28 December 2019

Post Christmas Blahs

The view from here...
I saw a really appropriate meme on Facebook the other day. It had a stick figure on the left that was smiling and sporting a jaunty Santa cap, and the caption above its head said "1st - 26th December: Festive!" On the right was another stick figure, no Santa cap (jaunty or otherwise), who was holding a block of cheese and looking a bit puzzled. Its caption reads, "27th - 31st December: Confused, full of cheese, unsure of the day of the week."

Friends, I am full of Russian Tea and Honeycrisp Apple Cider instead of cheese, but that second stick figure and I are soulmates. I realized today when I left to take something to hubs at work that he had forgotten that I HAVE NOT LEFT THE HOUSE SINCE TUESDAY. And that would have been even more shocking if I was 100% certain what day today is. I think it's Saturday, judging by the programs on NPR this morning and the fact that THERE IS FOOTBALL ON TELLY TONIGHT THANK GOODNESS. I have grown so accustomed to college football on Saturdays that I don't know what to do with myself when there isn't any to be had.

But back to Christmas. This year it felt like we had summer, and then just the start of fall, and then BAM! Thanksgiving followed by a bit of winter and then it was Christmas Eve. Maybe it's because I'm an old lady now that time seems to speed up like that if I'm not keeping an eye on things, but I was not ready for Christmas at all. 

To those of you nodding your heads knowingly and tutting and clucking, yes, a large part of it is that it is my first Christmas without either of my parents still here. They loved Christmas so much - or at least Daddy did. The amount and creativity of that man's decorating skills were LEG-EN-wait for it- DARY. I don't think there was an inch of any house we lived in growing up or their retirement home in Cleveland that wasn't covered in garland and red bows. This year I managed a tree, and on Christmas Eve-Eve I got two new stockings for me and Simon (since the dogs shredded mine last year and I couldn't find his). The front door and the kitchen door have wreaths. But that's all, really, save the sewing Santa statue I put out every year and our Jesus-Less Nativity scene (we think one of the dogs made off with Our Lord and Savior two years ago).

I find myself longing for Christmas to last, for the temps to go somewhere below the 68F/20C that we are experiencing today. It isn't just that I have some time off work (though that is nice). I have had anxiety surrounding change my entire life. Mom said that when I was a girl I would cry when the credits rolled at the end of a tv program. Even now I can feel my gut clench just a bit when I think about the fact that the end of an entire year - an entire decade is coming up next week. But that isn't what is causing my need for things to slow down, already.

I think I was waiting for it to feel like Christmas. I've had my grief, the mourning has been done, now it should feel back to normal again, right? Wrong. The harder I push myself to make things feel normal again, the worse it is when they aren't. So to any of you that are struggling this season with a holiday that didn't feel quite right - a holiday that seems to have come on fast and left nothing in its wake but weirdness - I see you. You are heard and understood - and loved. I'm saving space for you here, with me in this dirty house on my worn leather sofa, looking at the fake fire in the television and listening to the same instrumental music on repeat since Tuesday night. We will get through this and next year will be a better - if not normal, not yet - winter holiday season.

17 December 2019

Today, on Twitter...

Mom, probably high school age, 1940s

What wouldn't I give
For your voice in my ear
The stern looks as needed
A #sliver of your pound cake
With a cup of coffee
And  advice

What wouldn't I do
For a hug, a smile
Our smile

I still see it in the mirror.

I miss you, Mom. ❤

#vss365 #amwriting #vss365poetry #buspoetry


10 December 2019

The Treasure Hunt of Family Photos

3 May 1976

8 May 1976
I often say that I had 4.5 years of only child bliss, and then Susan happened. But in truth, I had 4.5 years of blindly navigating the world alone and then I got a cohort (even though I didn't think so at the time) that would know me better and longer than any of my friends, and would always be in my life, regardless of how many churches Daddy served/how many times we moved/how many groovy plaid sofas and pumpkin orange shag-carpeted parsonages we lived in as we grew up. Sure, there were times that I convinced her to hide in the laundry hamper with a 5lb lid (we were playing hide and seek and I was it) or I sent her down the stairs in the laundry basket (because it didn't have wheels that got stuck like the big wheel that nearly flipped her over and off), but there were also times that we slept in the back of the station wagon on the way to see family or got tucked into the sofa bed at my Grandmama's house - in the room with the clock that would make you INSTANTLY fall asleep. We jumped off the back porch into the billowing smoke from the leaves Daddy was raking up, pretending that we were Wonder Woman and Wondergirl (I will let you figure out who was who), diving into the poisonous smoke to save the day.

