Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cover design for Thought

Powerpoint is making me a little crazy today. For some reason, when I save my file as a jpg, it's reducing the quality by too much. But the settings shouldn't be the problem. This image had appropriate dimensions, but it doesn't anymore and I don't know why.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pain and whining

I came back from Michelle's memorial service with a cold that has just been impossible to kick. Family pressure finally pushed me to the doctor after about five weeks, when R refused to see The Avengers with me because he said that I'd cough too much and Dad offered to pay for the doctor's visit and K tempted me by reminding me that doctors sometimes prescribe cough syrup with codeine in it. The doctor put me on antibiotics and from my response to them, I'd guess that I did have a sinus infection. But a week after the antibiotics ended, I'm still stuffed up, still coughing (although not nearly as badly) and still sneezing. In my non-medically trained opinion, that's allergies.

Along the way, though, with the ferocious cough, I developed a pain in my right side. Pulled muscle, in my ever-so-competent, non-medically trained opinion. And yeah, it was weird that a month later, it still hurt to take a deep breath, but muscles are slow to heal. But yesterday, while swimming, I dived down to the bottom of the pool to try to retrieve a basketball.

If I hadn't been underwater, I would have screamed. For a second, I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it out of the pool. I spent the next hour sitting very still, waiting for the pain to stop and breathing shallowly. I actually watched the Neil Gaiman commencement speech that's been making the rounds during that hour and when he made me laugh, I followed it up with a whimper. In my not-so-competent, non-medically-trained opinion, I have a cracked rib. This makes me want to say lots and lots and lots of bad words.

On the pain scale of 1-10, the pain used to be ... maybe an inconsistent 4. In the right position, it didn't bother me at all, but if I did something like take a deep breath, it was annoying enough to stop me in my tracks. Now, sitting perfectly still, pillow against my back, it's a 5. When I move the wrong way, it's about an 7. Last night, it was lie in bed and weep pain.  I suppose the only positive side is that I'm finally rewarded for not having used all the pain pills from my dental surgery of five years ago.

I'm not sure why I felt the need to whine about this on my blog. Maybe it's because I really wanted to write a lot of A Gift of Thought today and I'm not sure that's going to happen. But at least I can tell myself that I wrote something, even if it's just a whine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Better Days Ahead

On May 28th last year, R and I were on the way to the grocery store, when I said, "Is that a dog?" It was a dog. A white Jack Russell terrier that had been so recently hit by a car that it was still in the middle of the road, still moving. I turned the car around, drove back, and sat with the dog for the seconds it had left before it died. It looked at me, saw me, then its eyes glazed over. I brought the body home and buried it in the back yard. We never made it to the grocery store.

The next day, I went back to that neighborhood, looked for signs. Every telephone pole had one. I called the owner. The dog was Hugo. 14 years old. And Jay, his owner, needed to see him. So I dug the dog back up and Jay came and took his body away.

Exactly two weeks later, Karen called with the news about a "suspicious nodule." Over the next nine months, Mom died, Malcolm died, Sharon died, Michelle died.

Yesterday, R and I were on the way to the store, when R said, "Is that a dog?" It was a dog. A Yorkie in the middle of a busy road. I stopped the car immediately, annoying the people behind me. R got out of the car, annoying the people ahead of us, and managed to scare the dog off the road. I pulled over and together the two of us herded the dog back into a safer place, and started trying doors. The owners were in the second house we tried and very happy to get their dog safely back. They hadn't even realized he was missing yet.

I think the best part is that I had made a wrong turn -- yes, on the way to the store, I made a wrong turn, this is why I get lost so easily -- and we should never have been on that street at all. I know that it's a meaningless coincidence, but it feels like a sign of better things to come.

And even if not, we get to know that a dog is safe at home tonight because this time, we were there in time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Just finished one of the close to last chapters of A Gift of Thought and oh, it amused me. I needed that today, too, because I'm dreading the rest of the day.

We're celebrating my birthday tonight. I managed to get out of it on the real day, quite beautifully, by being completely sick with the illness that's lasted now for approximately six weeks. Yay, me. Unfortunately, I'm not sick enough now to get out of it again. But I dread it. It's so horrible when people do something really nice for you -- or that they think will be really nice -- and you have to pretend that yes, it's really nice when actually it's not at all.

My dad was delighted to get reservations for us at The California Grill. It's been my favorite restaurant at Disney for years. You can watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom from the windows -- it's a beautiful view. I don't know how many times we've eaten there -- seven? Eight? We've had Christmas dinner there. I celebrated my fortieth birthday there. I ate sushi there twenty years ago, shocking my parents who had missed my evolution from incredibly-picky-eater-of-almost-nothing. It's a place rich with memories. Rich with them. And now I'm going to be there with my dad and his girlfriend and the rest of the family and he really just doesn't understand how desperately I miss my mom. Karen does. So she and I will sit there and pretend like mad that everything is fine and all is lovely and life is grand and it's just swell that Dad's in love and meanwhile, underneath it all, we will both know that there is a hole there that is never going to be filled.



