that your first stop was at a clear pond where your hounds were waiting.


Please visit my album in the Beach Bound Hounds Vendor Virtual Showcase, currently happening through 14th September 2020, to purchase your copies of the Clobberpaws books - 100% of the total sales of Clobberpaws and Clobberpaws, Too! paperbacks will go to the Irish Wolfhound Rescue of the MidSouth's Heather Burns Memorial Fund for Veteran Hounds, created to support foster homes and adopters of hounds that due to age/illness are difficult to place.

07 September 2020

Music Mondays: Opening Scene, Rift (Arcstone)

For the first Monday of a new month, I thought I'd leave the Orana Chronicles behind for a moment and talk about some of the music that inspired scenes in my latest release, Rift. Now, this novel is about a gamer who longs to live in her MMORPG rather than in her real-life but finds out that it may not be all it is cracked up to be.

I had a less intense opening for my first chapter, and then I heard this song by The SIDH. I turned it up, called up an image in my mind of Em in the landscape of the game, and the first scene wrote itself right in front of my eyes. The novel now opens with the main character, Madelyne, running through the game Arcstone as her avatar, Em. 

I thought of how it used to feel for me to run my "toon" through those richly drawn CGI worlds in the years when I used to spend a lot of my time in several MMORPGs. There was always music playing while I was gaming, and the same was true for me writing for Madelyne/Em. Just as I would enlist Imagine Dragons for the soundtrack for the Orana Chronicles, I feel like The SIDH would be just the thing for Arcstone.

03 September 2020

On being ever so slightly...PITMAD...


Today I am pitching this manuscript on Twitter as a part of #PITMAD and if I have anything shy of NUBS on the ends of my hands by 8pm tonight it will be a miracle. Photoshop sometimes helps me keep my mind clear while I'm writing, so I made this little teaser graphic to keep me on track - and now even looking at it is making me nervous.

02 September 2020

Notes from Exile: Whistle and Hum

Daisy Mei Mei and me in Wales, August 2011
Y'all, I think I have officially lost my mind. I will give regular Lettuce readers a moment to STOP LAUGHING.

I've been working hard on getting paperback copies of Daisy's book, Proud Racer: An American Greyhound in Yorkshire ready for the virtual signing event for Beach Bound Hounds that starts this Friday. It was originally published by Lulu, but I wanted to move it over with the rest of my work on Amazon and I waited FAR TOO LONG to do that. So I have been scrambling. 

Along with that scrambling has been a whole lot of reminiscing and remembering and for the most part it has been a good thing. I've thought about how her eyes would just about fall out of her head each night when she had her vanilla ensure and Life cereal combo that we used to keep weight on her near the end - and been able to laugh at the eyes rather than fixate on it being "near the end." I'm almost ready, three and a half years later, to put the red duvet cover back on the bed. It has a permanent place in the stitched pattern where she used to sleep, because she was like a marlin on a hook and could never get comfortable right away. I have no idea how many stitches she pulled out to get it JUST RIGHT.

But today, either I have manifested my need to have her in my life again just a hair too much or I've officially gone round the bend from too much isolation in the time of COVID. Today, as I was sitting here at my desk working, I heard the girls winding up to sing. Not an unusual occurance - for Ciaragh it LITERALLY takes me tapping my foot on the floor or a beep sounding on one of my devices, and the Canine Tabernacle Choir is OFF TO THE RACES.

Ciaragh started with some whining that Bryn soon matched in pitch and the BARK/WOOO verse that the wolfhounds sing became part of the tune. Willow-Pickle has her own verse to sing, the melody, if you will, over the percussive sounds of Ciaragh and Bryn. Hers starts with a GRRRRRRRR and then builds into the most soulful and musical ROOOOOOOO. All of that was happening.

And then, I swear - on my life and those of my dogs and my husband and whatever else you need - I heard a very distinct fourth voice join in the chorus. It wasn't a bark or a roo or a growl, it was a hum (those of you with sighthounds may recognize the noise I'm talking about, it usually precedes the roo/howl). It continued and then stopped, replaced by some high pitched whistles just before the others fell silent. I should have recorded it, but all I could do was sit with my hands on my face, Home Alone style, as my jaw dropped. Tears filled the edges of my eyes.

I have had seven greyhounds in my life since 2000, and all but two of them would throw their heads back and roo with angelic grace and ear splitting pitch. (Well, 2.5 - Hunky couldn't so much ROO as he could WOO but it was still a similar sound.) Lizzard would sort of make a sound like Bea Arthur yelling at you after smoking a pack of cigarettes. More WAAA than ROO, and very scratchy. She barked (every day at 4:30 ON THE DOT because that was dinner time) more than she sang. 

Daisy didn't sing. She would hum alongside the others, seemingly unsure of her own voice and slightly unnerved if she was in a large pack of hounds that were all singing. If she got too nervous (or annoyed, as we discovered when Willow-Pickle joined our pack), she would make this loud whistling noise through her nose. It was very high pitched and in a staccato rhythm for the most part, though some of those long, sustained whistles linger in my memory - and probably my eardrums.

I heard my Daisy "sing" with the other girls today and it made my heart happy. It may have been my imagination, but it was real enough. Thanks, Mei Mei. Give the other 6 head butts and licks for Mommy, okay?

 

Signing Event: Virtual Showcase for Beach Bound Hounds!


I have been invited to join the virtual vendor showcase that Greyhound Crossroads is hosting this year since their signature event, Beach Bound Hounds, was cancelled due to COVID-19. I invite you not only to grab a signed copy of the books in my back catalog, but to find unique and wonderful merchandise for you or other dog lovers in your life, while supporting the work that this group does to place retired racing greyhounds in homes in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This opens to the public on September 4th - search FB for BBH Vendor Virtual Showcase. See y'all there!