Little did I know what a gift I had in my lap in that second picture.

My mom knew, but that's why she is hanging onto the cushion Susan is sleeping on - to keep me from rolling her off on the floor.

Susan has been finding old pictures as she goes through Mom's stuff (along with recipes for more congealed salads than ANY United Methodist Clergy Spouse should have had in the 70s and 80s), and it has been an amazing trip down memory lane as well as a window into what Hoyt and Martha's lives were like before they became Nancy and Susan's Parents. More to come as Sooz continues to find these gems and post them on Facebook.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me Susan.

Thanks, Susan, for giving me a warning before you post (but posting anyway).

Where did I leave that laundry basket?

07 December 2019

A bit of sparkly, glittery homesickness - Tidy.

Waiting at Charles DeGaulle to fly back to London, May 2012.
This week has been a rough one at work - nothing at all to do with the students I work with, for a change, but more to do with personalities and issues that I thought had long since been put to rest. Ah well - that's the DayJob.

My #writerlife is going fairly well, actually - I'm still working on Rift and actively avoiding the editing that needs to be done on Ignite, so all in all, not too bad.

But today I've been thinking about who I was this time 10 years ago. I had bee living in the UK for eight months, and I was swinging madly between loving my new home and desperately missing people and places I'd left behind. It's funny, you know, how certain things can take you right back to where - and who - you were at a specific time in your life. For me, those things are the BBC series Gavin and Stacey, the Eurovision Song Contest, and the film Love Actually.

I'm going to tackle each as it happened in my life, starting with Love, Actually. I had been watching a lot of British films and telly for years, but after I fell in love with my Yorkshireman I asked him what he would recommend. Love, Actually, he says, of course. I remember sitting in my house in Montgomery, Alabama and watching that movie for the first time with my mouth hanging open. It was just so good! So since then, I have watched it a few thousand times and I love it more each watching. The scenes in the airport tear me up now because I remember being at either Manchester or ATL/GSP in those exact moments. You've been on a long flight, you're exhausted, and when you walk through the last set of doors and you see that face that you've only been able to see on the computer screen and EVERYTHING that was wrong is right - even the Norovirus that kept me from going to the UK for a few days at Christmas in 2007. I got there, I hugged the stuffing out of him, and he asked me to marry him.

We won't discuss my answer, except to say a lot of "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" turned into a yes, and it is still a yes today, 12 years later.

Secondly, there is Gavin and Stacey. It's a silly little Britcom that deals with Gavin, a lad from Essex, marrying Stacey who is from Barry in Wales. I've been rewatching the series on Hulu lately and now everything is in a Welsh accent in my head. Lush. Anyway, the two of them meet and decide to get married, and then have to deal with the distance between families and "home" as well as some cultural differences. It's the story of the start of my own marriage, but with the genius of Ruth Jones and James Corbin narrating. There are so many moments that take me back to living in Keighley.

Finally, the Eurovision Song Contest is not just a memory of living in the UK, but it reminds me of how young and sweet we were. I moved three greyhounds to the UK in April of 2009, and by the end of May, I had one, just Daisy. I can't imagine how awful I was to Simon. He did everything he could do to cheer me up and finally, he suggested that I should try watching Eurovision. The best suggestion he's made since getting down on one knee in the Arrivals hall at Manchester Airport. All that sparkle and pomp and circumstance will do a world of good for anyone.

So, just in cases, I'm going to watch Gavin and Stacey and then listen to my Eurovision playlist. Tidy.

30 November 2019

Well, that happened...

