A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Just a quick update

Life threw me another curve ball and I landed back in the hospital for 5 days. I got home late on Wednesday so I was home for Thanksgiving but it was a toss up to see if I'd be spending the holiday in the hospital or not. I got to spend the holiday with family so it was a good ending to a bad situation.

To the ROW 80 crowd, I'm still pushing forward towards my goal of winning NaNoWriMo this year. I'm behind on the word count at the moment but I'm still out of work so I've got a chance this week to make up for it. Everything else got put on hold because of the trip to the hospital. I'm getting back to normal so I expect I'll be back to work on my usual stuff by mid-week.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Random stuff

This is just a post of random stuff and my mid-week #ROW80 update.

Random thing #1: HOORAY ELECTION DAY IS OVER! If you got out to vote, hooray for you! No, really. I'm glad you went out and voted. I'm not registered to vote in my area and I don't have the ability (no utility bill/proof of residency) to get registered so I'm not able to vote. I'd have voted if I could. But for all of you who exercised your right, I'm glad you did.

Random thing #2: I REALLY hate being stuck at home on a leave of absence. I go stir crazy and I'm only on day 3 of the new LOA.

Random thing #3: I'm addicted to Mountain Dew. (Okay, that may not be anything new to people who've known me for a while.)

Random thing #4: My cat likes to play paw tag with the new kitten at random hours that are extremely ungodly which wakes me up and makes me cranky. Which then gets the cats into trouble when all they want to do is play. Not their fault, but I am NOT a 4 am perky person.

Random thing #5: I need a nap (because of the 4 am wake up call this morning).

And now for the #ROW80 update:

Everything is going the same. Exercise is good. Started a new med cycle this week so I'm getting used to that. Writing on the novel is progressing. Back to square one on the work thing but moving forward from there.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

WIP Blog Hop: Burning Dreams

Well, the wonderful KD Sarge tagged me for a blog hop, and like any good friend I accepted her invitation. You're supposed to answer ten questions about your current work in progress. Then you tag five other writers/bloggers and link to them. So I'm going to give it a shot.

1) What is the working title of your book?

I call it "Burning Dreams" because Raghnall is a fire elementalist and because it's not a happy book.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Raghnall showed up about 5 incarnations of this world ago as a minor character and worked his way into becoming a major character. His story has changed drastically over those 5 incarnations to what it is today. Where today's specific idea came from was a brainstorming session with Himself because I wasn't happy with how happy/fluffy/cheerful my stories were.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

High fantasy

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I really don't know who could play Raghnall and Elan. It would have to be a pair of young actors and I'm afraid my knowledge of the younger crowd is sadly lacking. Both would have to be incredibly fit. The one for Raghnall ideally would have to be a martial artist because Raghnall is a fighting monk as well as a mage.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Raghnall must learn to control his powers as he watches the world burn in the fires of war.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I haven't decided yet.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'm writing it right now. It's my NaNo project so I hope to have the bulk of it written this November and to finish it by January.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That's a tough question. I would say the Last Herald Mage books by Mercedes Lackey have some elements of this story. Possibly her  Brightly Burning story as well. Also Soulforge and Brothers At Arms by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Some of what happens to Raghnall mirrors the abuse I suffered as a child. Most of it, though, came out of a desire to tell a story that was completely different from what I'd done before.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A demon has possessed the Emperor and is orchestrating the destruction of Lytharia to fuel its power, and the chosen servant of the God of Balance is on the run for his life. A dragon guards a spell so powerful it can utterly destroy all magic in the area it is cast in, to the point where magic can never be cast there again.

And now who to tag...

Murphy's Lawyer

Not my best day

I went back to work on the 1st. Yesterday (the 3rd) after 2 hours, my boss hauled me into her office and told me I was worse than I'd been before I left on my leave and that she wanted me gone until I could come back as my normal self. So it's back to the rounds of doctors and issues with Met Life and problems with finances until I can get things sorted out. I am not looking forward to this.

I guess, on the plus side, I'll have more time to write. The problem is I've had nothing but time to write since I went on my leave in September. Yes, I'll be able to finish NaNo this year. Hell, if I do end up taking a continued leave of absence I'll be able to finish it before the end of November.

But I don't want to take a continued leave of absence. I wanted to go back to work. I was tired of being stuck at home, worrying about money, and being bored off my ass. There's only so much I can do when I'm stuck within the same four walls.

We'll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow when my doctor's office is open. I also have to call Met Life and see what their procedure is for me continuing a leave that I was just released from. I need to find out if I can even do that or if I have to start the process over again. Which would suck, but at least my doctor knows the procedure now.

To be honest, I didn't manage to work my full shift on Thursday. I had a hard time even working my few hours that I agreed to come in and work on Friday. Maybe I wasn't ready to go back to work. I know I've talked to those around me (Himself and roommates) and they agree with my boss that my mood has been all over the place and I'm worse now than I was before I went into the hospital. So I probably need to take some more time off until I can get the med situation worked out.

As for the ROW 80 update, I'm keeping up on my personal goal of exercising. My writing goal of working on the novel is going well. I seem to have failed spectacularly at my work goal so I'm back to square one on that one.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

10 years strong - and stronger

Today is Halloween, but this isn't going to be the typical trick or treat post.

No, I want to tell you about something that I'm proud of.

On this day, ten years ago, at 8:30 in the morning, I went to the Ada County Courthouse and was married to a man that most people thought I'd never make it five years with. We'd already been together for three years, with about 4 months off for a major break up during our engagement, but that didn't matter. Our marriage wasn't going to make it to five years. We'd be divorced after a year, maybe two.

Yeah, we proved those naysayers wrong.

We were almost divorced at nine years. Some of you may remember my posts from around this time last year bemoaning the fact that Himself was contemplating asking me for a divorce. I'm happy to say we got past that and are now a much stronger couple for it.

That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about today...getting stronger. I am a much stronger woman than I was ten years ago. My husband is a much stronger man than he was ten years ago. I don't mean physically. I mean emotionally. We've literally been through hell in the last three years. Last year was almost hell number 3 (let's not talk about hell numbers 1 & 2...those happened within the same year, within a few months of each other, and almost killed us). But each time something has happened that made us come out stronger together rather than break apart.

Part of it is our personalities. I'd rather die than get a divorce. I don't believe in divorce, though I know it happens and it could have just as easily happened to me. At this point in my life, I can say I won't be the one to initiate a divorce ever. In the future, who knows. I can only say how I feel now. He gets angry and last year he was very angry and very hurt (not necessarily because of me...family issues). I got the brunt of it last year because I was a convenient target and the real person he wanted to hurt was out of reach. He realized this and we worked past the broken trust issue with the divorce threat and moved on.

We're stronger for that too.

Every event in our ten years has given us some new personal strengths, as well as strengthening us as a couple. Everyone told us again as we faced down our first hell three years ago that we should divorce. That it was all my fault (his side of the family) that it happened, that he was worthless (my side of the family), and that we'd lose everything if we stayed together. We were going to lose everything anyway regardless if we stayed together or not. We chose to stay together so we didn't have to face it alone.

I love my husband. We have our spats. We get on each other's nerves. We sometimes hurt each other badly enough to make someone (me) cry. But we get past it, we get through it, and we move on a little stronger and a little better. That's one of the secrets to why our marriage has lasted so long...our ability to turn our weaknesses into our strengths and to help each other push past the bad and grow stronger.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

De-stressing, an admission, and another #ROW80 check in

Let's start with the first admission: I'm horrible at de-stressing. I can stress myself out with ease. But when it comes to unwinding from the stress, I find it difficult to achieve that calm state. I've had to learn fast over the last couple months because there has been literally NOTHING I could do about Met Life being arseholes and dragging their feet about my short term disability. (Yes, it finally came through. That was a huge relief to me too.)

Let's start with the definition of stress. Merriam-Webster online dictionary has an excellent and comprehensive definition of stress here. We're most interested in two of the aspects of this definition: a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation and  a state resulting from a stress; especially : one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium <job-related stress>. 

Stress can be a cause for a lot of short term problems. Tension headaches, back aches, neck aches, body aches in general. It can cause loss of appetite, sleep loss, tension between people. It can also lead to a depressed immune system because of the physical depredations on your body caused by the stress, which opens you up to every sickness out there.

Now, if you're like me, being sick stresses you out too because damn it, you don't have time to be sick. There are books to be written, chores to be done, people to be dealt with. Life has to go on and you don't have the time to deal with being sick on top of it. Yeah, that doesn't help you any either. It just makes the sickness linger longer, I've noticed.

De-stressing is a must in these kinds of situations. I'm not a person who de-stresses easily but I've found that these specific things work best for me. First, shut off all the damn electronics. Yes, even the cell phone. Yes, the laptop/computer/tablet. Everything. Turn out the light. Bury yourself under the covers. Take a nap if you feel like it. But if you don't, spend some time just curled up in the dark. If your mind has a tendency to wander to topics that stress you out in times like these, force your mind away from these thoughts. Make them go to something else. For me, I made it go to one of the books I'm writing. I worked my way through several scenes that way and it helped relax me.