Books available for signed paperback purchase:

Proud Racer: An American Greyhound in Yorkshire

Clobberpaws and Clobberpaws, Too!

The Nature Walker Trilogy: Wanderer, Tempest, and Guardian

Tales of the Forest Wars: Ignite and Scorch

Rift: An Arcstone Novel

31 August 2020

Music Mondays: Sathlir and Ginolwenye

[Slightly spoilerly - read at your own risk...]

Yeah, I couldn't sit on this one any longer. Anyone who knows me or has seen me talk about Gin and Sath and the Orana Chronicles knows how much I love these two characters. When I first heard this song I was captivated. It seems like it was written for them, documenting the path they take in the Nature Walker Trilogy. Please find the lyrics below and enjoy the music of this band from Dublin as they talk about my superheroes, Gin and Sath.



Superheroes
The Script

All the life she has seen
All the meaner side of me
They took away the prophet's dream
For a profit on the street
Now she's stronger than you know
A heart of steel starts to grow

All his life he's been told
He'll be nothing when he's old
All the kicks and all the blows
He won't ever let it show
'Cause he's stronger than you know
A heart of steel starts to grow

When you've been fighting for it all your life
You've been struggling to make things right
That's how a superhero learns to fly
Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power
When you've fighting for it all your life
You've been working every day and night
That's how a superhero learns to fly

Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power
Oh-oh, oh, oh
Oh-oh, oh, oh

All the hurt, all the lies
All the tears that they cry
When the moment is just right
You see fire in their eyes
'Cause he's stronger than you know
A heart of steel starts to grow

When you've been fighting for it all your life
You've been struggling to make things right
That's how a superhero learns to fly
Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power
When you've fighting for it all your life
You've been working every day and night
That's how a superhero learns to fly

Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power (power, power, power, power, power)
Every day, every hour turn the pain into power
(Power, power, power, power)
Every day, every hour turn the pain into power

She's got lions in her heart
A fire in her soul he's a got a beast
In his belly that's so hard to control
'Cause they've taken too much hits, taking blow by blow
Now light a match, stand back, watch them explode

She's got lions in her heart
A fire in her soul he's a got a beast
In his belly that's so hard to control
'Cause they've taken too much hits, taking blow by blow
Now light a match, stand back, watch them explode

When you've been fighting for it all your life
You've been struggling to make things right
That's a how a superhero learns to fly
Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power

When you've fighting for it all your life
You've been working every day and night
That's a how a superhero learns to fly
Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power (power, power, power, power, power)

Oh, yes (power, power, power, power)
Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power
(Power, power, power, power) Ooh, yeah
Whoa (power, power, power, power)
Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power

When you've been fighting for it all your life
You've been struggling to make things right
That's how a superhero learns to fly

27 August 2020

Notes from Exile: Stargate SG1 in the time of COVID-19


So, Hubs and I have been working our way through all ten seasons of Stargate: SG1 over the summer. I somehow never watched it when it was on television, so in order to avoid having to turn in my nerd card, I started watching it. Unlike Babylon 5, I didn't hate the first season (I watched the movie first, so that could have something to do with it), and I did watch all the way to the end. I did not switch over to Stargate: Atlantis or Stargate: Universe, and I haven't watched any of the movies yet.

So we were watching the series finale last night and I was really not enjoying it. At some point, I decided to talk about it, and got Hubs so wound up (because that was one of his favorite episodes) that he requested that I just shut up and watch. What I was not liking about the episode was - spoilers if you haven't seen it, but seriously it's been at least 10 years so, #sorrynotsorry - all of them being trapped in the spaceship with no real timeline for how long they would be there.

I was spewing ideas about how it was too drawn out and how most of season ten had been almost slapstick in its levity so this level of emotion was jarring. But I think it was the parallel to how at least some of us have spent the time since mid-March that was more than jarring, it was downright unsettling. It came to me during the scene where Col. Mitchell was running through the ship, and then ends up in his quarters, throwing things around and destroying everything he could get his hands on.

At first, on Stargate, they all tried to work with Lt. Col. Carter to find out how to escape from the time bubble without the ship getting exploded by a shot from a hostile vessel. But after a few weeks and then months, they started getting on with whatever they could on board the ship. In the end, they were trapped there for 50 years, as barely a minute passed outside the bubble.

I have chosen to stay at home almost exclusively since mid-March. I go out on the weekends to get our grocery shopping done. I have spent one evening, recently, at the home of one of my beta readers, going over feedback for an upcoming novel. I drove to Georgia for the completely outdoor and socially distanced funeral for my Aunt Mary back in April. Other than that, these four walls and occasionally our yard and street (to get the post) have been the extent of my world. For five and a half months, I have been here.

The first parallel is that I have watched eagerly - in the beginning, until it became begrudgingly - as each Coronavirus Task Force Report played out on television, hoping that the day would come SOON that a vaccine had been developed and life would return to normal while we could still remember what normal was. We would be back on campus in the fall. There would be football Saturdays and renaissance festivals to look forward to - but none of that happened. Every "cure" and treatment and suggestion by anyone in charge would be the next best thing, and then it would fail. Finally we all were advised to wear masks, and while that seems to slow things down, it was not widely enough adopted to be really effective.

The second parallel is how my life adapted easily, it seemed, to getting on with things here. I am one of the lucky ones that could do my work from home, so I filled those endless days with transcription and planning for the summer semester, still certain we would be back on campus in the fall. But, just as it did on board the Prometheus in the time bubble, that started to wear thin too - didn't take 50 years, thankfully, but it happened. It comes with the moving of the goalposts, I think, from "This will be just until the beginning of April," to "I'm sure we will be back on campus in June," to the current "I am remote working until January."