It turned out to be better than I could have ever thought when I started. I have been hearing about a genre that I think must be rather new - LitRPG. At Hummel Books Blog, I found this definition that I think is a good one:

“LitRPG is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy which describes the hero’s adventures within an online computer game. LitRPG books merge traditional book-style narration with elements of a gaming experience , describing various quests, achievements and other events typical of a video game.”

Now, the work in progress still needs a bit of work, because I find myself lapsing back into the fantasy genre. All my other novels (save the dog books) are epic type fantasy novels. At the same time, I have been told that my trilogy is like a game campaign. So maybe I was always heading for this?

Now I'm off to look for comps (if I hear one more time that my story is Tron meets Read Player One, I will scream), finish writing it (November needed about another week), and get to editing. But I also should be editing Scorch and getting it off to beta readers. But for a few minutes, I'm going to enjoy that I've met Em, Alex, and Lex and wait for them to tell me the rest of their story.

Rift - the first novel in the Arcstone Series 
Madelyne Laurent is a bookseller in a chain bookshop in Paris by day, but by night she is Em, elven warrior in the massively multiplayer online 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 – or his avatar ‘Lex’ – trying to help her or hurt her? When a tyrant running the show inside and outside of Arcstone sets his sights on Madelyne and her father, she must make alliances to save her father’s life – and get both of them back to the real world, if she can. 
Welcome to Arcstone – Game loading, please wait…
Stay tuned to my website for Rift cover reveal and more. I can't wait for all of you to meet them!

01 November 2019

If anyone is looking for me...

I just discovered that I can novel ON MY PHONE because I am an OLD LADY who doesn't understand TECHNOLOGY so I am now noveling on the bus and at other times that I can't get to my laptop (or shouldn't be noveling like... you know, at work...).

This year's Nano is a departure from my recent work - if you look here at my Nano dashboard, you'll see that I have all but devoted my recent Nano and CampNano time to an Orana Chronicle or similar. Not in many seasons have I started down a completely new path with new characters.

Okay, maybe it isn't completely new because there are MMORPG elements and fantasy elements. But sort of. Just hear me out.

Rift is the working title (and yes, I know there is a video game called Rift) and the story centers on Em (short for Maddie) who finds herself pulled from her modest flat in Paris into the world of an MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) that she plays. Everything in Arcstone is as she has seen it for years on her screen, including her online player buddy Alex's avatar, a demon called Lex. Em is not sure whether she is horrified or delighted - perhaps a bit of both?

But nothing in Arcstone is as it seems. Le Creáteur is hunting for Em and Lex in the game, and it will be up to them to figure out what he is after and how he managed to intersect the real world and the game world. Their developing relationship complicates matters too - is Lex really Alex, that Em has known for years? Is he also stuck in Arcstone just as she is? And if so, can she trust him?

Yeah, so that's the back cover blurb so far. It has already gone off the rails and has minor characters running amok, revealing information far earlier than I had planned. Em and Lex are behaving like randy teenagers. And the aptly named Main Character 3 is skulking around and NOT telling me who he/she is or why the skulking and peeping in windows.

I don't know what has fueled this new story. I had every good intention of working on either a revamp of The Baskervilles (after that amazing anonymous first-page feedback from Broadleaf 2019) or work on an upcoming collaboration with another amazing writer friend of mine, Tony Daniel. And then here comes Em and Lex and their story, and everything goes sideways.

And so far, it is the most exhilarating kind of manic sideways and I'm loving it. See you guys on the other side of 30 days or 50k words...whichever comes first.

21 October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 October 2019

On JR Ward and Rune-Carved Bedrock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 September 2019

On crowded spaces and weird moments of podcast clarity

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

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

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

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

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

23 September 2019

Conference Post Mortem and the ETR™

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09 September 2019

On Tired Bones and a Still Too-Raw Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 August 2019

Beams of Heaven, As She Goes

Hoyt and Martha Allen, circa 1970.

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

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

23 August 2019

And another hot minute passes...

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

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

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

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

Nope, let's start again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 May 2019

My Little Irish Wanderer...and the Aftermath

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

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

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

They were not.