Music. I know it's been said before to listen to music. But you have to pick the right music. Music that increases your heart rate is not going to help you de-stress. Pick music - or some kind of nature sound if that's what you prefer - that is going to lower your heart rate and soothe you. I recommend Ed Van Fleet's "Oceans". It combines the sound of the ocean with gentle music. It's very nice and soothing if you like that style of music. While you're listening to it, try not to think of anything. Just focus as hard as you can on the music. It's hard at first. Your brain wants to run through everything that's stressing you out. But don't let it. Focus solely on the music and let your body relax. It'll help.

Tea or hot chocolate. Try for non-caffeinated tea if you can find it. Caffeine does drive up heart rate, which can lead to a higher stress level. I know chocolate has caffeine in it. But the caffeine level isn't as high as it is in say green tea or black tea. Besides. chocolate triggers all those lovely endorphins in your head which lead you to happy places so hot chocolate is beneficial in that way too. Forego the coffee when you're stressed, or go for decaf which has less caffeine in it if you must have coffee. But try for something with as little caffeine as possible.

Finally, find something that makes you happy and do it. Writing can be stressful for us writers, so sometimes we have to put the pen/word processor away and move on to something else. I knit, so when I got really stressed out this past month I dug (and yes, I do mean dug...the stuff was buried in the bottom of my closet again) out my knitting and started knitting a scarf. I need a new scarf anyway and it gave me something to do that kept me busy but helped me relax. I watched movies. I read books. I knitted. I steered clear of being online or writing. And it helped. Sometimes unplugging is a good idea to help with your stress.

These are only the things that work for me. There are so many books, self-help gurus, podcasts, vlogs, blogs, etc. out there on how to do this that I'm sure you'll find a hundred different tips on this. These are just what have worked for me. Please find your own and use them to help you out of stressful situations. If you've got one you'd like to share, please do. I'm always looking for new ideas to try to help with de-stressing.

I'm feeling much better these days. My stress levels dropped significantly when I was able to pay my bills. But by de-stressing I was finally able to start to shake this nasty cold/allergy/thing that's been lingering for the past month and a half. I actually feel better today than I have in weeks and part of it is due to the fact that I'm no longer as stressed as I've been. It really does help. The main thing you need to keep in mind while de-stressing is it isn't going to work all the time. Sometimes you're just not going to be able to shut down the stress receptors. In that case, practice your de-stressing techniques to minimize the stress and try to get past it faster.

ROW 80 update is below. You don't have to read on if you're not interested in that.

A second admission, and this to the ROW 80 crowd...I've missed the last couple check ins. It's had to do with the stress levels in my life being so high I haven't wanted to be online much and I'm sorry. I'll be making the regular check ins from now on.

Writing - NaNo is fast approaching so I'm anxious to get started on that project. That's the novel I want to start that's the first in the series. I decided to start with it for NaNo as a kick in the pants to get it done. Jaelon's story is started but not finished. I've tweaked a few thins in Mkai's story again because I've altered a few details in the world building. Taereah's story got completely deleted because I realized in order to write her story I need to have the outline for CRACKED WORLD written out so I know where she comes in with that story so I can figure out what I want to write with her. I kind of need the same thing for Jaelon's story because both of them tie into CRACKED WORLD and the as of yet unnamed novel series I'm working on starting in November, so I need to have past and present details worked out before I can work on their stories.

Personal - I didn't follow through with vocational rehab. It just didn't feel right, and they told me the best they could do for me was find me a job that paid me $8-$9/hr. I need something $10+ just to survive these days so it wouldn't have worked out. I'm still forgetting my afternoon dose of pills so I've started setting an alarm in my phone. It'll be easier once I start back to work because I'll have an afternoon break and I'll be able to take the pills regularly on that break. I'm mostly just stretching every other day when it comes to exercising. It's not much but at least it's something. I haven't wanted to do much of anything lately because of how crappy I've felt but I've made myself go through the same stretching exercises they taught me in the hospital so I'm doing something.

Work - I've talked with my boss about a few new developments. The big one for me is they're changing our schedules which means I'm losing my shift differential (that's almost $100 per paycheck). There was a shift bid, which I would have missed if not for her, that was due on the 23rd. She emailed me the shift bid and I sent back my preferences. I'm not likely to get what I want since I'm low man on the totem pole because of my stats but we'll have to see. I'll know the first week of November, which is right after I go back, and we won't actually have to make the change to our new shifts until January. They're getting rid of most of the night shifts and putting us all on days. Blech. I like my night shift, thanks. Practicing my anti-panic attack exercises now so I've got them down for when I go back to work.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

General life update & ROW 80 update

I bet y'all have missed me, haven't you? *grin*

Things are a little tight these days since I'm out of work on the leave of absence. But we're making things work. My dad loaned us some money that we'll be paying back as soon as we can, though it's going to be a while. But between that and the limited amount of funds I got for my short term disability, we're scraping by.

I've gotten my outline for NaNoWriMo finished. This is a new thing for me since I've always been a pantser. I've even categorically stated I'll never use outlines. Well, I'm eating my own words. I'm going to try my hand at writing with an outline this year. If it works, I might actually win this year. I'd like to break my losing streak from the last three years.

I've gotten most of the histories written. I'll revisit them all before November because some of the things that show up in the histories get touched on briefly in the novel I'm planning on working with for November. It's the first story in the series. I'm not sure how many books are going to be in the series, how many books I'm going to break the outline into, and all that good stuff...but I'm going to get it written.

I go back to work on November 1st, supposedly. Not sure yet if that's going to be the precise date or not but that's the general timeframe I've been given. I'm not looking forward to it but I'm making sure I don't overstress myself too much.

Now, for those of you who weren't aware, I'm participating in ROW 80 as a way to hold accountability for my goals. If you're curious, follow the #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter or follow the link that should be set up in my sidebar. I think I did it right.

So, quick update on the ROW 80 goal posts:

WRITING: I finished Jaelon's story. I still need to do some more work on Taereah's, but I've gotten it started.

JOB: I had to put a stop to my job hunting while out on a leave of absence. Funnily enough, my current employer sort of frowns on that while I'm out on their dime. *shrug* I'm still going to the voc rehab on the 15th and we'll see what they say.

PERSONAL: Exercise is going well. I'm at least stretching every other day, and I've been out on walks twice in the last week. Still good on the meds. No missed doses so far this week either. I'm meeting with my counselor on Friday. I did call today to find out about meeting with the doctor and about the FMLA paperwork that I need to get paid for being on my LOA. They're going to call me back with that info. I've spent time away from the computer, though I've used it for background noise. I'm reading Warrior by Marie Brennan. It's a book I picked up at Hastings used (along with its sequel) for $3/book when I got out of the hospital so I'm trying to read them. So far, so good.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm going to have to change one of my goals...weather is getting too cold for walks

This week has been an interesting one. I had to emergency babysit for a friend and ended up not taking an actual walk, though I did borrow her staircase (since I was alone there for 2 hours before the kids showed up) to do 20 minutes of stair stepping. My allergies decided to remind me it's fall so my head is stuffed and my eyes are bugging me. And my writing has taken some leaps and bounds. But all in all it hasn't been a bad week.

Just found a quote that made me think and I thought I'd share.
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." ~Stephen Hawking

On to the full update:

WRITING: This has been a very productive week for writing. I've finished Aran and Taereah's stories. I took a break from writing for a couple days because of the intense writing binge but I plan on starting Jaelon's story next week. I also have the outline for Raghnall's story (my NaNo novel AND the first book in my series) finished, which is new for me because traditionally I'm a pantser.

JOB: Haven't done much on the job front this week. I've got the appointment with voc rehab on the 15th and I'm holding off on searching for a job until I meet with my counselor there. I'm polishing my resume and making things shine for job hunting. I'm also going to talk to my regular counsel more this coming week on CBT plans to get me ready for going back to work in 3 weeks.

PERSONAL: I'm changing one of my personal goals. Instead of walking for 15 minutes it's going to be exercise for 15 minutes. It's getting too bloody cold for me to be walking, since the cold affects my hip very badly. So I'm going to do some kind of exercise every other day for 15 minutes. I've been able to keep up with this amended goal very well this week with stair climbing on Thursday and some stretches on Saturday. My eyes hurt really bad yesterday because of my allergies so I wasn't on the computer very much. I did get some reading done but again, with my eyes hurting, it was very hard. Mostly I spent yesterday dozing on and off until it was time for us to go over to a friend's house. They made us pizza and cupcakes to celebrate our 10th anniversary (it's on Halloween, but they wanted to feed us earlier in the month) and we played Munchkin. We came home, I couldn't manage the computer, so I went to bed really early last night after taking allergy meds. In regards to my regular meds, I'm spot on this past week. Not a single missed dose. My counselor was on vacation so I won't be seeing her until this upcoming Friday. From there, we'll see how that goes.