But the chapter I wrote today made me laugh.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I wrote this months ago. Not sure why it never posted or why I never posted it. Maybe because it struck me as cowardly? But today I like it -- it was a great reminder of things I've been forgetting -- so I'm posting it.

Today was practicum. For a counselor-in-training, this is the make-it-or-break-it moment. Am I actually going to be able to help people or am I going to screw up? We've had the rules of confidentiality drilled into us from day one, but I don't think it's breaking confidentiality to say that one of my future clients tried to commit suicide a few months ago. Am I going to be able to help him or is this going to be one of my worst nightmares come true? (I initially wrote worst nightmare and then I realized that homicidal trumps suicidal...but still...)

Oddly enough--or perhaps not so oddly--Felicia Day's end of 2010 blog post popped back into my head. Specifically the improv will save your life point. Even more specifically, ignoring the voice that says "that won't work, no one does it like that." I don't know if that's as relevant to counseling as it was to writing, but in the moment, it was so comforting.It reminded me to trust my instincts, to have faith in my intuition.

And that made me really want to tell her so.

But...that felt weird. Too weird to do. And yet, why? She seems like a pretty nice person. She wrote something that mattered to me in a way far beyond sense. The delegation part, not so much, that's meaningless at the moment. But the improv and the anxiety and the patience and the self-awareness--all of those words, for whatever reason, hit a trigger and stayed with me. So much so that it's a year later and it still matters.

I wrote the dedication to A Gift of Ghosts on a whim almost. Most people dedicate their first book--if they dedicate it at all--to family members. To the loving spouse, the supportive parents, the delightful children. I do have a delightful child but honestly, he deserves no credit. He thinks I should play more WOW and write less (presumably because I was more fun when I was playing more WOW but also because he doesn't like it when I read him lines of dialog and say, "would you say it that way?" Yeah, you didn't think that 15-year-old voice was all me, did you?) And I also have/had supportive parents, although...okay, not going there at the moment.

Not the point, anyway.

The point is, I didn't spend a ton of time thinking out the dedication of the book. I wrote it on an impulse and I didn't really think that anyone would ever see it. And hey, I wrote a quarter of a million words of Eureka fan fiction, it's not as if I picked some random television show to dedicate a book to. I think maybe I earned my right to dedicate a book to Eureka. But why do I feel so defensive about this? I'm honestly not sure...but I think it's because right now, today, tonight, I want Felicia Day to know that something she said mattered. And the only way to make that happen is to tell her so. And somehow that feels ridiculously scary. Even more so than posting the book to Amazon did.

But this is the dedication of A Gift of Ghosts.

A quirky dedication for a quirky book: this book is dedicated to the creators, cast, and crew of the (wonderful, amazing, incredibly fun, tragically cancelled) television show Eureka, for first inspiring my creativity and then annoying me so much that I was forced into originality. And in particular, to Felicia Day, for this blog post:, and for making geeky girls cool.

Mother's Day

I didn't sleep last night. Really truly didn't sleep. I was still wide-awake at 4:17 at which time I resolutely stopped watching the clock. I was awake by 6:45. The mosquito flying around my room was the most persistent, determined and agile bug I have ever, ever encountered. At 4AM, I decided maybe there was more than one. Maybe there were two. Or five. Or ten. But my bed was not littered with dead mosquito bodies when the room finally got light, so I'm thinking not -- just one seriously hard-working little pest. I actually told it -- yes, out loud -- that I didn't care if it bit me 100 times if it would just stop whining around my ear. It did not listen. I suppose mosquitoes don't really speak English.

Anyway, Mother's Day. I can't remember last year's Mother's Day but I wish we'd done something special. I wish I'd bought my mother flowers and written her a sappy card and cooked her a fancy dinner. I don't think I did. I told a therapist last summer that I didn't think I'd have any regrets: my relationship with my mother was strong and loving and friendly. She was, in so many ways, my closest friend. She was the person I called when I felt good and when I felt bad, or when I needed advice about cooking or cleaning or health or shopping. She was the person I did things with -- Saturday morning garage sales and shopping for clothes or shoes. I talked to her more often and about more than anyone else in my life. But we never did much to celebrate Mother's Day. She knew I loved her and I knew she loved me. I think I felt -- and I think she felt -- that the way we lived was a regular recognition of how important and special our relationship was and that I didn't need one day a year to tell her she was wonderful. But I do regret -- so much -- that I don't have a special memory from last year to make this year more bearable.