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

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

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

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

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

22 April 2019

Camp Nanowrimo, April 2019

Taking notes like a boss writer
Oh y'all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 April 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 April 2019

Here I go again, on my own...

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

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

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

 Speaking of which...

23 March 2019

Ongoing Scrivener Saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 March 2019

Crawling back out of the rabbit hole...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 March 2019

On Daylight Savings Time and Writing Workshops ...

I hates it, precious. I HATES IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04 February 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01 February 2019

And here y'all thought I was going to complain...

Not today.

Okay, earlier today, but not now, even though the sun is creeping up and into the window I'm sitting in front of and making it darned near impossible to work because I CAN'T SEE...

Nope, still not complaining. I am instead starting a new way of working - may or may not have asked permission or cleared it with the higherups but you know, sometimes, to quote Christine Kane, you have to "leap and the net will appear." At least I hope there will be a net.

This is a time of change in my office. Great change. But only for me. After seven years of sitting at a certain desk in a certain office within our suite, I am being relocated. At first, I was angry. I have been here the longest! Why am I having to move? But now, I'm starting to look at this arrangement as a new way to work - semi-digital semi-nomad life, here I come.

So I was going to get myself all worked up over having to be out of my office today, but I'm not - I'm in my office now wherever I am. It's a scary thing for someone that had needed the stability of a 9-5 job for most of my life, but it's turning out to be more okay than I thought.

More time for writing when I'm not chained to a desk. More time to sit in a comfy chair and read my prep materials. More time to be me, rather than the poor team player that I always seem to end up being. More time, less office. Yeah. I think the net is appearing.

Hey, I just noticed the purple and orange in the photo up there. Huh. Coincidence?

18 January 2019

New Year, New You? Nope.

So how many of you (admittedly, 5-6) Lettuce Readers have already given up on the New Year's Resolutions that you made a few weeks ago? Yeah, me too. The difference is that my resolutions were actually achievable this time - set out your clothes for work the night before, make sure that the coffee pot is ready to go before you come stumbling in for some liquid courage at 6:55am (wow, that might have been a little more disclosure than I meant to have this early in a blog post), make time to write every day and the time in between lunch and class doesn't count.

I'm writing this having just polished off two lovely vegetarian sliders with Palmetto Cheese on top, and I've come to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans if that tells you anything.

Before the end of 2018, I started listening to a podcast by my sister-of-choice, Elizabeth Dunne. It's called #FLAW3D and it is brilliant, insightful, and funny, just like she is in person. I swear. But as with everything that occurred after 12 April of 2018, I was going through the motions with her podcasts and other content under the #FLAW3D brand. In fact - I will admit this if you swear not to tell her I said so - I am embarrassed to say that while listening to her podcasts on the bus on the way to work, I fell asleep. Every time. That has more to do with my level of exhaustion and nothing to do with her content, I swear. My life for most of last year could be represented by the photo above - a long hard slog down a cobbled road devoid of all color.

I also listened to them out of order, because I had started doing that with another podcast I am addicted to listening to called And That's Why We Drink, a Paranormal and True Crime Podcast. The personal information that MUST BE LISTENED TO IN THE ORDER IT WAS RELEASED SO THAT YOU CAN CREEP ON THE LIVES OF THE PODCASTERS is not the point of the podcast there. But with Elizabeth's podcast, it is.

I mean not the creeping part. I would never. I'm having too much trouble remembering to call her Elizabeth rather than 'liz, as I have known her since uni, so there's no way I've got an ulterior motive here. Plus, she is the mother of my eldest niece, so I am versed in the real Elizabeth.

And y'all, if you will just listen to #FLAW3D you will hear the real Elizabeth. She is unabashedly open about everything that she chooses to share - and what she doesn't.

Anyway! So I listened to the first episode of #FLAW3D today - the topic was becoming a digital nomad and working with your spouse - and it was terribly relevant to me not because Hubs is going to quit his job and we are going to open up THE NEXT BEST BIG THING anytime soon. It was terribly relevant because it was just the dose of, "You want to do that? Well, why not?" that I needed. Yesterday was a hard day in the universe of my day job - so bad, in fact, that I couldn't even bring myself to escape to Orana like I normally do when the waters get rocky. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next Clobberpaws, but that was it. One chapter.