That's my exciting week in a nutshell. A lot of reading and writing, some exercise, and allergies. Hope this next week continues to go well for me and for everyone else doing ROW 80.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

ROW 80 Check in post

This is my first check in post for this round of ROW 80. It's also my first check in post at all for ROW 80 since I'm coming to it late in the year and just giving it a try to see if I can do it or not.


I've had to tweak the story I finished last month a couple times as I update my world building but I'm already 1/4 of the way through Aran's story. I expect to have it finished in the next two weeks. I've also made plans to write the first of the novels in the series, well get it started at least, for NaNoWriMo in November. As such, I'm making little character notes as I go to make sure I've got my details in place.


I've got a phone interview today from 9:30-10:30a with Merry Maids for a customer service job. It's something different from Collections, which I have to get out of. I've put out a few more resumes over the last couple days. I'm still working on my CBT and practicing my coping techniques so when I do go back to work on November 1st I'll be able to handle it better for a little while, at least.


So far, so good on the meds. I haven't missed a dose yet. I don't have another appointment with my counselor until next week since she's on vacation this week but I am going to call to see if she did the work up so I can see the doctor for my meds since I need to tweak them a little I think. I went for a walk yesterday to start my walking every other day goal. I actually walked for 20 minutes since I took it easy and walked around our neighborhood. I've started reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes again. I figured I'd start with something I love to begin with, and then branch out into all of the new e-books I have on my Kindle. I also spent most of yesterday handwriting out notes and reading instead of being on the computer.

Characters on Couches

I sit nervously on the edge of the desk. The beings I've invited to this little escapade are not among my nicer characters. But I need them to talk to me so I can get them past some of the crap that's derailed the story. So I called them here so we could work things out so when I do get back to their story I can move it forward.

There's a knock on the door. Before I can utter the words "Come in!", the door is pushed open and they come in - Azarea, Mik, and Gabby. Thankfully they're all in human form. I don't feel liek dodging wings today and Azarea is a little intimidating in her natural form. Mik and Gabby are just fluffy and shed feathers like nobody's business.

"We're here. Can we get this over with?" Azarea asks.

"Please sit down." I gesture to the three leather chairs in front of my desk. I take out a digital recorder and turn it on. "Now, we'll get through this faster if you three cooperate. Let's start with an easy question. Azarea, why do you hate Mik?"

"I don't hate him," Azarea says, but she won't meet my eyes.

"Uh huh. Tell that to someone other than your author who's stalled out because you two can't seem to get along. I don't mind conflict, but I need to know what's causing it," I say.

"You shouldn't like like that, Red,"  Mik says with a smirk. "Please, I'd love to hear your problems with me, too."

"Don't call me Red," Azarea says, but her voice lacks conviction.

I frown. "Red" has been her nickname all through the story. "Well, if you won't answer my first question, can you tell me why you hate the nickname Red?" I ask.

"I'd rather not," Azarea says.

Now I'm frustrated. I slam my hands down on the desk. "Well then, tell me what you want me to do. Shall I scrap your story and condemn you all to an eternity in my 'not able to be finished because the characters didn't work together' file?"

"Please don't," Gabby says. She gives Mik a sidelong look. "Azarea hates her nickname becasue Mik gave it to her so she'd never forget."

"Forget what?" I ask.

"What she was, and what she could become again," Gabby says.

"And that is?" I ask.

"A monster," Mik says. "A murderous, violent monster. Something she has yet to get past."

"He'll never let me forget," Azarea says, bitterness dripping from every word. "Never. No matter how hard I try, how many lives I live where I do nothing wrong, he never lets me forget. If I mess up even once, no matter how slight, he drags me back to the House. In this life I got into MMA to take care of my violent streak in a more controlled environment. Mik threatened to put me back in the House if I competed. Gabby forced him to back off on that one."

"Now we're getting somewhere," I say. "Mik, why would it matter if she's participating in the MMA female division? It's a safe way for her to vent and in her human form she's not exactly invulnerable."

"It's what it signifies. It shows she's going back to her violent tendencies, something I can't allow," Mik said. "Gabby says it's good for her but I don't believe it."

"Well, I can definitely see why you don't like him," I say to Azarea.

Her eyes glow red. "You know what? I hate him," she hisses. "He and Gabby attached themselves to me three thousand years ago and I can't get rid of them. They aren't friends. They're jailers. Mik especially. I can't have a bad day without him threatening me with the House. And Gabby just sits back and lets him do all this shit. She rarely ever stands up for me."

"So Mik's a control freak with a god complex and Gabby's disassociated herself from the lot of you," I say. "That explains a lot, actually."

"A control freak with a god complex?" Mik demands, outraged. "Do you realize what she's done?"

"Hello. Author. I created her, Mik. Yes, I know what Azarea's done in the past. I also know her last two lives - this one and the one prior to it - you've tried to imprison her for things that were utterly ridiculous because she's made great strides in changing her personality to be able to thrive in this world," I say. "The problem is, I know your story too and you've gotten really insufferable lately. Why are you so hard on her?"

"I am sick and tired of cleaning up her shit," Mik snaps. "How many times have Gabby and I had to step in to stop her?"

"How many times has she managed to stop herself before she got too far into kill mode?" I counter. "You haven't had to step as often as you think, Mik. You're usually coming in just to punish her for her actions. She's a Skanti, Mik. It's not like she can help her nature. She's doing her best. You need to cut her some slack." I shrug. "Besides, if it's such a burden to you, drop her. Go find someone else to babysit."

"I can't," Mik says angrily. "What you don't seem to understand is I'm blood bound to that monster. Both Gabby and I are bound to Azarea for time and all eternity until we die. Since Azarea can only be killed in human form, and Gabby and I rarely ever show our faces, we will never be free of this burden."

"Ouch," I say. I sigh. "Well, now I know what's going on between the three of you. That actually helps me understand where you three are coming from. That solves all my issues with the story, for now. I'll work on solving your problems while I'm at it. Why don't you three get out of here? Oh, and Mik? No grounding her for being honest," I say. Mik and Gabby vanish. Azarea walks out the door, a totally broken look on her face.

I lean over and switch off the recorder.

Monday, October 1, 2012

ROW 80 Round 4 Goals

I know, it's not like I don't have a bunch of stuff already going on in my life right now (being on a LOA from work, health issues, financial issues, roommate issues...the list goes on and on) but I decided to give ROW 80 (#ROW80 on Twitter) a try. I thought, after reading up on what it was, that it looked like a great thing for me. I'm good about setting goals but not so great on following through with them so some accountability might help me out here.


1. Finish Aran's story.
2. Start/finish Jaelon's story.
3. Start/finish Taereah's side story.
(All three of the above are short story/novella "histories" for characters in my novels. I've already finished one last month.)
4. Start on one of the novels.
5. Get ready for NaNoWriMo in November, and reach the 50k goal for the first time in the last few years.


1. Get my mind prepared for going back to work Nov 1.
2. Go back to work.
3. Work on my CBT to keep myself sane and stable while I'm at work.
4. Apply for new jobs.
5. Get additional help job hunting from vocational rehab.


1. Stay on my meds.
2. Work with my counselor to treat my bipolar and my PTSD more effectively.
3. Walk at least 15 minutes every other day.
4. Read more.
5. Spend time away from the computer.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Invisible disabilities

I'm continuing with my theme of serious posts for this one. You may get another serious post when I do my next one, or you  may get my usual bit of fluff. I can't say for sure because I write as the feeling I need to strikes me.

Let me tell you about something I experienced at the pharmacy the other day.

I was at the pharmacy to ask about one of the medicines I'm taking since my doctor just went on vacation and I figured they'd be the best ones to know about it. There was a woman there. She looked to be in her early to mid 20's and she was trying to get her pain medication and the woman at the counter (who was not the pharmacist) was giving her crap about being on a narcotic pain killer for "so long".

My guess was that this woman had been getting her prescription here fairly regularly. The young woman kept telling the pharmacy tech that she was disabled and needed it to get through the day. The pharmacy tech snorted and made rude comments about her "needing it" like she was addicted.

At this point, I'm pissed. I have an invisible disability myself (see my previous post about mental health issues) and hearing pharmacy techs give people shit because they're on a serious med (my neurontin is considered one of those "serious meds" apparently) really gets me upset. Now, my anxiety is through the roof because I have to ask about my neurontin. But I get up behind this young woman who is near to tears and say loudly, "Not all disabilities can be seen, dumbass."

The pharmacy tech didn't look impressed. "What do you know about disabilities?"

"I'm disabled myself," I told her. "So I understand the need for medications other people might think I'm trying to get just because I'm addicted. This woman probably has some kind of chronic pain disorder like fibromyalgia and needs the pain meds to get through her day. Without them she's writhing in pain and can't function. Would you like to have that to wake up to every day?"