The final parallel, or where everything fell into place for me last night, was the scene I mentioned above, where Cameron is shown running through the ship, then sparring with Teal'c and taking things more than a bit too far, and then finally losing it in his quarters and destroying things. I can completely understand the feelings there. I ran through the ship for exercise while I was buying a desk and setting up an office in the spare room in our house. I sparred without caution as I let myself have free reign to eat what I liked, hang out on the couch all day during the summer, and generally did nothing in terms of self care because WHAT WAS THE POINT, ANYWAY? And finally, on the inside anyway, I am raging, I am destroying, I am screaming - but not out loud, not in front of people, and certainly not when I'm taking my scheduled exercise at the grocery store and Costco.

And the grand moral at the end of this tale, the moment you've been waiting for if you've made it this far reading is that there isn't one. It's me, and Hubs, and the dogs, here in the house, and likely to be that way through that mystical far off time called January. Three months ago I would have said that in January we will all step out of our isolation and fall back into the swing of things as they were before. After all, on Stargate last night, they managed to reverse time and stop themselves from going into the time bubble in the first place. They were reset - the past 50 years didn't happen (in true Bobby Ewing style, if you ask me) and they were ready to go on another adventure through another wormhole.

We can't reset anything. We are here, for better or worse, six chevrons are encoded and we're just waiting for the seventh to be locked in. (Thanks, Walter.)

26 August 2020

Notes from Exile: Week Two in the DayJob

Old Main Building, Clemson
I know that I have titled this "Week Two" but it really doesn't feel that way. The first week was only three days of classes and two days of absolute soul-crushing stress, so I'm not sure that makes a week. Instead, I am fairly sure that it has been about six months since I was celebrating my last week of the weirdest summer break I've ever had.

In retrospect, that's pretty normal for the first week of a semester, so I guess I should be glad that it didn't seem like a year. Interpreting into a camera has been very different from sitting in the front of a classroom and interpreting, and has made me very aware of the fact that I am not suited for Virtual Remote Interpreting (VRI) that is taking over the market these days. I spend most of my time playing dispatch - chasing down zoom links and Canvas sections, which is not that different from what I would be doing in the office on campus.

I do miss having my office mate across the desk. I miss catching up with people from the other offices in our building while waiting on my lunch to heat. And believe it or not, I miss the two hours a day on the bus from here down to campus.

When I envisioned my semester working from home, I have to say this was not what I thought it would be. I was looking forward to a bit of DayJob work, interpreting my class three times a week, getting some novel work/marketing done, and maybe having time to run out for some interpreting gigs here and there. Last week felt more like someone put me in a runaway roller coaster car and pushed me onto the track, swinging me just close enough but not quite to be able to feel like I've gotten anything done successfully. I would just feel like I was catching my breath going up one of those Scream Machine-esque hills before plunging back down into Zoom rooms that weren't allowing the caption writer to enter and videos to transcribe that were due to disappear from Canvas long before I could get the work done. I did not touch anything I've written the entire week.

I finally broke down and got int touch with my beta reader for an upcoming stand-alone novel in a new universe to suggest that we get together to go over her feedback. I'm putting this manuscript up for #pitmad in September, so there isn't much time left before that (if I don't get any requests, I will just put it in the pipeline for self-publishing). We got together at the weekend and went over the novel with a fine-toothed comb and a couple of glasses of wine and I felt the most like myself that I have since March.

Surprising? Yeah, me too. I've been basically with my partner ONLY since March, and I thought that I was introverted enough to be okay with that. I was wrong. It was a good time, socially distanced, and I basically bathed in hand sanitizer when I got home. This does not signal a rapid return to weekly girls nights out, retail therapy, or any of the social outlets I had in what my partner and I lovingly are calling "The Before Times." I'm still far too concerned about falling ill with COVID to return to my old life. I was becoming legitimately concerned for my own mental health, and this jolt may have recharged my ability to wait for safety to return so that we can stand in each other's kitchens, cooking, laughing, and relaxing into our friendships and letting go of the DayJob stress.

For now, though, it's back to my desk, in the office I share with our dogs and the house that has been my world, more or less, since March. I'm just a little better able to handle it.

24 August 2020

Music Mondays: D'Ayna Turlach

 [SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE TALES OF THE FOREST WARS.]

When I first started working on the Tales of the Forest War, I had plans for one book. Just one. Simple characters. Focus on the conflict and the aftermath. Easy, right? 

Yeah, not so much. Once I got in there and started really thinking about what would cause this kind of conflict and how anyone other than the supremely powerful dragons (and the gods, of course) could come out the other side of it at all intact, it became clear that the personalities had to be as powerful as the overall story. This story was about more than just a war. 

There are always names. There are always places. War spawns heroes and villains, winners, and losers. This war could be no different. This war would forge a bond between two very different family lines that lasts for many generations to come. And so, knowing that meant that I knew that one of my characters would be the Nature Walker. But what of the other?

D'Ayna (named thusly because the first time I said it out loud it sounded like Diana and I was smitten) Turlach is an Ikedrian. She is a lieutenant. She is military-minded. She possesses magic that her family will not accept. She is every one of us that has tried to suppress who we are to fit in, and finally comes to the turning point where that isn't working anymore. She follows her heart. She loves her family. And all she has, in the end, is her battle cry: a mighty roar combining anger and fear.

Don't tell Gin or Tairn, but Ayna might be one of my favorite characters I've ever written. Maybe. So this song spoke to me in that gruff yet soft way that Ayna did while I was writing these novels. She was afraid - OF COURSE SHE WAS - but she knew what had to be done. This song is like an imagined conversation between Ayna and Draoch after the war. And that's as spoilery as I'm going to be. 

Also, when the Orana Chronicles become movies I am FOR SURE involving Imagine Dragons - you are going to see a lot of them on Music Mondays. Enjoy.