Did I mention that I started said chapter LAST NOVEMBER? Yeah. Not my best day as a writer.

But this morning's listen left me with feelings. All the feelings. Why not give up my cushy 37.5 hr/week job where I know what I'm doing and how to do it...if others would just stay out of my lane and let me do it. Why not just keep writing as a hobby and sort-of side gig...even though seeing that three of my books sold all in one day makes me so happy that I literally cried for a few minutes. Why not do what I love, rather than working at a place that I don't love as much as I used to do so that I can afford to do what I love? Things to ponder.

The best bit was probably when her guests, Erin Booth and Tannia Suarez (co-founders of efftheoffice.com) talked to Elizabeth about how for couples that both work jobs outside the home, they have only a few precious hours in the evening to spend time together. Then on weekends they are planning to spend time together but are either too exhausted or want to pursue things that make their individual souls happy - cue the entrance of guilt and resentment.

Hubs and I do that very thing. We get home late. We struggle over what to eat for our tea. We struggle over when to eat or to actually eat at all. We collapse on the sofas and watch an hour or two of television and then go to bed. That is not a life well lived.

So while I'm still processing episode one and moving on to episode two, let me again recommend that you go to FLAW3D.com and check out the podcast and Elizabeth. You won't be sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to completely rethink my entire life. New Year, New Me? Nope. Just New Me - a work in forever ongoing progress.

11 January 2019

Yes, Virginia Woolf, I am an author...

So, I was working on some prep for an upcoming class I have to interpret and I stumbled upon a passage in an essay that not only struck me but absolutely blindsided me in its perfection and appropriateness. In fact, this is going to be my go to now when people ask me what it means to be an author or, in her lovely parlance, a novelist - which sounds far more like the image I have of myself - sequestered in a lovely, seaside town with a leather chair, a fireplace, and my laptop, writing and writing and writing.

Of course, this image flies in the face of my reality - I'm usually on the sofa, holding off anywhere from one to three dogs who DESPERATELY  NEED MY ATTENTION RIGHT NOW and answering questions from my husband while trying to find the right way to describe a creature that heretofore exists only in my mind. That, of course, is luxury; there are also the harried moments of trying to get a sentence typed while simultaneously trying NOT to slide off the seat in a moving bus, or typing out THE BEST DIALOGUE I HAVE EVER CREATED with one hand at whatever desk I can find at work - as the other hand tries not to drop my lunch onto the keyboard.

Anyway, enjoy this passage from "How One Should Read a Book," by Virginia Woolf. She is, as per usual, spot on. I will have some thoughts to share after you're done.
The thirty-­‐two chapters of a novel—if we consider how to read a novel first—are an attempt to make something as formed and controlled as a building: but words are more impalpable than bricks; reading is a longer and more complicated process than seeing. Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words. Recall, then, some event that has left a distinct impression on you—how at the corner of the street, perhaps, you passed two people talking. A tree shook; an electric light danced; the tone of the talk was comic, but also tragic; a whole vision, an entire conception, seemed contained in that moment.
-Virginia Woolf, How Should One Read A Book

Right, so anyone that has written anything will tell you that this is one of the more challenging aspects of the craft - take what you have experienced that inspires you and turn it into words, with all their "dangers and difficulties."  While I do agree that it is difficult, it occurs to me that I have an advantage that I hadn't thought about until today - I am fluent in English, but also in American Sign Language (ASL).

I know, it's a stretch, but stay with me.

ASL, like all other signed languages, is a visual and spatial language - English, and other spoken languages, are more linear in their approach to conveying a message. It is part of the language to describe things, to make the building that Woolf mentions in that passage. You can't convey the meaning, TREE without conveying what the tree looks like. It is built into the language!

I haven't gotten to the advantage yet, so if you're still lost, that's okay. Here we go.

