Monthly Archives: February 2018

Leveling Up

My Dad

I think I’m getting better at grief. Maybe I leveled up and didn’t realize it somewhere along the way. I’ve been sort of offline for a few days – here but not here and mostly just playing Words with Friends and lurking on Reddit. My dad has been gone for a year now, the day came and went with no fanfare, no whistles or bells. I don’t know what I expected I guess. I am a little surprised that I didn’t dream about him. Maybe the melatonin is giving me more vibrant dreams at the cost of the vibrant, meaningful dreams that tend to poke at me around special dates. I didn’t dream of my mother around her birthday this year either. Like I said, I think I leveled up and didn’t hear the sunburst sound or get to allocate my level points.

It feels like so much has happened in this first year that he missed. I wrote a book that he’ll never read. I don’t have the right words for how upsetting that is. I’m kind of glad he missed all the health crap – he would have tried to help more than he should have because he was like that. The oldest kid continually surprises people with his talents – acting and singing. I know Dad would have loved to see the boy be Edgar Allan Poe and completely kill it. The youngest kid has tried a bunch of new foods – many of which my Dad loved to cook (granted, he loved to cook pretty much everything but still) and has come so far. He’d have been so damned proud of them both.  And me too, for that matter.

I find I’m standing up for myself a little bit more, putting up with nonsense a little less. I’m not sure if it’s because of said leveling up or if I just don’t have the energy to placate people or stroke their egos anymore. Plus, I have much less time now that I can type again. All the words belong to me now – still a bit slower than I’d like but I’m so happy with the volume and quality of them!

My phone is incredibly quiet now – no one calls to kibbutz with me or texts final jeopardy answers anymore. I miss him a lot. I did however finally go back to his favorite restaurant – there’s only so long I can go without Theo Yanni’s baklava cheesecake (which is even better than it sounds). Heck, maybe that’s when I did the leveling up. Somewhere between the spanikopita and the cheesecake, the horn must have trumpeted. I guess that means my points are all automatically assigned though. Which is a shame. I would really like to assign some points to learning freedom of movement.


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Teachers Matter

I live in a state that is currently in the middle of a teacher walkout. I have been incredibly fortunate to have had some wonderful teachers in my life and I believe they can make all the difference. These are the people who shape the leadership for generations. These are the people who help teach our kids to think, to act, to understand our history, our system. They teach our kids how to work together – something a whole lot of adults could stand to learn. They make learning exciting so they want to continue to learn for the rest of their lives. Or at least, the good ones do. Yes, as in every profession, there are the occasional people who are not as involved, not as excited but truly, teachers don’t make enough for people you don’t love the profession to do it.

Many years ago, I had a particular teacher who just made everything work. At the time I was in a special program so it wasn’t really run like your standard classes. I was in fourth grade, not dealing with the best situation at home, and Mrs. VanWert was the best thing I could ever have asked for that year. We did a project on Mesopotamia that year and part of it was giving a report in front of the class – this project was all the subjects in one – history, art, English, science. Maybe not math but I could have forgotten something. I was partnered with a girl named Sandy and we kicked butt to win the special cassette single of Walk Like An Egyptian (man, now I feel old). We built a sarcophagus out of cardboard, offering jars and totem statues from clay and paint, and instead of doing a report, we wrote a script… two hapless archaeologists one of whom, me, fell into the sarcophagus and totally freaked out at the skeleton inside. I really loved that school, that class. It gave me something to look forward to, when I wasn’t tumbling headlong into my books or fighting evil wizards with my weird white staff (not really a stick but the guts out of a drapery rod that I found on the beach).

In high school (six years and 3000 miles later), I learned that not all teachers are there to be supportive or kind but they can still be motivators. I might not have worked so hard at my writing if Mr. Nick hadn’t pretty well told me I would never succeed. Of course, he didn’t think very much of me to begin with but there’s no accounting for taste, is there? It was a good lesson to learn and one that thankfully would never be repeated even though that year was the last year I cared one whit about school (not any teacher’s fault but the loss of my mom, my depression, and the beginning of a pretty steep spiral that would end a few years later with severe panic attacks and not leaving my house for a year except with my husband).

Teachers matter. Even the bad ones. We should treat them better and pay them what they’re worth. They should make enough to entice more people to the profession. They shouldn’t be paying out of pocket for classroom supplies. They should be supported and celebrated not having to walk in the cold and the rain just to be treated OK, not even adequately, just OK. One of my teacher friends seems to be feeling a bit guilty and selfish for being out on the line and not in the classroom and that’s just not right. It’s not selfish to want to be able to at least survive on your salary after all those years preparing for your career. You shouldn’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.