The pharmacist came over and sent the tech off on break or something. She personally filled this young woman's prescription and, to my surprise, I'd guessed right. She suffers from diabetes and fibromyalgia and needs the pain meds to get through her day. We exchanged phone numbers and have texted several times since then so my being bold (and sending my anxiety through the ceiling, roof, and ozone) proved to be beneficial to the both of us. I also got my question about my meds answered and was able to go on my way.

Invisible Disabilities is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature.  Here's a good definition and a short list of invisible disabilities. (The quote I just used as a definition comes from this link.)

Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. There are those of us who live with disabilities every day, many much more debilitating than mine, who can't get help for our disabilities because we look healthy. No one wants to believe us, even with doctor's notes, that we're disabled.

But we are. And we deserve to be treated with respect and not made to feel like shit because some idiot gets a stick up their butt about us lying. We're not lying, folks. You just can't see it.

So remember if someone tells you that they're disabled, give them the benefit of the doubt.

(And if you've got one of the invisible disabilties, check this out.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'm scared but I need to say this

I'm scared.

No, I'm not scared. I'm freaking TERRIFIED.

Why am I so scared?

Because I'm afraid with this post I may lose some friends. If I do, I'll have to be okay with it. But I'm NOT okay with it and I probably will never be okay with it.

Let me get serious for a change. My blog is usually posted full of light and fluffy things with the occasional heavy thing thrown in for good measure. I want to introduce you to something that most of you probably already know but I'm going to talk about anyway - depression. More specifically, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

Why am I talking about these illnesses (and yes, they ARE illnesses)?

Because that's my diagnosis: bipolar affective disorder with moderate general anxiety and mild to moderate social anxiety.

People look at mental illnesses as something a person can just "get over". Newsflash, folks. No we CAN'T just "get over it". It's not something we want. It's not something that we turn on and off at will. It's with us every day of our lives and it affects everything we do. My bipolar and anxiety (mostly the anxiety, I think) is the reason I've had a hard time holding a job down since I was 16. I'm 35, almost 36 years old. That's 20 years, folks, that I've been battling this demon.

I've taken Lithium. Never again. I've taken Depakote. Never again. I'm not inclined to become a zombie prior to the zombie apocalypse and that's what those medications do to me. I've met some people who were perfectly fine on Lithium and Depakote. I say if it works for them, that's great. It's just not for me.

It can take years to perfect a medication regime to help stabilize your mood. A prime example are the three meds I'm on now. They work great to stabilize but they make me too tired to do much of anything. That won't work so I need to have them adjusted. We're going to see what they suggest tomorrow when I go to the doctor.

What scares me the most, though, is how many friends am I going to lose over declaring myself as mentally ill. I've already lost a lot of people who didn't understand what was going on in my head and abandoned me. Hell, half the time I don't understand what's going on in my head and I live with it. I don't understand bipolar very well, though I'm learning more about this illness and the effects it's going to have on my life going forward from here.

Knowledge is the key to understanding anything. If you're curious, take a moment to look up bipolar and anxiety. Read their descriptions. Learn more about mental illness. If you suspect you've got a similar problem, talk to your doctor. I waited until it was almost too late to get help. Don't follow my example. Get help and nip it in the bud.

If you've been diagnosed with some kind of mental illness, check out NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill). If you're bipolar or were diagnosed with clinical depression, check out the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance. I didn't do a lot of research but there are other websites for the different diagnoses for mental health issues, so check your area for support groups.

Get in touch with a support group. I can't afford the cost of the one I found but I'm going to talk to my counselor on Saturday and see if she knows of any that are free, and on what days they meet since my insurance won't cover it otherwise.

Getting stable has to be a priority for those with mental illness. Being able to just get through a normal day without a problem from our illnesses is something we strive for. A walk down the street may be just another day for you but for someone with social anxiety it's like walking through a lion's den where the slightest sound may wake up a lion.

Don't turn away from those with mental illnesses. They need your support. Don't tell us to get over it. That will never happen, though we may through the use of meds be able to lead stable lives. Don't tell us it's all in our heads. One, we know that. Two, that means you don't believe us that it's an illness and that's hurtful to us.

Education, people. That's what it boils down to. There are some websites out there that are bad, but check out the NAMI and the DBSA websites. They have a lot of good information on mental health issues and are great resources. Read books. Ask questions of your doctor. Find the answers yourself through careful research. Don't just take anybody's word for it. Don't take mine. Do your own research.

But please don't judge us. We're not deliberately doing the things that worry/frighten/anger you. We're trying to live our lives and sometimes we just can't do it without help.

(This post brought to you by yet another friend abandoning me over this. Yes, I'm bitter. Yes, I'm hurt. Educate yourselves, people. Don't abandon others when they tell you they're mentally ill.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How books changed my life

Books. Books changed my life. Books were what gave me my peace and my freedom.

Let me explain what I mean.

I was a very withdrawn child. I didn't enjoy playing with the neighbor kids. Frankly, they terrified me. Part of it was their habit of terrorizing the other kids in the neighborhood (never me or my siblings though...I think they were scared of my mom). Part of it was even at that very young age I was an introvert with social anxiety. In an adult this is bad enough, but as a child this was terrifying.

When I was 3, actually a few months shy of my rather memorable 4th birthday (I'll share that memory one day as it's one of my clearest pleasant memories of my childhood), I remember going up to my dad and asking him "What does this word say?" I was holding the advertisements for our local grocery store. He told me what it was and then I pointed to the picture and said "That word means this."

A whole new world was opened up to me. I started grabbing the ads out of every paper. When we went to the grocery store I would look at the signs and make sure that they matched up with what was beneath them. I was learning to read.

On my 4th birthday, I was given the greatest treasure of all: books. I didn't know how to read them yet but I was determined to do so. At first I just made up stories to go along with the pictures. But my dad sat down with me every night and pointed to the words on the page and read them to me so I understood the sounds and the marks on the page correlated with one another. Soon I was reading my books by myself.

But it wasn't enough. I wanted more.

More books came my way, inherited from when my next oldest sibling was still learning to read. I devoured them. By the time I was 5 - just one short year later - my dad tells me I'd read every child's book appropriate for my age in the house at least a dozen times. I didn't always understand the books but I'd read them.

Kindergarten came and we were taught to write our names. I thought this was a little silly because I already knew how to write my name. I could read words. I wanted to know more. I'd actually skip recess and sit in the classroom and read the books the teacher gave me. My teacher was awesome. She connected very early on that to force me to socialize was to send me into a tailspin of anxiety that made me sick. I socialized while we were together in the classroom, but when it came to recess, she let me sit and read. She gave me books for the 1st graders and let me read those. They were a little better, but I still wanted more.

Then I left kindergarten and I no longer had the ability to read during recess. So I read at every other possible moment. I was doing my assignments as fast as possible to be given the time to read before it was time to move onto a different lesson. I used to get my books taken away from me because I wanted to read rather than pay attention to my teachers.

This went on for a time, where I read every book that was recommended for my grade level and maybe a few books for the more advanced grade levels - though my teachers discouraged that saying I wouldn't understand them. Meanwhile at home my mother was using vocabulary lists to push my reading comprehension to a higher level. By third grade I understood and could put into context words from a sixth grade vocabulary list.

Then I got Mr. Murphy for fourth grade. On the first day, he threw the reading list into the trash and said that as long as we did our assignments in a timely manner and weren't so rude as to read while he was talking, he didn't care what we read. I jumped on this. I read every book in his classroom, and not all of them were at the fourth grade reading level. He even had some high school level books in there that were just begging to be read.

In fifth grade, Mrs. Johnson introduced us to the Hobbit. I read all of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings on my own in the space of a month. They were interesting but it still wasn't enough. At least when I was reading, though, my parents left me alone so I read a lot.

Then, the summer before my sixth grade year, I got my hands on Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. That was it. I was gone. I was an immediate fan. For those of you who don't know, Anne McCaffrey was the brilliant author who wrote the books detailing the lives of the dragonriders of Pern. Ms. McCaffrey died before I could thank her for the wonderful gift she gave me. But she wasn't the only author to open my eyes to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I could write books too.

Then came the Andre Norton books. I read a few of the Witch World books and then I moved on into others. I read the Rowan books by Ms. McCaffrey. Though I didn't understand some of the themes I knew they were good stories. My parents owned every book written by both of these authors that were available at the time (this was in 1989). I also discovered the books of Tamora Pierce at this time. I suddenly had three female authors who I adored (and possibly worshiped in a sense at that time) and who were successful writers. Most of the books I can remember reading as a young child were written by men so I didn't realize until that point that a woman could write books and be successful too.

It wasn't until I was in 8th grade that I started actually writing down some of the stories that floated in my head. I patterned them after the three women who were so heavily influencing me and came up with my very first fan fic crossover mash up. It was...horrible. But at least I was writing. I haven't stopped writing for any serious length of time since, though I've had a few dry spells over the last 23 years.