 


Battle Cry

Imagine Dragons

Just one more time before I go

I'll let you know

That all this time I've been afraid

Wouldn't let it show

Nobody can save me now, no

Nobody can save me now

Stars are only visible in darkness

Fear is ever-changing and evolving

And I, I feel poison inside

And I, I feel so alive

Nobody can save you now

King is crown, it's do or die

Nobody can save you now

The only sound

It's the battle cry

It's the battle cry

It's the battle cry

Nobody can save you now

It's do or die

Nobody can save you now

King is crown, it's do or die

Nobody can save you now

The only sound

It's the battle cry

It's the battle cry

It's the battle cry

Nobody can save you now

It's do or die

Just one more time before I go

I'll let you know

That all this time I've been afraid

Wouldn't let it show

Nobody can save me now, no

Nobody can save me now

19 August 2020

The end of one exile, beginning of another...

So, we are still at home, still in the midst of a pandemic, and to be honest, I don't know exactly how my state is doing, because the numbers have to be taken with so much context - so I'm pretty much still here at home until there is a vaccine.

I'm working from home until January, at this point, in the hopes that things will look better next year. Our university is starting classes today, online until mid-September because we still have some pretty alarming trends in terms of COVID cases in this part of the state. In a way, it feels the same as it has since the first week of May when I officially "went on summer break" from my job in academia. But really the only difference is that I'm spending more time at this desk than I did over the summer.

In March, we watched the students leave for Spring Break and not come back. We had about a month of scrambling and pivoting to online study only. The summer was the beginning of the true exile: no renaissance faire, no girls night, no nothing except weekly trips to the shops for food. The anniversary of my mother's death. The death of one of my favorite aunts. Cancellation of the trip to Scotland to be with my partner's family to celebrate his father's birthday. Just me and the dogs and these four walls. Lots of time to write and barely any motivation to do so.

So this begins a new kind of exile. Daily communication with my office colleagues. I had a video call with my office mate last week that nearly left me in tears because I miss her. I miss the office. I miss the dynamic. But I'm determined to stick this one out and do my part not to spread this horrible virus. And so, my officemates now are Daddy's Jeany-greyhound, the duckling, the bluebird (inexplicably in the pond but there you are), the YHC lion reading his books, the odd Celtic-ish warrior and the no-longer roaring triceratops wearing Yoda as a hat. We have Julius Caesar as a guide to inter-office politics and Profee watching over all of us. And we are all fine, really.

Well, until I find the batteries for the triceratops, that is...

17 August 2020

Music Monday: Lairceach

 She's a minor character in the Nature Walker Trilogy, really, but she is so very important. Gin's younger sister who grew up without parents and learned at an early age to take care of herself so that no one else had to do. But this song is very Lairky to me when I think about her relationship with Kam. He's an Ikedrian - serious, dark, broody, methodical. Lairky is none of those things. She grew up swinging from the bridges connecting Aynamaede, playing in the dappled sun, and driving her older sister and brother mad. 

I just heard this song recently, but it jumped out at me as so very Lairky. One little wild girl that grew up to take action that would change the fate not only of her sister but all of Orana. Not so minor after all, huh?




Leave Her Wild
Tyler Rich

If you find a girl, hands up, hangin' halfway out on the highway
You find a girl who likes whiskey mixed in her hangover coffee
Find a girl that scares you half to death
You'd kill to be the train she wrecks
And don't tell her I never met someone like you
Then try and turn her into every girl you ever knew
If you're gonna love her, if you're gonna love her
If you're gonna love her, leave her wild
If you're gonna make her, if you're gonna make her
Make her smile, smile
If you're gonna let her, if you're gonna let her
Let her dance, let her sing, let her be whatever she wanna be
Leave her wild
Don't tame her, try to chain her
The second you do you'll break her
Don't dull that shine that caught your eye
'Cause you're afraid somebody will take her
She ain't a dial you just turn on and off
She ain't all found, but she ain't all that lost
If you're gonna love her, if you're gonna love her
If you're gonna love her, leave her wild
If you're gonna make her, if you're gonna make her
Make her smile, smile
If you're gonna let her, if you're gonna let her
Let her dance, let her sing, let her be whatever she wanna be
Leave her wild
Oh, leave her wild, yeah
Leave her wild, leave her wild
Leave her wild
If you're gonna kiss her, if you're gonna kiss her
Kiss her slow
If you wanna change her, if you wanna change her
Let her go
If you're gonna let her, if you're gonna let her
Let her dance, let her sing, let her be whatever she wanna be
If you're gonna love her, if you're gonna love her
Leave her wild
If you're gonna make her, if you're gonna make her
Make her smile, smile
If you're gonna let her, if you're gonna let her
Let her dance, let her sing, let her be whatever she wanna be
Leave her wild
Leave her wild, wild
Yeah, leave her wild, leave her wild
Let her dance, let her sing, let her be whatever she wanna be
If you're gonna love her, if you're gonna love her
Leave her wild
Leave her wild

10 August 2020

Music Mondays: Taeben

So as promised, today's Music Monday consists of music that inspired everyone's favorite villain from the Nature Walker Trilogy, Taeben. I know that there is a hashtag out there among my readers referring to Ben: #benisadick, but he is really a product of his environment more than anything. His story will come one day, but I'm not quite ready to tell it. 

Until then, though, when I sat down to think about a song that always makes me think of Ben, this one kept coming to mind. It's an older song, from when I was younger than I am now, and it is what I think of when I think of Ben's motives, specifically his feelings for and actions toward Gin. Lyrics to follow after the embedded video.



Fortress Around Your Heart
Sting

Under the ruins of a walled city
Crumbling towers in beams of yellow light.
No flags of truce, no cries of pity;
The siege guns had been pounding through the night.

It took a day to build the city.
We walked through its streets in the afternoon.
As I returned across the fields I'd known,
I recognized the walls that I once made.
Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid.