In a completely unrelated bit – I’m catching up on Star Wars Rebels and a thing happened and I made a sound and maybe got a little weepy and my Alfred pup got up in my face with his silly grin, trying to lick my face and stop that. Silly, adorable punk. If you’re a Star Wars fan, Rebels is worth watching. The series format gives you a lot of room for mythology, story, and character growth. Plus, Jedi wolves. Seriously, amazing Jedi wolves.

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Writing Wednesday – Music

Some writers require silence, I require noise. Some noise is better than other noise. Occasionally, I can even write when people are talking to me but, apparently, that’s rude. So, sorry if I’ve done that to you. Which goes out to pretty much everyone I’ve ever met in real life… It is an essential skill to have, though, when you have two kids who never ever stop talking.

For me, music sets the tone for my writing. Like some other writers I know, I have playlists designed for specific projects, playlists for certain types of scenes or genres, playlists for moods, and playlists for certain characters. Sometimes, music influences my typing speed too – at least when everything else is working right.

Many years ago, when I was in middle school, near the time I started my first book, we had a music class where the director had us listen to a piece of music and then write what we saw. It was a fabulous exercise both from the musician’s standpoint and the writer’s. Experiencing music can be an incredible thing – whether you can see whole scenes before you or just get swept up in the emotions of it. It’s where I learned that I’m a very visual listener. Music helps me see the stories I’m creating and generally keeps any writer’s block from settling in for too long.

I’m always on the lookout for new music to inspire me. I listen to a little bit of everything. Except for 99% of country and about 50% of rap music – not big on violent rap, love message and skill work – anyone who can do that, talk that way, rhyme that way, is flat amazing to me. I love opera, classical, electronic, dance, some pop, some hip hop, jazz, rock, metal, alternative, grunge, ska, heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, folk metal (omg, love folk metal). You never know what’s going to spark something.

So, have a little something my son found and see if it doesn’t spark a story or a character. These guys are great fun and it’s all quite catchy and familiar.

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Skin and Scales

For the last several months, since I started medication, I’ve complained about my skin. Some of it cleared up when I finally got off the prednisone but I’m having a resurgence of acne and not all the red splotchiness is going away. I’ve ordered samples, bought samples, searched the internets, and slathered my skin in all manner of craziness. I’ve learned a few things – some of the most expensive skin stuff smells like skunk cabbage and rotten carrots had a baby, sheet masks are weird as all get out, and bubble masks really feel neat. And nothing works for me. Rather, nothing did.

That’s not to say I didn’t find things I liked – I really do love the Glamglow cleanser (it smells like licorice!) and the crazy bubble cloud mask things. Micellar Water is the greatest makeup remover ever (but I can’t leave it on my skin like some people). And Garnier’s is just as nice as some of the pricier ones. And mostly I’ve learned just how expensive skincare and makeup can be. Oh my goodness, it can be ridiculous! Some of it though is absolutely worth it and I would be so dangerous if I had real money. Fortunately, there are places like Marshalls where I can find something new to try while not spending a ton just to discover yet another thing I shouldn’t put on my face.

Believe it or not, the only thing I’ve found that works is a regular drugstore brand. Actually, I shouldn’t be too surprised as this particular brand was my astringent go to a billion years ago. I’m a couple of days in, using the system – cleanser once, spot treatment and lotion twice – and the difference is huge. The blemishes have diminished, the redness is nearly gone – even on my cheekbones! Clean and Clear’s Advantage is super affordable, especially compared to the systems I’ve looked at trying to find something.

Ikea Bento

Now for the scales part! My oldest kid is super earth conscious and really trying to live as close to zero waste as he can (though complete zero waste is really impossible in this day and age. In trying to find ways to minimize his footprint, he was looking at bento boxes. Rather than wait for shipping, we went out and picked up Ikea’s version of a bento and got to work trying to figure out what we were going to put in them. Apart from zero waste, I’m hopping on the bandwagon is hopes of a smaller waist. If I try really hard to stick to the portions, to drink all my scheduled water, and, you know, actually move, it should all work to get that stupid number going the right direction just a little faster and continue to do so until the Wii Fit board stops reminding me just how horribly fat I am in a far too perky voice.

Today’s lunch is probably the only one I’ll blog about (unless I make something insanely pretty) because it’s the first one.

Today’s lunch: Green tea noodle ginger chicken salad made by my oldest kid, pork steamer buns (that I need to learn how to make), green peppers, sugarsnap peas, grapes, cheese. So yummy.

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So Far, So Good

I’ve been really good at keeping up this word counting and I’ve only missed one day this month writing and that was a holiday. I’m going to have missed days sometimes. Apparently, I’m having my November now. I’m more than on track to hit 50k this month and I’m really pleased about that.