My sister's kids sent me chocolate-covered strawberries. My delightful son brought me tea in bed, and an omelet, and a bagel -- not just one breakfast but two. Today, we're going to see The Avengers together -- it's the first time, we've gone to a movie together since . . . ugh, I wanted to say years, but actually, we went to the movies together on the day my mom died. We needed a distraction. I suppose that's what today's movie is, too.

Today would probably be easier if I'd slept last night.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blogging about blogging

I open the door to the outside and Zelda dashes through like I'm rewarding her for being incredibly clever while Gizmo looks at me like, "Really? Must we?" I love having two dogs around -- it is decidedly twice as much fun as one.

But that wasn't what I was going to write about. Obviously, having quit graduate school (or descended into total insanity, depending on how you'd like to define my behavior), I'm trying to figure out what I do next with my life. Or rather, how I earn the money that it will take to pay the mortgage and feed the kid and the dog and keep the car filled with gas...I should stop this list before it freaks me out. But you get the idea -- I need to come up with a plan. I think I wrote about my OCD need for plans before: ah, no, it was about structure. Here, read this past post: Structure. So you see, I need some structure, I need some goals, I need to know what the f*** I'm doing. (Look, I'm so repressed that I can't even swear on my own blog that no one else reads! Gah! Sometimes my crazy drives  me...ha, crazy.)

Returning to the point . . . most writer's blogs strike me as wrong. Not that I'm going to go out and tell them so, but writers seem to mostly write about writing. Admittedly, when that's what you're doing, of course it's what interests you. And yet, readers -- who are the people who should be most inclined to visit a writer's blog -- don't care about writing. In fact, as a reader, I want nothing less than a writerly blog written by my favorite authors. I want to believe that Miles Vorkosigan is real. I don't want to know how Lois McMaster Bujold thought about acts while she wrote those novels and how she deliberately used short sentences to build tension. I want to believe in the world she created -- a blog about writing from her would be like Oz pulling back the curtain and saying eagerly, "yeah, it's all tricks, you want to try, too?"

Yet, of course, when you're writing, that's what you're thinking about. I've written a bunch of posts about the business of self-publishing because that's what I'm thinking about, but I don't want to write a blog about self-publishing because that would require me to keep writing about it past the point when it interests me. In fact, having a successful blog in general probably requires consistency -- writing about the same topics regularly -- and wow, does that sound tedious or what? I really would rather just blog whatever weird thing is in my head at whatever time it's in there. (They're remaking the Star Trek with Khan and no movie has ever given me worse nightmares -- I'm horrified by the very idea. I won't be seeing that one. Not that I see any movies, but that one I won't be wanting to see and not because of all the reasons that leaving the house seems like a bad idea...And yeah, that thought's because of those weird little ear worms that eat your brain.)

Anyway, I think my conclusion is that I'm not likely to ever have a successful blog. Okay, cross blogging off as one possible future career. Time to go back to writing and not thinking about our eventual starvation . . .

Pricing experiment

I'm trying to force myself to make my pricing experiment last through the weekend. I said I was going to try it for a week and it's not a real experiment unless one follows the rules. But so far a .99 price is decidedly not worth it. I've sold more copies, but I've made so much less money. In a month to month comparison, the first five days of April, I sold 42 copies and made probably $100. In the first five days of May, I've sold 56 copies and made just under $20. So yes, people buy more at the lower price point, but nowhere close to the eight times as much needed to make it an equivalent value.

I think I just talked myself out of continuing my experiment for another two days. I'd have to sell 322 copies in the next two days to make the .99 price be a break-even price and that's so unlikely as to be laughable.So... time to change the price. Wow, I bet this was a fascinating post for anyone not interested in self-publishing (not!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

80% done

I'm at the place where I start to think that everything I'm writing is completely and utterly idiotic, the stupidest plot that anyone's ever come up with and miserably stilted to boot. Fortunately, I've now written enough long stories (admittedly, most of them fanfic) that I recognize the phase. Usually I hit it at closer to 30K words and this time I'm nearer 60K, so I guess that's a sign that I'm improving. With something, anyway. I'm trying hard to remind myself that my beta readers really liked Chapter 6 (the most recent chapter they've seen) so I'm doing something right even though everything I've written today is utter crap.

Assuming that I can keep writing through this stage -- a reasonably safe assumption, I usually do -- by the end of the week, Thought will be the longest story I've written this century. Not as long as the first version of the novel I once-upon-a-time almost finished, but pretty long. I'm not leaving myself as much time for editing, though, which ought to make me nervous -- ah, except that this time I've got beta readers working on it now and with Ghosts I waited until I finished. All right, so I won't get nervous about that. Yet, anyway.