If you have never read a book by any of these women, I suggest you go to your library or to Amazon or SOMEWHERE and get their books. I can happily recommend the Alanna (Song of the Lioness Quartet) and the Daine (Wild Magic Quartet) books by Tamora Pierce. I haven't had the opportunity to read any of her other books, though my niece swears by the Keladry (Protector of the Small) books. If you want to read Anne McCaffrey you can either read Dragonflight which is the first Dragonriders of Pern book she wrote, or you can read Dragonsdawn which is a later book but actually the events predate Dragonflight as you discover the origin of the dragons. Andre Norton...just pick one. I can't recommend any specific book, though her Witch World are my favorites.

Without reading in general, my childhood would have been a lot harder than it was. I wouldn't have had my escape. Without these three women, I may never have first set pencil to paper and crafted my own words. I hope one day to meet Ms. Pierce as sadly my other two idols have passed on. I want to thank her for her gift with words and her inspiration to me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I had this great blog post idea

No really, I did!

Then I went to bed without writing it down.

So now I don't remember what I was planning on writing about.

So I'll just give you a general life update and a writing update like I usually do.

I know you're all excited, aren't you? *grins*

Life update is as follows: I spent 8 days in the hospital. Dehydration + extreme stress = one messed up system. So I stayed in until I stabilized and now I'm trying to extend my FMLA/short term disability while I deal with therapy to get me completely back on my feet. I'm also trying to apply for permanent disability because honestly I'm probably going to end up back in the hospital from the stress and anxiety this job causes me.

Yes, I know I could look for another one. I have been. I'm not having any luck. And really, any job short of something that requires NO interaction with people is going to trigger the anxiety and there aren't too many jobs where you don't interact with anyone. Actually, there are no jobs where you don't interact with people. Not even if I went to writing full time, though that has less interaction with people until you're published than other jobs. Not NO interaction, but less than a normal job requires. Then again, I'd get lonely if I didn't have someone to talk to occasionally so being completely isolated is a bad thing for me.

Boy, that rambled on a bit.

Writing update is as follows: I did a lot of world building and note taking while I was in the hospital and I've come to realize that things are going to need some tweaking. Yes, again. Aleran is a constant work in progress. I've redefined the world and the characters enough times in the last 20 years that one more time won't matter. What matters is that this is the last time for the world building tweaks and that I'm finally ready to take the plunge and write the main series that I've been playing around with for the last few years.

This means no more slacking. I'm writing out the "histories" to sketch out the characters, and then it'll be onto the main event - the 6 book series that revolves around the two guys. Poor Anila is relegated to secondary character status in Reidar's books, though I may elevate her to additional MC in one of them to explain something that's essential and has to happen. I haven't quite figured out what to do with her yet.

In regards to roommates: Himself (who is not by definition a roommate since we're, you know, married) bought me a Milky Way to celebrate me coming home. Hey, we're broke and it was a sweet (ha, ha) gesture. Twitchy bought me a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich today from the ice cream truck lady to celebrate my coming home. It's not anything big but it's the little things that make me smile.

In regards to the cat: Reidar (yes, he's named for one of the characters in my main novel series) is still Reidar. He hasn't changed, other than being pissed off at me for the first day I was home. Now he's back to face planting in my arm pit and licking it. Got to love weird cat behaviors.

Pretty much that's it for this blog post. If I remember what the cool, awesome, probably-been-done-before-but-not-by-me blog post was I'll post it too.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I need a blog post naming guide or something

First, a little self-promotion.  I have two Tumblr blogs that I'm running now. *points to the links below*

A World of Images - Pictures, political ranting, fangirling, random things
The Story of Aleran & Vassa - Writing excerpts, updates, writing exercises, and various posts on my writing process

Now, on to my adventure today...

Today has been rather...interesting.  I was supposed to be at work at 7:30a.  I was going to work from 7:30a-8p.  My usual shift is 7:30a-4:00p, and I was going to pick up four hours of overtime.  My insomnia hit very hard last night.  I was in bed, asleep by 11p as planned.  I woke up at 1a.  I didn't go back to sleep again.

When my alarm went off at 5:30a I got up and climbed in the shower.  I closed my eyes...and opened them again when the water turned cold.  I had passed out in the shower.  What was truly frightening is no one heard me fall.  I am not a small woman, and the sound of the impact should have woken someone up.  There are three other adults in this house.  No one heard a thing.  Had the cold water not woken me up, I would have lain there until the five year old got up and needed to use the bathroom.  Perhaps not even then.  That was truly frightening.

I crawled out of the shower, called my manager and told her I'd be in late, and curled up until the waves of vertigo ended.  I got into work around 11:30a, which was perfectly all right with my manager since I was supposed to work until 8p.  When I tried to sign into my computer, I was locked out of the two main databases we use.  Which means I couldn't access any of my programs.  None of them, except the base Windows log in and my email.  I had to request resets on both of the passwords.  One of the database passwords reset within 5 minutes.  The second?  By 4p when everyone else was leaving, I still didn't have my second password reset.  My manager just sent me home at that point.

I was very grateful to be sent home, to be honest.  My shoulder and head hurt from the fall, I was still dealing with the attack of vertigo caused by my fall.  I came home, laid down and dozed for an hour.  I feel a lot better tonight but I'm still exhausted.  At least I now have another experience to subject my characters to - passing out and waking up when their shower runs cold.

Life can lead to some painful experiences.  But no matter what they are, as long as you take something from them and add it to one of your stories it's not a complete loss.

(But I highly recommend avoiding passing out in the shower.  I could've gone my whole life without that one.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I feel all SQUEEEEE!!! about this new project

I know, I know.  It's totally not like me to post this frequently.

But I have to share how excited I am about this project I've been working on.  I literally wrote more words last week (over 32k) than I have over the last two months COMBINED.  This makes me very happy on so many levels.  Part of it is the fact that the dreaded Writer's Block is gone (it was more the story I was trying to force out wasn't the right story for the characters, which has obviously been resolved).  Part of it is I feel more like myself again and feel that this story is the right story for me to be working on right now.

You saw a brief snippet of it two posts ago - the interchange between Rachel and Nathan (okay, his name then was NICK but it's since been updated to NATHAN because I like that name better for the character), where she's his psychoanalyst even though she rejects that title and tries to come across as someone casual.  I actually dreamed up that exchange within the last ten minutes or so before actually waking up fully and getting up the same day I posted it here.

I've since gone back and actually sketched out who the characters are, what motivates them, and touched briefly on their world so I know what makes them tick.  Rachel wants to be loved.  She's an outcast from her own people (no, she's not human...maybe I'll explain what she is one of these days).  She's made a sort of family of her own out of fellow outcasts who have been there for her during some of the roughest times in her life, but she wants something more.  Nathan wants justice for his twin, who was murdered when they were children (though everyone claims it was an accidental death).  He also wants to clear his name as the accused serial killer who's been murdering adolescent girls (yes, he's innocent).

I've added side characters, fleshed out the antagonist - the REAL serial killer - and her motivations, and built up the world that Rachel and her entourage inhabit.  I've put limits on the magic, taken away some of the things that made everyone overpowered, and put a touch of insanity into one of the characters who has - up until now - been a perfectly normal if moderately obsessive woman.  I've also combined the worlds of two of my different UF stories because this just works so much better as a part of that world.  This story also gives more depth to the other story*, which will eventually get an overhaul and get written too.

Mostly this slightly inane** babble (it's 1 AM...I don't usually stay up this late***) is just to say "Yay! I have a project I love again and I'm, well, LOVING IT!!!!!"

*If you're curious, the story I've combined this one with is Meg/Magni's story.
**I'm pretty sure I used this word right.  I'm too tired/lazy to go look it up at the moment.
***My insomnia has returned, so be prepared.  You may see more random babbling like this.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why I won't post reviews anymore

Okay, to start I have no clue who this author is.  I've never read any of her books.  To be honest, I never heard of her before this.  I don't read these kinds of books normally, and now she's made it so I don't want to read hers at all.

Not posting the name, but read the article from this reviewer
Here's the blog post that got me started tracking down information on this author's antics
Some good advice to any author

Now, for a more general view on the situation.

You have to be a Goodreads member to read this, but here's an interesting forum discussion on the whole "Authors Behaving Badly" situation
This blogger gives us a list of authors, and some links to follow with advice for authors
Shannon Mayer gives excellent advice on what to do with negative reviews

Okay, people.  First off, we're adults.  Let's act like them instead of acting like a bunch of high school kids out to bully the people who "aren't like us".  We shouldn't be acting like spoiled little brats who have been told we have to share our favorite toys.  Um, hello?  We're authors?  We're SUPPOSED to put our "toys" (or babies...or most precious possessions EVER) out there for people to play with.  We're inviting them into our world.

And not everyone's going to like our works.