In order to express TREE in ASL, I have to visualize the tree. Whereas in English I might say "the old oak tree with the outstretched branches" to describe the tree I'm picturing now, I would use one sign in ASL:

As you can see in this image by The Tree House, my arm would be the trunk and my fingers the leaves, so in a way, I'm expressing everything that took me eight words in English with one sign. But in my mind, I am visualizing the tree and hanging onto that visualization because I need it to correctly represent the tree.

That was the advantage - did you miss it? ASL requires me to hold onto images of things that I have seen and subsequently want to talk about later. That is such a useful skill for a writer, especially one like me born without an eidetic memory. Do I capture and store everything that I see/hear/experience? No, my internal hard drive that is my brain is far too limited for that. But part of what I do as an ASL user is to slow down for a second and consider the visual aspects of something that strikes me - and that helps me later describe it, sometimes first in ASL and then in English.

My life is weird - and wonderful, and I hope that this will make me a better interpreter AND novelist.

03 January 2019


Like it was just yesterday. I still remember you on one knee at Manchester Airport (if you want me to say yes to something, asking when I'm jet-lagged and just getting off an 8 hr flight is a good time to ask), and I remember Louise looking concerned that I might have said no when we got to the car. I can still feel the loose buckle on my left shoe that made my leg wobble throughout the ceremony. I can still taste that first sip of Yorks Tea at the reception. 

How are we ten years older in the picture on the right than we were in the one on the left? How have we had ten Christmases and Easters and moved house twice and country twice? How has our house been home to seven dogs and a cat in that space of time? Didn't I just arrive at Heathrow and have my visa stamped? Wasn't it just a few minutes ago when we drove to Atlanta to get my biometrics done, or to Berea to sort out your social security? I'm certain it was only a week or so ago, maybe a month, that I picked you up at Hartsfield right after you collected me at Manchester when we were basically living at various airports and train stations. Wasn't it?

I'm so grateful for the macaroni and cheese, the shared nerdiness, the willingness to put up with my shenanigans, the flashlights bought for me to take to faire, the resolve to get up when the girls are howling so that I can lie in, the whispered, "love you, bye" when I think I've managed to get out the door without waking you, the love of travel and history, the debates over whatever has just been said on telly, the ability not to laugh in my face when I think I'm speaking Yorkshire, the shared love of Greenville, the support and encouragement to be a writer, the shared - and different - expat experience, and all the other things that I have been given over the past ten years that I most certainly did not and do not deserve. 

Ten years done and dusted, and as many more as I can get to come. Love you to absolute bits, Simon.

02 January 2019

Scorched and Clobbered on my way into 2019

Yeah, that's what I look like in my head - but less blonde.
Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Yeah, so I'm a little behind, but no blog of mine would be worth its collective weight without a farewell to the old and promises I plan to keep break for the new around this time of year, right? Like here, two years and change ago, when I made the decision to go to grad school...again... Or here, where I acted like a big-time fancy pants writer and announced a book cover on the blog, promising to keep to a deadline. Y'all have met me, so stop laughing and keep reading.

This past year has been a different beast. I lost my dad in April. I lost my mind, more or less, in the summer. I lost my office around November. I lost the regular and pain-free use of my right elbow somewhere during the fall semester. For once, as I said in a very maudlin post on Facebook, I was not desperately clinging to the previous year on New Year's Eve and was ready to kick that biz to the curb. Roll on, 2019!

For the however long New Year's Eve took, I was standing between two realities, in a way. New year, new me, right? Sort of. I'm not making specific resolutions, save the generic ones like, "Enjoy life more and read more and so forth." I'm going to live my best life (so far) in 2019 because really, that's all we can do, right? That's all I have been doing, trying to live my best life - perhaps the resolution is to let less of the stuff of life get in my way.

Oh, and to the writerly stuff:  I will have a Clobberpaws book coming out in the spring/summer of this year and at least one Orana Chronicles novel out by May, if the scorching and clobbering process (that is writing and editing) doesn't kill me first, that is.

Music Monday: Still Unwritten

This has been a weird couple of days, culminating in Music Monday almost being forgotten. Last Thursday I went to my appointment with "...