Yesterday was a day full of going and walking and I paid for it last night. I’m glad we went but I feel bad as I move at about the pace of a snail and the poor dear husband moves more like a gazelle and so do my very tall kids. By the end of the day, I felt about like I felt one the day my very first flare started and we began the process of trying to find out what is wrong with me.

I still managed to get words in on Hunter’s Hell though, a little better than 800 of them. I really do love where this story is going. I feel a little guilty doing some of the horrible things to my characters that I do but they also need to happen in order for my lovelies to grow. That’s always my biggest complaint when I read a series – the characters don’t grow or they lean on one particular crutch too much. That doesn’t mean I don’t love the stories or those writers, just that it’s a thing that I note and remind myself to try to avoid.

I adore JD Robb’s in Death series – love em all. BUT, I do think Eve’s constant misunderstanding of common idioms is ridiculous at this point and she’s going to run out of them. In the latest, it wasn’t so much the idioms that bothered me but the botchery of Hitchcock’s name. Sure, not everyone is a movie buff but this isn’t the first in Death book where Hitchcock is mentioned. So it irks me. It irks me just a little as it’s one irksome thing in an otherwise fun book. They are fun, fast reads even with the occasional bout of come on that get under my skin. The most recent installment is fun, not particularly groundbreaking as the basic idea has been done before many times, but it’s a solid outing with Eve and Roarke. Really though that’s the best part of stories – I can read the same story by eight different writers and they’re all different and amazing in their own way.

I’m hoping to get more words in today but if I don’t, I’m not terribly concerned. At least the kids are old enough to, more or less, let me work and not stop me every three minutes to get them this or that or keep them occupied. They’re pretty good now at keeping themselves occupied.

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Filed under Books, Rheumatoid Arthritis, WIP, Writing

Writing Wednesday – Zero Drafts

First things first: Happy Valentine’s day! If you do stuff, I hope you enjoy it. If not, don’t forget, there’s usually a sale on chocolate tomorrow (I’m a sucker for good chocolate).

The other day, a relatively new to the game writer asked me about my personal process, especially as it relates to outlines. Outlines seem to be everyone’s go-to suggestion for writers but they do not work for me at all. When I outline a project, it pretty well never gets written. My process looks a little like this: Project A: Zero Draft. Project B: Zero Draft. Choose which project is the priority and which project is the treat. Rewriting to the first draft of Project A, and if I meet the minimum daily word count, I can work on Project B’s rewrite to the first draft. When the First draft of Project A is done, it gets sent to Beta readers while I work on finishing Project B’s rewrite and potentially working on Project C’s zero draft. And so on and so forth forever.

The concept of the zero draft was something I read about on Eugie Foster’s blog forever ago. Before that, I’d considered my first stage as a splat draft – both names work and are the same thing but Zero Draft sounds more professional and appealing to me so that’s what I’ve called it since then. For me, it is a start to finish, throw everything at the story, no idea is bad, point A to point Z, just the plots now story. Oftentimes, it ends up being a words only storyboard, chopped up by scene, the basic ideas conveyed but very sparse on pretty details and anything that requires detailed research. Sometimes they’re really short, 25,000 words or so and other times, they’re more or less complete novels that just need a little tweaking and come in closer to 60,000 words. The two projects I’m working on now started out on the lower word count step.

Sometimes, it feels a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks but it works for me. I don’t need a lot of structure or really work well with structure when I’m writing anyway – it always made for tricky work when outlines and such were part of the assignment. I tended to do it backward, write the story first then write the outline to turn in. It usually meant extra work for one week and none at all the next, when they wanted the first draft.

I am a pantser at heart. I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t know where it’s going, where it will end, or who will survive to see the end. It’s only been with this first sequel I’ve ever written that I’ve ever had any idea where my characters have been. Zero drafts are for ideas, inspiration, and a couple of plot holes. Rewrites are for smoothing it all out and actually making sure things make sense. My process doesn’t work for everyone, in fact, it doesn’t work for most people, but it works pretty well for me.

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At least for the time being, this attempt at tracking my words is actually working. Not only that but I’ve gotten at least 300 words every day this month and every day since January 20th. That doesn’t seem like much but the way things have been the last six months, the last year, that’s just flat amazing. I’m a bit of a sucker for a well put together spreadsheet and that’s what I’ve put together for tracking my words. It’s not as fancy as it could be but it’s functional – tracking by day, by month, by project, and yearly total. I’m probably enjoying that a little too much but it really is fun to do. I did learn that, even if I only wrote 300 words a day, I could still write a book every year. 300 words is nothing! Anyone can write 300 words.