And if I've built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

Then I went off the fight some battle that I'd invented inside my head.
Away so long for years and years,
You probably thought or even wished that I was dead.
While the armies are all sleeping beneath the tattered flag we'd made.
I had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid.

And if I've built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

This prison has now become your home,
A sentence you seem prepared to pay.
It took a day to build the city.
We walked through its streets in the afternoon.
As I returned across the fields I'd known,
I recognized the walls that I once made.
Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid.

And if I've built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

03 August 2020

Notes from Exile, Week Eleventy-Seven, with extra Lenny Kravitz

Nancy in Home Depot, wearing a mask
Y'all, what day is it?

Please, while I try to figure it out, enjoy this shot I sent my friend Brina of the mask her daughter made for me back at the beginning of all this.

Seriously, I know what day it is. But I was surprised yesterday by how shocked I was that this is August. I have always had trouble with estimating the passage of time and am a chronic watch looker as a result (even when I didn't have a watch, how sad is that?). So this pandemic has made that little character flaw even more vivid.

How is it August? It was just mid-March a few days ago, wasn't it? Is Christmas tomorrow?

Side note: It had better not be tomorrow because that means we skipped my birthday but in the grand scheme of things that's probably okay as it is the last one before I turn 50 so...what was I talking about?

Right. Notes from Exile. Writerly stuff. Author life. Got it. Rift continues to do fairly well and I had plans to work on the next book in that series over the summer/possibly as the November Nano, but I haven't heard from Em and Alex in a while, so they may just get put back on their shelf in my hard drive for a bit longer. What I have fallen back in love with is Gin and Sath's story - but let's be honest, I never stopped loving them. 

I'm in the middle of the second draft of Guardians of Darkness, which is the next chapter for Gin and Sath, and while the story has plot holes you could drive a BUS through I'm enchanted all over again. So, I thought that I would start a new thing here at the Lettuce called Music Monday, while I'm shoveling mad amounts of literary tarmac into those chasms. 

The first one is a new one for me in terms of immediately making me think of the Rajah and the Nature Walker: Ride, by Lenny Kravitz. Enjoy. (Lyrics follow the embedded video.) Next Monday, a song that reminds me of everyone's favorite villain from the Nature Walker Trilogy. Let me know in the comments here or on social media if you have a favorite character from any of my work and I will look at my playlists for that character's inspiration.







Ride
Lenny Kravitz


When I look into your spirit
And the spirit never lies
There's a feeling that I can't explain
Deep inside, deep inside
Feels like I've known you forever
Since the origin of time
I've been with you in eternity
In my mind, in my mind

I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride
I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride

You and I on Earth together
Can't you see it's no surprise
I know it from the first second, babe
As I looked in your eyes
I could only dream of heaven
When I gaze into the sky
But I know I found my angel here
In this life, in this life

I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride
I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride
I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride
I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride

We will ride
ride, ride, ride, ride, ride

I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride
I have loved you since the dawn, my love
Through the storm, my love, we will ride

26 July 2020

Different Tears

Young John Lewis, on Bloody Sunday, March 1965
[Upon watching John Lewis's body crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.]

I'm sitting here on my sofa in Greenville, South Carolina with tears on my face. Why? I wasn't there on that horrible day in Selma - I wouldn't be born for another six years. I was born in Atlanta, but I didn't live there during the time that Mr. Lewis represented a district in the metro area. 

I am just a white girl, born and raised in the "Deep South" of America. I am of the generation raised on those sweltering streets just after the Civil Rights movement shook the foundations of my country. And as I watched that flag-draped casket cross that bridge in Alabama, that bridge named for someone that believed some are more worthy than others - that some are more human than others - the tears came.

Tears for the man whose body is in the casket. Tears of gratitude. Tears of humility in the face of courage. Tears for a country that did not deserve him, yet he loved with all that he was for the whole of his life. Tears of shame, that people who looked like me met him on the other side of that bridge and beat him. Tears that we have lost yet another voice reminding us that it is all worth it and that we are all worthy. 

Tears over the sheer tragic beauty of that image - the caisson pausing at the apex of the bridge, its driver standing with his hat over his heart, on a hazy July Sunday in Alabama, as rose petals flutter to remind us of the blood spilled there in March of 1965. 

Pausing, as though to hear the congressman urge us one last time to good and necessary trouble. Will we take up the call?

04 June 2020

Notes from Exile: Week Ten


I am departing from my normal format here at the Lettuce today to tell you that people I love are hurting and this is the only way I know how to help. Please start with the link below and see how you can help. Be light in the darkness, speak truth to power, and if you are a white person like me, sit down and be quiet and listen. Don't ask what's wrong - we know what's wrong. Don't ask why - we know why.


If you feel compelled to say something about all lives mattering, here's my response. Maybe it will help. As I posted this week on FB, there is a story in Luke, chapter 15, about how a shepherd left his flock of 99 sheep to look for the one that had gone missing. That action in no way diminishes the lives of those 99 sheep that are where they are supposed to be and safe - because it is the one that is missing that is in danger. 

30 May 2020

Notes from Exile: Her-storically Speaking: Meet the Women of War!

So, at one point during Week Nine, I did a thing...please enjoy me bringing the awkward with a panel of fabulous female authors! (Premiered on the ConCarolinas channel, powered by ConTinual.)

28 May 2020

Notes from Exile: Week Nine

A carrot wound into a spiral from growing close to another.
Carrot as Pandemic Metaphor
Well, it's been a minute.

Or has it been? I'm not even sure. What I do know is that this humble carrot that grew too close to another carrot in our garden is a perfect metaphor right now for where I am in this pandemic. We took it out of the ground and pulled the other carrot from its grip, and it still looks like it is pointing at me, accusingly, for ruining its cozy life in our garden.