It's okay.  Not everyone likes the same things.  The thing is to realize this before you ever hit that "publish" button if you're self-published or before you sign your contract if you're going the traditional publishing route. You have to understand and accept that there are going to be negative reviews on your darlings.  You do NOT have the right to instigate flame wars, stalking, and cyber bullying just because you can't get a grip on the fact that you are not going to appeal to all people in all parts of the world all of the time.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm going to cry, scream, shriek, and throw a tantrum when (notice I didn't say IF) my darlings get the negative reviews.  But I won't do it online.  I'll do it in private, to Himself.  I'll write about it in my private journal (the paper one I don't let anyone see).  And then I'll dry my eyes, sit down at the computer and do what Shannon suggests - I'll write another book.  My fans will buy my books and that's all that matters.

Now, this is a shout out to reviewers: keep your reviews about the books.  Don't make it a personal vendetta against the author because they looked at you cross-eyed once back in high school, or unfollowed you on Twitter, or won't follow you on Facebook, or you don't like their author picture because you think it makes them look ugly, or...or...or....  You get the idea.

That's tacky, rude, and hurts you as much as it can hurt the author.  You weaken your own position on other books you've reviewed with personal attacks against an author.  It makes people question if you're giving negative reviews because you have a vendetta against the author instead of actually reading the book and having a constructive thought on how to make it better.

Also, reviewers, if an author does go nuts on your review, don't have your friends jump in to defend you or start stalking/cyber bullying the author and their fans.  That just reinforces their poor opinion of you.

Fans of authors, don't jump on the bandwagon.  If your favorite author jumps to social media to mock the negative reviews, don't immediately go to their defense.  The term "rabid" comes to mind when things like that happen.  My sincere hope is that any fans of my writing - once the books are published - will respect my wishes on this and NOT leap to my defense on negative reviews.  I don't want the help, folks.  I'm a big girl. I'll handle it privately and then I'll go back to writing more books for you to love.

But as a result of this, I'm not going to post reviews of books anymore.  I refuse to publish only 4 or 5 star reviews.  If I don't like a book, I want the freedom to say why I didn't like it.  I want that freedom without the fear of being harassed, stalked, or threatened for posting something that isn't the happy-happy/joy-joy review of somebody's favorite author.  I've already been stalked and cyber bullied once online.  I don't care to repeat the experience.

That's also why I refuse to give support to groups who support those people who are in favor of actions like I've illustrated above where authors and fans have gone off the deep end.  Don't ask for me to retweet you.  Don't ask me to showcase something you're doing on my blog.  It won't happen.

There are a few authors who I will still review for, but only because we're long time friends and I KNOW that if I say there's something wrong with the book, they won't jump on me and ask me why I'm being so mean to them.  They will understand that it's not personal.  I just didn't like something about the book.  I also know that, for the most part, they've got reasonable fans who won't get all rabid on me if I say something that some of them disagree with.  They may come and tell me why they disagree with me, but it'll be reasonable discourse and not the flame wars, trolling, cyber bullying and stalking that goes on in some of these cases.


*climbs off soapbox*

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life update and a random bit from one of my WIPs for your amusement

Hi all!

As you all know, I should be at work and doing 14 hour days.  Instead I'm at home taking care of a sick Himself.  He's getting better but he's still not up to moving around much.  So I'm hanging out at home (hooray to my awesome boss who got me 4 days off through my remaining vacation days so I get the time off AND get paid), cooking and cleaning and generally just hanging out while he sleeps.  The medication is good for knocking his butt out so I don't have to listen to the whining that he doesn't feel good.

To be fair, Himself rarely ever gets sick.  When he does, oh damn does this man get sick.  It used to be we'd have about a week a year where he was sick but still functional.  As we both get older, it's getting worse.  This is the first time he's been seriously this sick during the summer AND to this degree.  Usually he saves his worst sickness for December, like I do for mine in January.  This past year has been one of multiple medical emergencies.

However, he's getting better and I'll be back to work on Saturday.  I'm grateful to my dad who has helped us out this week with the medications since I have no money until Friday.

So...I've been having a lot of writing time.  And one of my projects has really taken off.  It's not one that's listed on the blog post that lists my projects.  If I keep adding to it, that thing is going to be monstrous.  But I do have a fun new character I'm loving.

This is just a sample of what's going on in the story.  You want more details?  Ask!  I'll be glad to share a few more hints about this project.


Rachel smirked as Nick stared at her.  The tight pants, corset top, and high heeled boots made her look very different from anyone's idea of a psychiatrist.  "So, are you my new therapist?" Nick asked.

"Actually, I'm a bartender," Rachel said, grinning as she sat down.

Nick smirked.  "A bartender?"

Rachel waved one hand dismissively.  "Budget cuts.  Do you know how expensive an actual psychoanalyst is?  Since I get paid shit to listen to people's problems anyway, they decided to bring me in instead to see if I could get you to spill your guts."

Nick snorted.  "So do I get the attendant alcohol with this analysis?"

Rachel shrugged.  "Sorry, government facility.  No alcohol allowed."

"So what makes you think I'm going to talk to you?" Nick asked, leaning back as best he could in the chair he was shackled to.

Rachel leaned forward.  "Well, you can talk to me or you can go back to solitary confinement with only your shadow for a conversation companion.  Which would you prefer?"

Nick tilted his head to one side.  "So, do you want to hear about my horrible childhood?  Or how I have daddy issues?"

Rachel sat up.  "Let's start with the childhood.  I'm a sucker for hard luck cases."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Overtime is a Muse Killer


Keeping it short this week, folks.

I'm working overtime.  Why, you may ask, am I torturing myself like this?  I like money.  I have bills.  And until they recently opened up the overtime, I have had a distinct lack of the former to pay the latter.

So I'm at the day job from 8 am to 10 pm during the week (Mon-Thur) and 7:30 am to 8:00 pm on Sat.  I do have a short break between the overtime and the start of my regular shift on the weekdays, so I've made it a goal to write 100 words a day during that time.  That gives me something to do creatively to keep the spark going.

I have hopes that this will keep me writing even as I grab up every extra hour I feel I can safely work.  I will be doing this until Himself starts getting paid/gets a paying gig/finds a part time job.  For all intents and purposes, my overtime is my second job.

My writing is my (as yet unpaid) third job.

Wish me luck!

And good luck to everyone with their own writing pursuits over the next week.  May we all reach our goals and have a great deal of success over the coming days.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Writer's Block, Writing Accountability, and World Building...Again

In #storycraft today, we were talking about Writer's Block, accountability, motivation, and what all that means.  If you're curious about what was said, go look up the hashtag on Twitter.  I'm not going to go into all of the wonderful dialogue we got into during the chat.  It was a great chat.

One of the things I brought up is something Himself (my husband, for new blog readers) made for me.  It's an accountability worksheet for my writing.  *points up to the picture* Officially, it's a word count tracker.  This is my August tracking sheet.  Yes, I know.  The 1st-4th aren't on there.  I pretty much did very little writing on those days, which annoyed him.  Which is why he made me my accountability tracker.  This way I can see how I'm doing, how each month progresses, and how I compare to other months.  He's also added a little pep talk (the 'YAY') and a reminder ('Do Better') for those days when I'm not having as good a day.  It's an awesome new tool and I like it.

I had to stop and think about what writer's block is.  The way I see it is there's two kinds of bad writing days - block and laziness.  Laziness is not writing even though you know you should, you have an idea, but you just don't feel like sitting down and doing it.  I know we all have those days where we just don't want to do it.  I've had a few of those days recently.

Then there are those days where we sit down and the words don't come.  Those are the days where the block comes in.  I've had quite a few of those days lately too.  One thing we need to remember about the block, though.  It may not be because the words aren't there.  It may be because the words aren't RIGHT.  Whatever you're working on, if you're blocked on it, may have something that needs to be changed.  It can be a red flag that what you're working on isn't flowing right because there's something missing.

Last night, Himself and I were hashing out some things regarding Aleran.  He's one of the best for bouncing ideas off that I have.  I was talking about how the continent of Vassa is set up and he very bluntly told me, "That's not going to work.  You've effectively cut off Lytharia from the rest of the continent."  Of course I was a little annoyed.  I mean, I've been building this damn world for 20 years.  I'm the author.  It's up to me to decide how my world works, right?

Well, after looking at what he'd sketched out for me about what he understood the land looked like versus what I told him it looked like, I had to eat crow and apologize for getting annoyed with him.  He was right.  I had managed to screw up my geography.  I suppose part of the problem was I was never a very good student of geography when I was in school.

The long and the short of it is...it's back to the drawing board AGAIN for world building, though not quite as extensively as I've been doing.  I just need to tweak a few things now that I've gotten the actual world issues resolved.  I also realized one of the reasons I was suffering from a major writer's block on one of my WIPs was because of the issue with the geography.  I also realized that the society as I had it wasn't working and had a major breakthrough with the block on that point as well.  I've changed the political structure of two of my kingdoms.  This means I've got some rewriting to do, but it's worth it to finally be free of the block that's been plaguing me for a while.