Husband and I went out today, I hit Joanne Fabrics for some stuff that I can make other stuff out of, discovered much better prices on really nice makeup at Marshall’s, and bought myself a pair of light-up kitten ear headphones that are my new favorite thing ever. I have some crafty plans for this year – some of which might take a little practice – and I’ve got to get moving on that so I can make stuff worthy of actually selling at this year’s group of craft fairs and at my little Etsy shop. I have lots of plans, I just have to make my body cooperate.

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Filed under Crafting, etsy, Life, Writing

Processes and Projects

I’m routinely getting words on books and this makes me happy in ways I can’t explain. It’s been a long time – longer than I would like to admit – since I was writing with any real regularity. I tried to get back into the swing of things with two separate NaNoWrimos and it sort of almost worked. For a month or so. I’m coming up on a month of tracking my word counts for no one but myself and I’m actually doing quite well. I’ve got my spreadsheet with all its pretty formulas to help me measure down to the word – by project, by day, by week, by month. I love statistics. We’ll see if I’m still doing it in six months… If it gets these two books that are my current priority, I’ll be happy. I would really like it to stick around though – I have so many stories to tell!

Coming up, I’m going to be doing something a bit different. At least on Wednesdays. The other day I had a long discussion with another writer about my own process because she asked and I know I’m a bit of an odd duck in that I’m not an outliner. In any case, I’m going to start running a process spotlight on some Wednesdays I think.

My foot is very unhappy today. And my elbows. The elbows are a little less troublesome but I had to take the cane to get my youngest kid off the bus, as my one foot just feels broken. It isn’t, not even a little and there is no reason for it to feel like all the little bones in my foot are grinding to dust but, hey, yay RA. *sigh* Hopefully tomorrow will be better on that front.

I’ve taken a long enough break and I should get back to writing. I’ve broken the 2500 word mark, I’d like to hit 3k today if I can so I should get back to it.

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Filed under Rheumatoid Arthritis, Writing

Lost Days

Yesterday was mostly one. Not entirely, I did get a few hundred words on my non-priority project but I don’t remember doing a whole lot otherwise. Some dishes, a trip to the grocery, and a lot of sleeping. On the upside, today I don’t feel as congested or achy as I did yesterday. I’m thinking the barometer did some moving yesterday in preparation for today’s weather shift. So far, it really seems like my joints are fine in the cold (as long as I take my meds), only my bad knee gets mad when it’s raining, but pressure changes are terrible. I guess this is just another one of those things I’m going to have to get used to. It’s not like I didn’t have lost days before it’s just different now somehow. It feels like it’s harder to make up the losses than it used to be. Of course, it kind of is.

Before, a lost day was nothing to worry about and likely not really lost but spent doing house stuff or reading a book or doing something with the kids. Now, it’s a freaking event if we do a trip to the strip district for coffee, olive oil, and fresh tortillas (and a bunch of other stuff we probably don’t need but thoroughly enjoy) and I know I’ll pay for it the next day. I’m looking at the schedule for craft fairs for this summer and I’m debating a bit on how many I want to do or will be able to do. I was never very normal but I do very much miss being healthy. I miss when I could make up a day pretty quickly because my “day” really only took an hour or two of hard focused work.

I’ve actually managed to write every day this month so far – but it’s early days yet and we’ll see if I can keep it up. I’m going to try though – at least 300 words but better if it’s more than that. I have too many things I want to write, too many stories to tell, and I just feel like I need to get them to paper (or file) sooner.

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Filed under Rheumatoid Arthritis, Writing

Most of this week rocked

I got a lot done, I’m a bit concerned that my word counts are artificially high but they aren’t really – the way I do rewrites from the zero-draft, I’m actually writing every word over again. Maybe it doesn’t seem like I’m adding a whole lot just yet but I’m also cutting out the words that don’t work so I’m going to keep counting that way – two separate files side by side, no cut and paste, I get to keep the official words. It just feels easier because I have these bones already.

Today did not rock. The day I took my meds (weds) was fine. Thursday I zonked out quite a bit – certainly more than I expected to. Yesterday I was hurting so much more – especially in the feet. Today, today was just awful. I haven’t felt this sick since starting this whole process. Headache, nausea, exhaustion. If I’d shone any other illness signs or anyone else in the house felt awful, I might think it was a touch of something but everyone else is fine so it might be the meds – I guess I’ll know next week. I’m feeling a smidge better this evening than I was this morning for sure but I’m still not quite right.

This post is the grand total for my words today but I had a great week for words otherwise so I’m good with that. The X-Files is back again and, of course, I’m watching it and while I might be behind a bit and slow in the writing but recap/review is up for the first two episodes on The Geek Girl Project.  The reviews for 3-5 should be up sometime this week. I still love the show but, as much as I’d watch it forever, I think the actors are about done so I really hope they wrap it up in a more satisfying way than they did last time they did a special season.

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Filed under Health, Writing