My choices over the past nine weeks been called paranoid. Nervous. Extreme. Excessive. And yet, I don't have symptoms and as far as I know, no one that has been in contact with me does either - that is why I'm doing what I'm doing. That is why, on the COVID Risk Tolerance scale that has made the rounds on social media, I'm about a 1.5: 
  • Leaves the house only to go for groceries and other essentials
  • Works 90% from home
  • Orders non-essentials online
  • Eats takeaways only, no restaurants for dine-in or outside seating
  • Fairly strict etiquette including hand washing, masks, and social distancing used 80-99% of the time when outside of the home
  • No socializing outside of the home
And yet, in spite of my numerous introverted tendencies, I am that carrot, wishing for the closeness from what Hubs and I are now officially calling The Before Times. I'm holding space for my Girls Night Ladies, my family, my beautiful and brilliant niece, and everyone else with whom I wish I could still share hugs. But I am just not willing to change course yet - I am trusting in the science and data that tell me that this virus is much more dangerous than any flu we have seen. I'm trusting in those with more knowledge and ability that I have to tell me when it is safe to move back toward what was normal before.

I've been thinking more about that this week - what will normal look like in a month or six months, or a year? When can we get back to Girls Nights and Renn Faires and all the things that have been pulled from our grip, like that poor carrot up there? I don't have answers, but I think we are seeing things opening up faster than they should, and we are headed to a time when we see The Before Times disappear for good.

22 May 2020

Notes from Exile: Week Eight

Mary Louise McDonald,
September 11, 1929 ~ April 15, 2020
So we are into the eighth week of whatever this is - lockdown is incorrect if you compare it to what other countries are doing. Quarantine is incorrect unless you are sick and forced to isolate to prevent infecting others. Shelter in place doesn't even seem right because to me, that response is more apt for an ACTIVE threat like a tornado or a shooter. We are staying at home and working from home, but it will not necessarily injure us if we walk outside our doors. We are staying at home because we care about others in our neighborhoods, our towns, cities, states - our country.

This kind of selflessness does not come easily to a great number of Americans. We are taught from birth to depend on ourselves. Work hard and you will be rewarded. Sharing is good, but saving is better. There isn't an adage about helping your neighbor pull up his bootstraps. The American Way often feels like The Everyman For Themselves Way. So this self-isolation is hard on us. We are a people who value hard work but also are interested in instant gratification. After six weeks of mixed messages from all levels of government, a distrust of the media that comes from the highest levels, and a frankly terrifying resistance to trusting proven science in favor of unproven talking points, we the people began to become restless. There were armed protests at statehouses and armed, inflammatory discourse on social media. We had overshot the mark for caution and were treading on civil liberties.

Everyone seemed quick to forget that, thanks to those very overblown measures, they were still alive to make their irrational and selfish arguments. Anyway.

Why have I attached a picture of my aunt, my mother's older sister who died last month, to this rant about the overbearing vocal majority intent on disbelief until they actually are infected? That sweet woman, Mary Louise McDonald, died after an intraparenchymal hemorrhage. She was 90 years old. Her birthday was Sept. 11, 1929 - and she was a typical McDonald, just like my mother and all of her siblings. We joked that Mom would apologize for breathing too much air if someone else was in the room - and she clearly came by that honestly because Aunt Mary was the same way.

I hope that this is where I learned how to survive the isolation, the restlessness, the loneliness that this Exile has brought. Their example taught me to value the lives and health of others as highly - and sometimes more highly - than my own. Their example taught me that there are things we do that we do because it is the right thing to do. Their example taught me that doing for others shows your love for them.

Aunt Mary was encouraging. She was loving and gentle and quiet - to us. My uncles said that she was bossy and could be stubborn and sassy. I witnessed the passive-aggressive way that she and my mother would argue over kitchen duties at Thanksgiving and the way she always knew the exact gift to give you at the exact time you needed it. She and Hubs bonded over her fudge which was a staple at family gatherings. The last time I spoke to her on the phone was so quiet, only the sound of the ventilator on the other end in response to my weepy promises to look after Hubs and my sister and to learn to make her fudge for all of us.

So when we were under a mandatory stay at home order in South Carolina and we lost Aunt Mary, and the funeral home and my sister and brother in law prepared for a quiet burial, socially distanced and only attended by family - I thought about what she would have done for me, and Hubs and I went to Georgia. We drove by and saw the house in Pendergrass where my Aunt Mary lived with my grandfather until his death, and I thought about her life and how much she sacrificed because it was the right thing to do - and I hope that she forgave me my hesitation and that she was proud of who her niece has become.

And I hope that I can learn to make that fudge - goodness knows I have the time now.

17 May 2020

Notes from Exile: Week Seven

Coming 31 May 2020
The big news for week seven is that finally, at long last, and after much editing and refining of cover art, most of which happened LAST WEEK, Rift is in pre-order now and will launch on the 31st of May. Initially, I had the release date set to coincide with ConCarolinas because I am an author guest this year. But with the pandemic, some of that had to change and I went ahead and opened pre-orders on May 15th.

I'm so excited about this novel! This is such a departure from my Orana Chronicles - for one thing, it isn't set in a fantasy world, at least not initially, anyway. From the blurb:
A gamer, desperate to escape her real life, discovers that nothing in her beloved online world is as it seems. Madelyne Laurent is a bookseller in a chain bookshop in Yorkshire by day, but by night she is Em, an elven warrior in the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, Arcstone. Her closest friend is someone she has never met in person – Alex – and she spends her days anxiously ready to log into the game with him.
A mission goes awry and Madelyne finds herself in the body of her online persona, Em. Can she find out how she ended up in Arcstone in time to get herself back out, or will she end up stuck in the game world she wanted so desperately to inhabit? And is Alex trying to help her or hurt her? When a tyrant running the show inside and outside of Arcstone sets his sights on Madelyne, she must find a way to save her life and get back to the real world, if she can.
I've been told that this book is like Tron meets Ready Player One, and I will admit that there is a bit of an attempt at romance as well. But if you know me, you know that didn't go well either. In fact, I had a conversation with one of my beta readers that you might find funny:

Me: OMG you're at the...sexy times. Eeeek! (loads of blushing emojis)
Beta Reader: I...am? What are you worried about? How bad can it be?
Me: (wonders how to spell the urgh noise that I made thinking about that question)
Beta Reader: Oh, you mean (mentions parts of the book that were making me very nervous)? Oh, honey I beta lots of stuff - this is tame. Don't worry.

