Friday, March 16, 2018

It's Been A Tough Week

I'm so glad to get to the end of this week.

Quick reminder: I did NaNo last year all by hand, and have spent the last three months transcribing those pages, researching, and editing - but I've had no new material (on that book at least). So I was excited to jump back in over my birthday mini-vacation... but no. And then not in the days after. I couldn't even get myself to try. Convinced I had nothing to offer and nothing I've written is in the direction I want to take it in anymore...

So this week I made myself start again. Just write something. Anything. For fifteen minutes at a time, that's all. I could do that, right?

Oh. my. God. So painful. It reminded me that writing truly is a muscle, one that has atrophied over the last three months, just as my running endurance has. But I made myself go on, moving pen over page. Dry, dull, though at least I ended each session knowing what was coming next... a series of sticky notes the breadcrumbs to get me started the next day. But nothing interesting or useful for a few days.

And then? Maybe a little glimmer of something interesting? Maybe only a marsh-light but still more than I had? I'll keep following it and see where I end up. But oh so daunting after having felt so sure of this in the fall.

And I need to read more of what I aspire to in my writing. Lately it's been a lot of escapist stuff (end of winter, y'all). I'm okay with that but it's not where my own writing lies.

My movement towards writing was interrupted a few days by a doozy of a migraine. Typically I get auras, maybe some pain - that's not too bad as I get older and especially not if I take something right at the start of the aura, and then a period of impaired thinking for a while after. Nothing horrible, I just can't focus well or think as easily or quickly as I'm used to. If it's a really bad one I might have some numbness around my mouth, but that hasn't happened in a while. Air pressure and hormones are the usual triggers for me, sometimes light. But seriously, my migraines are not usually a big disrupter in my life.

But Monday. Woah. Almost as soon as I woke up the aura was on me and I could tell it was going to be serious. I didn't realize it would be so trippy. Memories, memories of dreams, memories within dreams, random sense impressions all colliding together, even as I was getting myself and the kids dressed and moving towards school. As if my brain was bifurcated and all that was happening on a second level. I could focus on what needed doing immediately, but only that - no planning, thinking ahead, decision making. The kids were asking questions (and both talking at once, as usual) and I had to let them know I wasn't going to be able to explain anything to them or answer anything not relating to right in front of me, right now. Got them to school (did not drive, we took the train), and then came home to cancel phone meetings and let my boss know I would not be coming in, then spent the rest of the day on the couch reading - if I was going to be in an alternate head space I wanted it to at least be a cohesive world something one created, rather than the fragments of mine I was experiencing and didn't know if I could trust.

Things mostly cleared by mid-afternoon but I was wiped out by then and still not certain of my thinking. I went into work the next day but only lasted a couple of hours before another aura started and I headed back home, though it was nothing near as painful or strange as the day before. And the rest of the week has been trying to recover from all that, going to bed earlier, drinking more water, trying to eat well. I'm still feeling a little fragile though not horribly so.

I don't know what triggered this - it's been maybe twenty years since I've had a migraine this bad. But I'm not counting out the news that exploded in the queer romance world.

It's been awful. I suspect the majority of readers of this blog know nothing about this and I'm not going to try to explain. The rest of you either know all about it or are Russian bots, based on my stats. But it's just been... ugh. Vile behavior from an author exposed, which then led to the exposure of awful behavior from an editor and a publisher - all of whom had power in this corner of the writing world, the corner I consider home.

I have no skin in this - I'm just a little fangirl over on the sidelines who dreamed of maybe someday submitting something to that publisher because they were the first queer romance press I encountered back when I was all *starry eyed* THIS EXISTS?! Since then I'd heard enough murmurs about that publisher and encountered enough other presses to be over my hero-worship but it still feels rotten to see what's been exposed (and what's been unleashed afterwards as people find out and react all over the place). All the more so because an author I truly admire and had some exchanges with was at the center of exposing things, and my heart hurts for him and everyone else who has been hurt by Riptide and Sarah Lyons and the people going by the name Santino Hassell.

Some good is coming from this, thankfully, I've seen more lifting up of authors of color in the past week than before and there have been some amazing outpourings of generosity and effort across Romancelandia to the authors affected by all this, but... ugh. Shit shouldn't have had to happen for growth to occur.

But hey! Aren't our teenagers amazing! (Speaking of something else that shouldn't have had to happen...)

Sad and tired and wanting to put my arms around the world,

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Birthday Roundup - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

My treat for myself this birthday was two days off - no work, no kids (well, during the day at least). I should have also put, no expectations, but more on that later.