I am very excited to begin my quest for MORE WORDS with my new tracker and my new perception of Vassa.  Looking forward to making a lot of progress on these stories now.  It'll also mean some rewrites on ONLY A NAME and CRACKED WORLD (major rewrites on CRACKED WORLD, actually) but it'll all be worth it if the world fits together even better.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Family conflict as it applies to your characters

This post by Angela Kulig  made me think about something that actually plays a major role in the lives of most of my characters - family conflict.  Angela's post touches on birth order and how that affects the way a character behaves (someone in the comments brought up the good examples of Katniss/Prim from Hunger Games and the Weasley kids from Harry Potter).  But let's look at the larger picture here - how can family affect/influence/conflict your characters?

In one of my stories, a son who has been declared a bastard by his biological father because he's not "male" enough (he's fairly androgynous due to his mixed race courtesy of his mother's bloodlines) watches as his mother is beaten to death by the father who disowned him.  In another, one of my characters is adopted by someone completely out of her race/nationality and brought up in a manner unlike her own society after wandering away from her home and getting lost.  A third example would be a son born to a mother who is one race and raised to be accepted by a race so alien to his mother's own upbringing that there's conflict between her and the society she's chosen to live in about how he should be raised.

In each of these examples, we can see how a family situation can shape a character's beliefs.  Raghnall hates his biological father for his mother's murder, but he also hates his mother for staying with her abusive killer when she was told she could return home by her family.  He's later rescued by the group of assassins sent to kill his father & his half siblings (Raghnall's mother was his father's 3rd wife) and finds a father figure in one of the masters of the Order.  Anila comes from a primitive race with little true affection from her parents but quickly acclimatizes to living with a far more civilized group and actually comes to love the ways/customs of her foster father's people.  She also develops those attachments to home, family, and community that aren't as strong in her native race.  Reidar must reconcile his racial tendencies (which are rather prominent) with the societal demands of the land his mother lives as a refugee in.  Reidar's mannerisms are heavily influenced by the man his mother brings in to help raise him as well as her holding to certain customs from her homeland.  How each of these characters views the world is heavily influenced by the people who raised them.

What about characters that have no family ties?  The best example of that would be Scat from my Only A Name story.  She's a very young child when her world is turned upside down and she's torn from her parents by a war she knows nothing about and is sold as a slave.  She grows up in that slave environment before escaping a death sentence for her peculiar heritage that she inherited from her birth parents.  She encounters others like her in the sense that they're all running from their own deaths at the hands of those who would kill the fledgling race that she's a part of, but none of them are exactly like her - though they have several escaped slaves among them.  She feels isolated and alone because she doesn't remember/understand the concept of "family" and "community" that binds the group together.

Now, I do have characters that come from "normal" backgrounds.  Jerryth's mother and stepfather (Jerryth thinks he's his biological father until his real bio dad shows up when Jerryth's eighteen) have two children that are younger than Jerryth.  He's the oldest, so he's responsible for them.  A lot of his life revolves around the lives of his two younger sisters.  Meg cherishes the memories of her life with her older sister and her younger brother.  Pha Lin is her younger brother's staunch defender and main protector.  Algethra's bond to her twin brother Jes is what helps her survive some of the worst times of her life.  In each of these situations, it's the bonds of family that provide the anchor and in some cases the main backbone for the characters.

How about your characters?  What is it about their family life (or lack thereof) that motivates them?

Friday, July 6, 2012

A letter to my younger self

Dear 15 year old me,

If only I could tell you.  If I only I could tell you what the next 20 years will bring you.

You will lose someone you love in a terrible car accident, though you don't know you love him yet.  You've only just met him and his sister.  You love being with them because they give you the freedom from the hell that is your current home life and you love their family because they're so open and welcoming.  Keep that love in your heart forever, little one.  These people will love you for your whole life - even after shit hits the fan.

Your mother won't always treat you like shit.  She really does love you, though she can't express it the right way.  Not after what she lived through growing up.  Like you, she's got some undiagnosed mental illness and she hasn't found a way to work through the trauma of her own childhood.  Be grateful she isn't as bad as she was when the older three were kids, though I know she's bad enough to you now.

Don't give up on school.  I know it's hard.  I wish I could tell you how much better things would have been if you'd actually put some effort into your schooling.  Then again, if you were different I suppose we'd never meet Himself and get married.

I know you're depressed a lot, moreso than a normal teenager should be.  Don't worry.  In another year, they'll find a doctor who knows what this is and will get you the help you need.  You're going to rebel, of course, and it's going to come back to haunt you many times over the next 20 years.  But at least you'll have a diagnosis to work with and you will know that there is something wrong with you - and it is treatable.

You will try to take your own life when you lose the boy you're going to grow to love, because at that time you feel he's the only person in the world who loved you - aside from your little sister, who you should stop bullying because of the fact that you're jealous she doesn't get hit by your mom while you do.  You'll resent it at first, but you'll later be grateful to your father for stopping you.  He won't even know that he's saving your life because you'll never tell him or your mom how close you came to ending your own life.

You will love again, only to be betrayed.  But that betrayal will give you the courage to leave everything you know behind and move to Washington.  By doing that, you open yourself up to a new experience - a new life.  You will find yourself both loved and hated by the people around you.  You're different from them, and some will resent you for it.  But you will excel at what you do and you'll make new friends that will remain friends for life.  You will also open yourself up again to love.  You will love a boy who learns to love you back, and eventually you will get married.

You will get the mother you always wanted, only to have her stolen away by cancer.  You will lose everything you love and almost everything you own, and you will once again find yourself in the position of wanting to take your own life.  But again someone who loves you will stop you, even though he is the cause of some of your pain.  You will work through it and become stronger for it.

Over the next 20 years, you will face death, pain, and loss.  You will drop out of college because of illness.  You will spend time in the hospital multiple times due to illness.  You will be on different medications off and on through your life because of illness.  You will gain a new insight into handling your depression and anxiety, and you will learn to smile and laugh again.

There will be negative things in your life, but there will also be joy.  You meet a man you can love and who will love you back.  You will be together for 13 years and married for 10 as of the writing of this letter.  He will be there to back you up.  You will make many new friends and you will start to realize your dream of becoming a published writer.

Throughout everything, there will be one constant: your writing.  You're going to want to quit here soon.  You're going to have that dream punctured for you by your teachers.  Your mother is going to give you one of the rare pieces of good advice and encouragement that she gave us during our teenage years - "No matter what happens, don't stop writing.  Even if your fingers cramp and you're crying tears of blood, don't stop writing."

We will stop writing, but we will never stop dreaming.  And because of your husband, you really take a good, hard look at your dream and realize that maybe, just maybe, it's reachable.  You will meet other writers, people who become good friends, who will encourage you.  You will offer encouragement and praise to them as well, and will learn a lot about the craft from them.

Remember, even as bleak as being a 15 year old in an abusive and dysfunctional family can be, you will have 20 years of life to live and while it won't always be all sunshine and rainbows, it will teach you to be strong.  Keep that in mind and you will be fine.

With much love,
Your 35 year old future self

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I talk a lot today...especially about books!

Hey everyone!

It's Sunday, which would be a weird day for me to do my blog posts given that I usually work on Sundays.  Except I don't work Sunday anymore.  Thanks to my awesome manager, I now have Fridays and Sundays off and work on Saturdays.  I've been trying to get off Sundays since April - when we went outbound/inbound mix at the call center and I started getting the "Why the f*** are you calling me on the Lord's Day?" comments screamed at me - and we finally got them to move me.  This means I don't get two days off in a row, but I'll trade that for an end to the tirades about calling on a day normally reserved for religious observances by a large portion of the population.

One of the awesome things about not working on Sundays is I'm finally able to take part in Twitter chats that I've wanted to get involved in but due to my job haven't been able to.  The first chat is #StoryCraft.  It's usually hosted by @AuthorKimKoning (although this week's was quite ably managed by @SheviStories and @Fireflyfly), and it's at 4 pm MST.  This week's was on world building and as that's one of my favorite topics to talk about, it of course was an amazing start to my return to the #StoryCraft chat.

The other chat I only recently found out about that I checked out today is #fantasychat.  I don't know much about it, other than there was a great deal of discussion on magic today, but I'm going back next week to check it out even more.  It looks like one of the facilitators is @marilynmuniz.  The group who chats seems friendly, and I hope for some more interesting conversations.

Today Himself found out YouTube has not only denied him access to his account but someone flagged him for copyright violation on music he composed himself.  Back when we still had the iMac, we had GarageBand and a few other programs that Himself used to create a handful of techno songs.  He put two of them up on YouTube.  He got an email today saying that one of his songs had been flagged as a copyright violation by a company called Rumblefish and that Himself would now see ads popping up on his video because Rumblefish wasn't asking to have the video taken down.  Those videos have been up since January of last year.  When Himself tried to sign into his YouTube account to do something about it, it came up that the account was closed.  When I go onto YouTube I can find his account no problem.  But on "Timeless Trial", the video Rumblefish said violated their copyright, there is indeed an ad stuck on the video.  Both of us are rather angry at YouTube for this blatant violation of Himself's copyright, and the fact that this now prevents him from utilizing his own music to create an income for himself.