So, there you are. Romance with a side of puritanical I SHOULD BE WRITING YA OR YOUNGER. I tried, at least. If you are looking for a quick diversion during this trying time, give Rift a read, if you would? Em and Alex have a fascinating story to tell, and I just know you will fall for them like I did.

And if you do, I'd love to know what you think! The link leads to the Kindle version, and the paperback will be available for purchase at the same link on the 31st.

Welcome to Arcstone – Game loading, please wait…

05 May 2020

Notes from Exile: What day is this?

Skylar Austin and Jane Levy in "Zoey's Extraordinary Father"
So, it's week six, and today is Tuesday. My rational mind knows that. But my emotional mind has gone off the rails today. TL: DR - I watched the season one finale of "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" and had a visceral reaction consisting of ugly sobbing because I have not let myself feel things that were unpleasant or painful for about five years. 

Lucky you, you get to come along as I not only sort this out but offer some advice so that NO ONE has to do this. Seriously, y'all, the long-suffering heroine who manages to hold it all together in the face of all sorts of awful is a trope that needs to be banished from literature, television, and movies. GONE. So many of my MCs have this either as a personality trait or a goal to work towards and it ends now. In my new series opener, RIFT, launching at the end of this month I created an MC that I didn't really connect with as much as I did with Gin from The Nature Walker Trilogy. Madelyne is honest about what she feels when she feels it. Gin (and I) worry too much about how what we are feeling will affect other people.

My father died in 2018 from complications related to Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. My mother died last summer after a major neurological event and about a month in hospice. During both of these events, I tried my best to be a grown-up about it. My sister is amazing - she may have had the same need to become completely unglued but you would never know it, and that is what I thought I needed to be. 

I did my best to be okay, I'm okay, everything is fine. This is sad but for the best. They are finally together again. Those were the words coming out of my mouth. But what I should have done was be honest with myself about how much all of that devastated me - and I wasn't.

I watched that episode of this amazing show (seriously, if you haven't seen it GO DO THAT NOW, I will wait) knowing that it would be difficult. But it was more than that - it was painful and real, and absolutely beautiful. I cried, but more importantly, I FELT. So this blog post is more than just an ad for this show (have you watched it yet? No? WHY?), but it is an encouragement to let yourself feel what you need to feel. Go through stuff. Experience things. 

The past six weeks of almost total isolation have gone by so fast and so slowly, in a way, because I'm not letting myself think about why I'm doing this. It's easy to just think about what's happening in the world, far away from my little house on my little street. What is not easy to think about is how this is affecting my relationships with people - how I'm pulling away from people that would normally be my support because I don't want to look as out of control as I feel. The first two weeks I cried every day because I was afraid. But I managed to think about it more as being safe than being stuck, and now I can't believe it's been six weeks.

You will never know how strong you can be until you are. The fact that I am still here and relatively sane is a testament to the fact that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. The fact that, overall, I let my sister do most of the heavy lifting related to the end of both our parents' lives means that I still have work to do. But I know, with new clarity, that I can do it. I'm thankful, I'm hopeful, and I'm completely congested and horrible to look at - and I don't care.

Well, maybe I care...just a little.

22 April 2020

Notes from Exile, Week Five, via Twitter

07 April 2020

Notes from Exile: Week Four

Hello from my sofa. I'm still in the house, and for the first time on Sunday, I did not go with Hubs to do the weekly shop. That makes today the 8th one since I've left home. Just more water over the rocks, like the water flowing over those holy rocks there at Cane Creek Falls, right?

I've been out in the yard a few times, but the tree pollen is making that very difficult. Normally I have the blinds open here in the den so that I can at least see the yellow green of the trees that surround our house. But not today.

Today feels different somehow. I think that I was feeling very hopeful over the weekend - it is certainly easier to do that when Hubs is here. His work is still open, inexplicably, so he is there now and I worry so much that he will come in contact with someone who passes on this horrible illness to him. Yesterday, I was a good employee and sat in front of my laptop in my new office - complete with a new desk and chair - and did my usual triage/dispatch as I put out metaphorical fires at the DayJob™. I had a zoom staff meeting. Hubs came home for lunch. It was all still fairly hopeful.

Today, I sat down to the DayJob™ at that new desk and I logged into the VPN and...nothing. I mean there was nothing that I needed to worry about, nothing really to triage - once my students have the accommodations they need, they are off and don't really need me so much. I checked on a few things and updated my calendar. And I thought - I really processed how much longer there is that we will live like this.

And please don't misunderstand - I am so very thankful for a job that I can do from home. I am thankful that Hubs and I are still healthy and that I have my wonderful pups with me. But it just gets heavy sometimes. I was just watching the news on the BBC and they were interviewing a woman from Paris who said, "It's just heavy, this is starting to weigh on people."

There is some good news - the Nano seems to be coming along in a way this story world has not in past attempts. I really think that I will be able to work in a lot more of the previous attempts and I won't lose too much of it. I read through a great deal of past effort yesterday, and it made me sad to think of losing some of that world/those characters. I'm at the very least caught up with my word count target, so that is reason to celebrate. Normally by the end of the first week, I'm a hot mess of playing catch up and adding fluff that isn't needed, so this is nice to report.