Things I was looking forward to:

  • Going running after I drop the boys off - so then I can come home and take my own sweet time cleaning up and getting dressed.
  • Re-shelving my books!
  • Reading!

Other things I had planned: Way too long a list.

What actually happened:

My first day off was mucky to start. Rain into snow, with a nasty wind coming off the lake. So no running for me. Instead I finally used the exercise bike I'd assembled 10 days before (a Christmas present from my parents).

I've been needing this for a couple of years. When we moved I lost easy access to the gym (we also cut back on spending). The first year I continued to run in the mornings, even muscling through the winter months, but as I've focused more on my writing I've found it harder and harder to keep a consistent exercise schedule, and I've missed it. Physically for sure, and mentally as much so. So it was a big deal to ask for this (and took me months to actually give them the model info).

Before I got to that point in the day, though, I had to deal with my head.

Birthdays always trip me up emotionally. I don't know why, but they do. And usually well in advance of having them. This year, though, I had been looking forward to it, so I wasn't expecting my first response once I dropped the kids off and was heading home to be a pervasive sense of "I suck and nobody likes me."

Looking back I can see what led to this but what I knew at the time was, no way do I want to sit in this all day, and, screw trying to understand why I feel this way, I just need to take action to stop it.

So I do what I do when I feel isolated and alone. I emailed friends to set up phone dates. I confirmed movie plans. I stayed off of social media.

(I've written elsewhere about my frustration that I can't easily handle impromptu social interaction, so I'm not going into that here, but, no, I could not "just pick up the phone".)

And then I had a lovely day re-shelving my books and finally using the exercise bike and reading. Just like last year. Oh, and going to see Hamilton, which was The Dude's birthday present to me this year. (Oh. My. God. I have all the feels about this musical. Don't get me started.)

Then the next day dawned bright and sunny and I could go for my run and come home and laze about and read and eat chocolate before I even took my shower and it was lovely...

Until I thought, well, it's time to look at that list of Things I Was Going To Do With My Time Off.

Never do that. Not for a birthday vacation. Not ever, really.

My problem was that almost everything on that list was writing related, so in theory I was looking forward to it all... but in reality I have routines set up for my writing and outside of those routines I find it really hard to work on it. And having two days off is WAY outside of my routines.

Plus I just finished a massive chunk of work on it and maybe should have planned to give myself a little bit of a break...?

Long story short, I spent the rest of my day trying to force myself to be productive and failing, and that's never good for my head. And not a good way to end my time off.

Next time, I'm setting my to-dos like this:

Maybe putter a bit if it makes me feel good.

Learn from my mistakes so you don't make them,

Friday, February 23, 2018

On "A Wrinkle In Time" & Not Having A Visual Imagination

I am so excited to see "A Wrinkle in Time". I was excited when I first heard it was being made as a film by Ava DuVernay, I got even more exited when I heard the Murrys were being cast as a biracial family, and then I was over the moon when I saw the preview at Christmas.

These books meant so much to me as a kid, and I knew they had meant a lot to The Dude, so I assumed we would see this together. But no. Apparently as a kid he had a very clear image in his mind of these books, so is hesitant to see this adaption, at least until he's heard more from other people. (He had the same reaction to the Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring movies, but ultimately came to love them.)

I have no such trouble!

While I certainly do process things visually, I don't have much of a visual imagination or memory, and I process things best physically - through movement, touch, and spatial relationships.

It took me a long time to learn this about myself. Probably because I have some skill in making art, and could memorize things easily. And because the visual is prioritized in Euro-American culture.

Has not knowing this hurt me? Only to the extent of having the sense that I didn't quite "get" things in the same way as other people. Descriptive passages in books, for example, frustrate the heck out of me. I can picture things, all right, but it takes a lot of effort and I have to really want to. So for a long time, for example, I thought there was something lacking in the way I responded to literature, or the type of reading material I preferred. (More so because I went to school with Very Smart People.)

And it would have been helpful to realize earlier on how I do process things. Both to take advantage of that information, and, again, not to think less of myself for how I process things. Moving while listening to someone (in a meeting, or a lecture, or on a phone call), is called fidgeting. Not a good thing, right? I definitely remember lectures about this a child. Now I deliberately wear items I can fidget with.

Going back to writing, I'm aware that I have to make a point of including visual description --- something to keep in mind for editing. I'm also hyper-aware when movement in books doesn't flow right. I have one favorite author where this is a constant issue; I adore her writing in many ways but I've had to decide not to try to make sense of positions when her characters are interacting with each other or with the space.