I went to the Rumblefish website.  Their FAQ says he can file a dispute, and he plans on doing that.  But he's still pissed that they decided to slap an ad on his music & claim that he was using their copyrighted material when he did no such thing.  It's just more of a hassle than we want to deal with right now.

Something a little lighter.  I started reading e-books with the intent of posting reviews of them up here.  This week I thought I'd introduce you to a few more of my favorites.  First on the list is Child of the Ghosts by Jonathan Moeller.  Here's the summary as taken from the Amazon page:

When her life is torn apart by sorcery and murder, young Caina Amalas joins the mysterious Ghosts, the legendary spies and assassins of the Emperor of Nighmar. She learns the secrets of disguise and stealth, of assassination and infiltration.

But even that might not be enough to save her.

For the evil that destroyed her family seeks to devour the entire world...

I loved Caina.  She's a smart, spirited girl who starts out as a sheltered bookworm and is thrust into a world of violence and magic that utterly destroys her life.  She is rescued by the mysterious Ghosts - the Emperor's hidden assassins and spies - and becomes one of them so she can avenge her father's murder.  She grows and changes during the book, making several decisions that alter her perceptions of the world.  There are a few editing mistakes, as I've come to expect, but they didn't draw me out of the story.  This is the first book in a trilogy and is still up on Amazon for free.  The other two books in the series Ghost in the Flames and Ghost in the Blood are both $2.99.  I hope to eventually get both of these as well because I want to continue with Caina's story.

The other books I'd like to discuss were written by my friend KD (@KDSarge on Twitter...follow her, she's awesome).  Those would be the three books in her 'Dreamverse - Knight Errant, His Faithful Squire, and  Queen's Man.

First, let's talk about Knight Errant.  Here's the blurb from Amazon:

From pickpocket and con artist to little brother and trusted comrade is a tough transition, but Taro is making it. His new sister, former Marine Eve Marcori, promised his dead mother she'd "look after" him. To her that means family, home--her interstellar freighter--and a solid future. In four years she has trained Taro extensively; the next step is college. Taro would rather be shot, but he never forgets his debt to Eve, so he means to honor her plans or die in the attempt. 

When Eve rescues former joy-boy and current layabout Rafe Ballard, death seems the likely outcome. Rafe is so apparently useless that Eve calls him 'the baggage' and appoints Taro his custodian. Irritated into disobedience by his carefree charge, Taro tries to get rid of Rafe. Instead he gets them both kidnapped by the jealous husband Rafe was fleeing. Though they are off-planet before Taro can act, his training may be enough to bring them safely through--but now he has bigger problems. Forced into partnership--and freedom--with Rafe, Taro begins to see him differently. Kind, funny, and caring, Rafe is everything Taro never knew he wanted. And all he can't have. Eve's plans leave no room for a playboy boyfriend who can never measure up, and Taro can't let her down. 

Caught between the sister he'd die for and the man he's beginning to live for, Taro decides it's time to start making his own plans. And if the new skills aren't enough, he'll give the old ones a try.

Originally I got the book from KD to read and eventually review for her when she first published it back in 2010.  When I got my Kindle I actually went out and purchased the book from Amazon (it's only .99), mainly because my computer ate my copy of KE and I wanted to read it again.  Let me tell you, this woman can WRITE.

Here's my original review:

I could not...absolutely COULD NOT...walk away from my screen until I finished this. I was expecting good. I've read some of K.D.'s stuff before. But this went beyond what I'd read and elevated to pure awesomeness. This came at a good time for me, since I'd already been having a rough time and needed something to make me smile. This did just that.

Taro is a young man torn between his duty to his sister and his desire for a future of his own choosing. When the obnoxious piece of "baggage" named Rafe enters his life, it gets a whole lot harder for Taro to think straight. Especially when "straight" isn't what he wants to be. Being kidnapped, assaulted, thrown out of just about every bar he's ever been to and finding out just how badly jealousy hurts, Taro evolves into a bloody awesome young man.

Taro has to learn to stand up for himself, to get past his emotions, and to finally confront the past and present to secure his future. This was an amazingly well written story.

I don't have much else to add here, other than each time I read it I find myself rooting for Taro all over again.  Seriously, go check it out.

Next book in the set was His Faithful Squire.  Here's the synopsis off the Amazon page:

Former joy-boy Rafe Ballard will miss living on the freighter Pendragon's Dream. Under the watchful eye of Captain Eve Marcori, Marine veteran, no one beat him. He ate well, his life was rarely in danger, and—most important by far—he spent much of his days and all the glorious nights with his beloved Taro. Unfortunately, energetic Taro wants to take on the galaxy without his sister the captain standing by, and Rafe won't be left behind.

He's learned enough to get a real job so he won't be a burden. Taro is beyond capable of keeping him safe. What could go wrong?

With a Marcori in the picture, lots. By the explosive end of his first job, Taro needs back-up. Rafe is all there is.

Hedonist, layabout, and mooch he may be, but Rafe is also deeply in love. For Taro he'll surprise everyone—especially himself.

I'd post my original review here too but it wasn't all that well written.  Let me just say this: wow.  Taro and Rafe leaped off the page as realistic characters.  You get to see a side of Rafe that you didn't get to see in Knight Errant, and you get to see him evolve and change from a layabout bit of fluff to someone who will make one hell of a partner for Taro.   Rafe is actually a fairly intelligent man who has been told all of his life that his only purpose was to make others happy.  Sometimes he can go overboard with this, sacrificing his own happiness in the process.  He learns that he has a right to be happy, that he can be happy with Taro, and that letting someone know what he wants isn't as hard as he thought.

Finally, Queen's Man.  This was another 'read and review' copy from KD.  Joss is very different from Taro and Rafe.  Here's the description from Amazon again:

Joss Ravid works security for a major tribe on Kari's Star, but he'll tell anyone that he doesn't actually care if the ruling families kill each other off. He’s not interested in politics; he just likes getting paid to hit jerks, and also the many opportunities for hitting on straight men. The Galactic-imposed Interdiction may keep Kari citizens stuck on their war-torn world, but Joss has connections. If the situation gets too messy, he can leave whenever he wants.

He’ll also tell anyone he doesn’t care about girls, but that doesn’t stop him from rescuing 12-year-old Paige Carlyle, newly arrived on the planet and newly orphaned by tribe violence.

If Joss were making a “don’t care” list, though, at the very top would be Zeke Cayden, Heir to powerful Tribe Cayden. Never mind that he and Joss were lovers; that’s long gone. Saving Zeke’s life when the shooting starts is just business. Some tribes don’t want peace, and killing a Galactic citizen like Paige—or controlling Cayden through the Heir—would serve them well.

So Joss is on the run, risking his life, his pretty face, and his precious liberty to keep Paige and Zeke alive and the peace plan that can lift the Interdiction on track. Why? Because…how often does a guy get to piss off half a planet while displaying his talents for woodcraft, cross-dressing, and scaring straight men?

When Paige is kidnapped, though, the lives of Paige and Zeke, the leadership of Cayden and the future of Kari’s Star all ride on the wrinkled shoulders of Joss' work suit and he has to decide—does he care, or not?

And here's the review I wrote for that one:

KD offered me the chance to read an ARC of this book and I took it. I've loved her other two books - KNIGHT ERRANT and HIS FAITHFUL SQUIRE - so I was interested in seeing how Joss' story would play out. I wasn't disappointed.

Joss is a chaotic bundle of energy with little respect for authority and a big ego. When he inadvertently witnesses a murder and an attempted abduction, Joss finds himself put in the position of defending a damsel in distress - something difficult for him since he doesn't really care for girls. Paige's continued existence is key in the struggle for the removal of the Interdiction on Kari's Star, so Joss puts his freedom and his life on the line to protect her and Zeke, the annoyingly good looking heir to the Tribe Cayden, when a situation arises that forces the three of them to go on the run.

Initially I wasn't sure if I would like Joss since he was completely different from any of the other characters KD Sarge has written about previously. But as the story unfolded I actually found that he grew on me and by the end of the story I adored him as much as I adore Taro and Rafe.

KD has written a classic theme in sci fi, a war torn world and a single hero being selected to defend the key to peace, but has given it her own twist. Her humor is very much in evidence in this book and the character development is dynamic. Joss' world is vibrant and fascinating, and the characters that populate it move the story along at a brisk pace.

Seriously, just go buy/read KD and Jonathan's stuff.  They're both awesome writers (I don't know Jonathan personally but his writing speaks for itself) and they have some very appealing characters for you to fall in love with.

Amazon link for Child of the Ghosts
Amazon link for Knight Errant
Amazon link for His Faithful Squire
Amazon link for Queen's Man

And as always, if you don't have a Kindle, Amazon has a lovely set of free downloads so you can read Kindle books on your Mac, PC, Android, and iPhone.