So I remain in my house. I take Benadryl to combat the allergies. I look forward to the end of this month when hopefully we can start to get back to something like normal. See you next week - stay safe and keep healthy.

30 March 2020

Notes from Exile, Beginning of Week Three

She gets it - look at that face.
Well, it's week three.

Today, so far, I have been frustrated with work in the DayJob™ to the point that I posted about it on social media, and then got the whole thing wrong. Y'all, the imposter syndrome is STRONG today in that world. Strong.

As far as the Writer Life goes...well, I need to find motivation there too. Scorch released a week ago on Friday and for those who have it and have or are reading it, THANK YOU. That project meant a great deal to me, as it was my real foray into worldbuilding. The Nature Walker Trilogy was taking a story idea and shoehorning it into a world, but I got to step back with the Forest War and really look at that world. Ignite and Scorch are tied for second place in terms of my favorites in the Orana Chronicles. Wanderer is still my favorite because I love how innocent Gin is and how the whole story is still ahead of her, waiting for her to find Sath and get on with saving the world, already.

Another Nano event starts Wednesday. I'm planning to work on a reboot of a story that I have tried to write several times and have come up frustrated and empty. Kinda like the look on my Willow-Pickle's face there. I know the overarching story, but I have no idea how to get from A to B. I can only hope that my MCs have a bit more insight to share than they have in the past.

Other than all of that, I'm just hanging out here, working from my sofa while I await the arrival of my desk and desk chair. Sounds glam, huh? I will be the first to admit that I have been jealous of my friends that do their job from home - but when I said I wanted to do the same I meant as a writer. This DayJob™ stuff from home is too hard.  TOO HARD. But I will get through it and on with it, and make my soup for lunch and listen to the Femmes and deal.

We aren't really quarantined exactly because Hubs is still going to work every day and I have left the house on Sundays to go grocery shopping. That's been a surreal experience - there was a 15-minute queue to get into one shop yesterday because they are limiting how many people are in the store at a time.  It's the new normal - but for how long? This is all so weird.

Maybe by the next time I sit down to pen type "Notes from Exile," I will have more coherent thoughts to share or at least a positive Camp Nano update. Meanwhile, keep safe and healthy, y'all. We're all in this together.


24 March 2020

Notes from Exile, Week Two, Day Two

As seen on Facebook...surprisingly appropriate.
First off, I'm going to admit that it took me far longer to remember what day it is than it should have. I know that it is Tuesday - but which Tuesday? HOW MANY TUESDAYS HAVE THERE BEEN?

I'm okay now.

Today I wanted to write about something that happened to me in a store over the weekend. Because we are NOT HOARDING, Simon and I have been making our grocery runs as usual, on Sunday mornings when people that are far better than we are in church. Judge if you like, this is not a post about my church attendance or lack thereof.

Anyway, we hit Costco, Trader Joe's, and then maybe Publix before we nip out for a quick brunch. Then he works a bit in the yard, I faff about on the couch pretending to be a writer, and then he rings his parents on WhatsApp.

Quickly - y'all. If he and I were living in these technological times when we met I am not entirely certain how the trajectory of our relationship would have gone. Replace choppy AIM conversations with WhatsApp video chat? COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BALLGAME.

Okay, back to my point - also, this is pretty much how my working from home is going, the metaphorical SQUIRREL is all up in here and I CAN'T NOT FOLLOW IT.

We were doing our shopping on Sunday, right? Arrived at Costco early, about 9:30, and they normally don't open until 10am. There was already a queue of people out front, keeping a safe distance from each other which made it look longer than it was, waiting to walk up and receive a freshly sanitized trolley as they entered the warehouse. The Costco staff were even staggering how many people went in, I suppose, against how many people were coming out. It was surreal in there - quiet, not crowded, and no chicken, hand sanitizer, or toilet paper to be found.

There was a whiteboard out front, actually, that had a list of what they did not have in stock.

We moved on to Trader Joe's, talking amongst ourselves about how well our fellow community members seemed to be taking all the changes in stride. We made the odd comrade joke. When we arrived, Trader Joe's was doing something similar but without the Disney World Esque queue laid out with orange tape and pallets. So well done, we clucked as we entered the store. People keeping distance, smiling, everything was great - until I had to get some tempeh.

A young lady had stopped her trolley in front of ALL THE VEGAN/VEGETARIAN THINGS IN THE COLD CASE and was texting someone through her nitrile gloves. I stood, I waited, I socially distanced, until she still did not move. I leaned over her trolley (mind you, she was at the other end of the trolley and engrossed in her phone) to grab one package of tempeh. One.

That got her attention away from her phone and she jumped backward, pulling the trolley with her, and glared at me as though I had just sneezed the coronavirus into her eyes. I apologized and made a comment about it being hard these days, trying to stay six feet apart chuckle.

She sighed VERY LOUDLY and returned to texting. I saw her in the store several times after that and she made a point of going way around me. In my mind, I was all Listen honey, I have allergies, okay? I can't help the fact that it got warm for ten minutes and every plant in the county turned YELLOW but I just smiled and kept going. I hope that her gloves kept her safe from sniffling strangers like me who made a point to NOT SNEEZE, SNIFFLE, OR EVEN CLEAR MY THROAT until I was in my car.

At least I was able to order our brunch on the way home and pick it up - Atlanta Bread Company deserves some love, y'all.

So all that to say, keep in mind what is important here. Self-isolate. Shelter in place means at your place, not someone else's. No, you can't go to a movie or the park downtown. One step in front of the other, boots then corset. It will all be fine. The sooner we all head to the Winchester* for a pint, doors locked behind us, the sooner this will all blow over.

Unless they've closed the Winchester.


*Yes, I am aware that I just told you to stay home and then suggested going to a pub. What you would need to have known to get the joke is... Well, while you're home, find Shaun of the Dead streaming somewhere and watch it. See? Funny.

Music Monday: Lex