This way of processing is also why I prefer print. I read a lot of e-books --- for convenience, for cost, and simply because a lot of what I read isn't available in print --- but I will always prefer print, I make sense of things and remember things better if I can handle the pages. The movement of turning pages, the feel of the paper under my fingers, knowing where sentences are on a page, all these things together lock the story into my head in a way I just don't get otherwise. (And forget audio books, my auditory processing is not good.) Before reading e-books I knew I would prefer print, it wasn't until I'd been reading e-books for a few months (I only started last summer) that I understood why, and that it was more than just a preference.

Back to the movie. It's one of the few times I'm grateful for not having a visual imagination - I have nothing in my head to compare this movie to. Now, will it get the feel of the books for me? I'll just have to wait and see.

Twitching in anticipation,

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tag, You're It

I read a post on tags on EM's Permanent Ink blog - you know, where you answer a list of questions about something personal and then tag people you know to answer them as well. This one was of course about books (as they write, "BOOKS ARE LIFE"), and while I didn't feel like answering all of the questions ("Count your age along your bookshelf" - which bookshelf?) I rather liked this one:

Find a Book for Each of Your Initials

A - Agnes and the Hit Man, by Jennifer Crusie

Agnes and the Hitman: A Novel by [Crusie, Jennifer, Mayer, Bob]

This was the first romance novel I read as an adult. I stopped reading romances when we moved overseas - I had only ever read them while at other people's houses babysitting anyway. And then I came out and it didn't even occur to me that there might be queer romance out there - I wasn't even looking because I fell into the trap of believing all the stereotypes about romance novels. (Also, this was the late 80's / early 90's so a lot of those stereotypes were still true.) But believe me, I searched for romance in everything else I read.

Then I came across this book at the library and it blew my mind. So funny and smart and sexy and with adventure to boot! I quickly read everything else I could find by Jennifer Crusie, and when I found a hardback copy of this on the book cart at work I snatched it up and read it once a year. But it still didn't occur to me that there was a whole world of romance novels that I was missing.

I still love Jennifer Crusie and I still re-read at least one a year.

B - Breakaway, by Avon Gale

Breakaway (Scoring Chances Book 1) by [Gale, Avon]

I have so many feelings for her books it's hard to know what to say. This is the first in her "Scoring Chances" series. Oh, I love her characters so much, the way they think, speak, behave. I love the economical wit of her writing - she tells you so much about them in just a sentence, a phrase, a word sometimes. I like that these are gentle books - I don't get put through the wringer with them (except with the force of my adoration). And she has a unique timing to her books that I haven't seen in other romances - usually by 2/3 through our couple is solidly together and then the rest of the book is a deepening of their relationship and a view into how they navigate the rest of the world together. Very sweet and very rewarding.

C - Citizen, by Claudia Rankine

Citizen: An American Lyric by [Rankine, Claudia]

I don't know how many people I have pushed this book on (recommendation only, I'm not letting go of my copy). This is poetry as an explosive, a visceral force making you feel and understand in your body things you cannot get from news reports or essays. But an explosive that slides up into you before detonating (like some of the encounters she describes) - a word or a phrase that seems neutral at first and then you're gutted by it. And then you find your whole understanding of things is turned over. Go. Read this.

E - Emma, by Jane Austin, and, Enchanter's End Game, by David Eddings


These were both books I read in high school, and read over and over and over. And you know what? I still like to read clever, questioning, historical romance with strong female characters, and I still love to read clever, questioning, fantastical adventure/romance with strong female characters. And great dialogue! I've never been able to finish any other Eddings other than The Belgariad and The Mallorean linked series (and really, you can stop with The Belgariad, those five books are plenty), and I've heard complaints about his world-building, but honestly, I don't read for world-building anyway.

What would your books be?


Friday, January 26, 2018

I Blush

It's been quite a week for outside affirmation, and it's only Friday.

One is a work-related invitation for some months from now, so I'm not jinxing that by naming it here.

One is very private (blush) so I'm definitely not sharing that here.

One I've been sharing all over the place (you may have already seen it); a devotion I wrote for work has gotten more attention than usual. In particular, I had the unexpected honor of having it read out loud at our weekly staff meeting.

I have noticed that the more I risk in these devotions - by being more personal, more emotional - the greater the response. That's a nice affirmation of what I've been trying to do in my writing and in my life: to be more brave, to allow myself to be vulnerable.

But it was also surprisingly gratifying to hear it read out loud to me.

There's a stylistic gap between the writing I did until about, oh, ten years ago, and the writing I do now. That's fine, I understand that, my form and my intent have changed so it makes sense my style would too. But I've missed aspects of my earlier writing and I've been trying to find ways to bring it back, but into these new forms.

When I heard that devotion read out loud, I heard echoes of my earlier writing - and that buoyed me. It gave me hope that I might be on the right track after all.

A small victory? Perhaps. But I will grab it and tuck it away to remember for when I'm feeling writer misery again.

Saving some sunshine for a rainy day,

Friday, January 19, 2018

Be Brave, Sleep More

No, those aren't connected, aside from both being resolutions for this year. Or maybe they are? (Something else to ponder... while trying to fall asleep, no doubt.)
  1. Be brave.
  2. Sleep more.
  3. Respect my limits.
I get a lot of my inspiration these days from Twitter. (I promise this is the last Twitter mention for a while. Really.)

For all the vitriol I know people experience there, in my little corner of the Twitterverse I see a lot of encouragement. About a lot of things, but right now I'm thinking of the encouragement I've seen about being one's full self. About being brave. About self-care, knowing one's limits and keeping them safe.

Which has made me think about some of mine. So here's one of them.

I have a hand tremor, have had it since high school. I don't think of it as a disability, but in truth it has shaped me and changed life choices and limits what I can do.

(One early example: the doctor who saw me back then joked about it being a good thing I wasn't planning on being a surgeon. He didn't know me. He didn't know that. He didn't know I'd been planning for years to be a vet.
     Now, given the reason I'd noticed the tremor in the first place was because I had to have my lab partners do the measuring in chem class, he wasn't exactly wrong... But.
     Also, pretty sure he wouldn't have made this comment so quickly if I'd been a boy. 1988 and all.
     I joked about this incident for years without realizing how much it had hurt and how much it shaped how I think about myself in relation to the shaking.)

It poses physical challenges sometimes - I'll just find there's something I can't do.

It's painful sometimes - when it's especially bad I'll notice the muscles of my arms are trying to control it and then they ache. (Doesn't work anyway.)

It impacts decisions I make. It's gotten worse as I get older and I have other issues with my hands as well, so I anticipate a time when... well. Let's just say I've prioritized what's important for me to be able to do by hand, and let go of some activities I used to enjoy. And have started paying attention to certain commercials on MeTV.

On a day-to-day basis it's mostly background noise (getting louder over time). Looking back though I can see myriad things I have done over the years to accommodate it. And when I pay attention I see myself doing a half dozen little things in the course of a day without noticing.

So, as part of being brave and setting limits, I am starting to be more open about it. Declining to do things I know I can't do without difficulty, and asking for help when I need it.

Without apology, or letting myself feel less for it.

It's a new place for me. And one (here's where I get schmoopy) I wouldn't have gotten to without being on Twitter. So thanks.

Having too many feels to think of anything clever,

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Month Later, A Month Wiser (A Month More Ambitious...)

I had big plans.

I was going to knock out the first draft of this novel by the end of March. Or did I say the end of February? Whatevs. Clearly I was on writer's high. I think that's related to runner's high? 'Cause I've made the same kind of pronouncement about my running goals too, only to have it fall short of reality. Miles short.

After the glories of NaNo I floundered through pretty much all of December. I was having trouble figuring out a new writing schedule, for sure, but I also wasn't sure what I should be focusing on. Typing up my handwritten pages? Editing while typing or after? Writing new material? More research? All of that needed to happen. Eventually I settled down to typing up my pages without trying to significantly edit or write new material, and instead just keeping track of any new ideas and the changes I want to make.

And then...

I was chatting a bit with a friend on Twitter about wanting to see alt-history where the Aztecs defeated the Spaniards AND the resulting technological and social development was not along European lines. And I kept thinking about it, and then because neither of us have enough to do I suggested a writing challenge: to come up with a short story, set in that world, in six months.

And then an offhand comment of his made me think that this could fit into the story world I am currently working on. Since I had just come to the realization (yet again) that these books I have in mind are going to be more demanding than I previously thought (both world-building and stylistically), why not pull this in too? And thankfully I have calmed down the thoughts about needing to get this done by the time I'm... whatever age I'm fixating on at the moment.

Fairly quickly I had mapped out a set of questions for myself, avenues to explore, resources to investigate. I have some things already in mind... and my existing characters seem to be taking it in stride. Whew.

Happy writer wriggles. I feel like a pup given a new toy.

So I guess now I have bigger plans. I'll keep on typing up my pages through January and February, make notes for new stuff, get some more research done, and then use March as my own personal NaNo. Since it's my birthday month and I like giving myself challenges as gifts, obviously. And then... cycle repeat, probably, since it seems to be a cycle that works for me. And at some point things will get finished. Probably. Hopefully.

Still wriggling with writing pleasure,