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Meh on Valentine’s Day

I know I’m generally considered a “romantic” writer. There are romantic subplots in almost everything I write. Most of my fan mail is about the relationships in my books. When I surveyed readers about what stands out in my books or what sets them apart, romance was high on the list.

So, I’d be expected to make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, maybe use it for a promotional push. Except, I don’t really “get” Valentine’s Day.

It seems so weird to designate a particular day on which you’re expected to do something romantic, to buy gifts for your romantic partner, and go on a date. Never mind if that day has nothing to do with you or your relationship. And, oh dear, what if it happens to fall on the same day as a religious holiday? What are you to do?

I’m happily single, but even if I were in a relationship, I think I’d rather avoid the crowds and celebrate a date that was meaningful to us — an anniversary of a first date, wedding anniversary, one of our birthdays. Why celebrate just because an ad says we have to? A personal celebration seems much more romantic to me. Or there’s something to be said for spontaneity, celebrating your relationship whenever you feel like it — It struck me today how happy I am to have you in my life, so here’s some chocolate.

I’m rather glad that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday this year. Then maybe I can sound pious instead of cynical when I say I’m focusing on something else. My church kind of smooshes together Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday by having a pancake supper followed by the Ash Wednesday service, and that’s what I’ll be doing tonight (with children’s choir before and chancel choir after).

And now I’m off to go write another one of my slow-build romantic relationships that isn’t technically a “romance.”

Winter Schedule

I’ve had a reasonably busy week. There was the choir workshop last week, then this week I was frantically trying to get together some proposals to send to my agent. Yesterday I was catching up from that. Now I’m back to a more or less normal winter schedule. By that I mean that I seem to be sleeping a lot later than I do the rest of the year. I think I’m part bear and need the hibernation time in winter. Or it could be that my bed is warm and cozy, and I don’t really want to get out of it when it’s cold outside.

The choir workshop came in handy last night because it had been below freezing all day, which meant indoor recess, and a day of indoor recess with kindergarten boys is just asking for excitement with evening activities. I only had four kids, so they were manageable, and I tried a few of the new games I learned to work on getting the wiggles out and settling down, then working on hearing and feeling rhythm. We’re still working on that. I think some of them can find the beat in songs, but the others are still in the “ha, I got there first because I was faster!” mode. We ended up working with streamers and that devolved into creating fireworks. Since there were so few kids, they could have multiple streamers, and they ended up emptying the bag, gathering all they could hold in their arms, then throwing them in the air and letting them flutter to the ground. I put on music so we could try to time it to the music, and I also tried to tie it into vocalization, making our voices go up and down with the streamers. But mostly, they were throwing things in the air with utter glee. It was actually kind of joyous to watch.

I think I need to find a way to write a kindergarten boy-like character into a story — maybe a magical creature? I don’t have a lot of interest in writing too many actual small children, but there’s something about that mindset and world view that would be fun to work with in an impish sort of way.

But first I have a few things I need to finish. Sometimes January is a good writing month because I don’t really want to go anywhere or do anything but stay home, so I might as well write. But it’s also when I could happily doze all day, and if I sit still to write, I can just drift off. I mostly want to spend the time reading. I think what I need is momentum, to really get back in the swing of things after the holidays, and that means forcing myself to focus.

But we have a rainy Sunday in the forecast, and I’ve already got it blocked off for a good reading day.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

After taking some time off, I’m ready and eager for the new year. Last year I spent more time writing than I had in previous years, but I aim to increase that even more because there are so many books I want to write and I need to get those stories out of my head.

Of course, I came up with a new one just as I was falling asleep last night. Because I needed another fictional universe swirling around in my head.

I hope to get another Enchanted, Inc. book and another Rebels book written this year. I also hope to find a new publisher for my young adult fantasy, and I’m working on a book that I hope will get editors eager and excited. Meanwhile, there’s something new I’m trying to delve into, and we’ll see how that goes.

I’m going to try to stick with a more regular schedule of posting, so stay tuned for updates about my work and life. For really regular postings, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook. I’m mostly limiting Facebook “friends” to people I’ve actually interacted with and know in some way, but most of my Facebook posts are public, so you can follow me even without being my “friend.”

In non-writing life stuff, we’re in an odd cold spell here in Texas. It hasn’t been above freezing in more than a day, which is unusual. My house isn’t really designed for weather like this, so I’m getting through it by staying huddled under the electric blanket on my bed. That means it’s a pretty good situation for writing. I splurged last month and bought myself a plush throw that feels really nice wrapped around my shoulders. I like cool weather, but I prefer it to stay above freezing. I may bundle up later today to go check the mail and see if the canal near my house has frozen over. I had to say goodbye to my summer flowers because the pots are just too big to bring them all in for such a long period of time. Really, it was odd to keep zinnias blooming after Christmas, and the morning glory was fading out even without being hit by a freeze. Still, it’s hard to say goodbye to my flowers after I enjoyed them so much. But it will soon be spring again and I can plant some more.

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season and is ready to have a wonderful 2018.

Public Appearances

It’s going to be a busy fall for me, as I leave my writing cave to experience the outside world at a number of events. So, if you want a rare sighting of me in public, here’s where to find me in the coming months:

September 22-24: FenCon in Irving, Texas
I’m a panelist guest at this convention. There might be wacky video hijinks if I get my act together. I have no idea what I’ll read in my reading slot, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

October 6: Missouri Library Association
I’ll be speaking at the YA librarians breakfast. I suspect this is a member-only event that requires reservations, but if you’re a Missouri librarian, this is your chance!

October 20-22: Necronomicon in Tampa, Florida
I’m one of the Guests of Honor at this convention. There might be public singing.

November 2-5: World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio, Texas
I’ll be attending. I don’t know if I’ll be on any panels or otherwise participating, but there’s usually a big autograph session that anyone attending can participate in.

Because three of these events involve flying (I found a good airfare so that flying to San Antonio worked out as cheaper than driving, between parking at the hotel, gas, and the fact that the trip is so long that it would have probably involved an additional hotel night to make it there in time for the convention to start), I decided to splurge and apply for TSA PreCheck so it would somewhat decrease the stress. After looking into it, I went ahead and applied for Global Entry instead. That’s only $15 more expensive, includes PreCheck, and also gives expedited customs. I don’t have any particular plans to travel abroad, but I like having the option. Maybe this will spur me to travel abroad to make it worthwhile.

Anyway, I was worried that I’d procrastinated a little too long and wouldn’t have everything done by the time I need to travel, since it can take weeks to get an appointment for the interview portion, but I applied anyway last week. Friday night I got the notice that I had preliminary approval and needed to set an appointment. I went online to schedule the appointment, and there was one available slot on Tuesday, with everything else being full for weeks. So I snagged it. And now if I pass the interview portion, I should have my trusted traveler status in time for all those flights this fall.

But I do need to plan some other travel. During WorldCon, I realized that the parts I envied from seeing people’s reports weren’t about the convention itself, but the side trips people made while going to and from Helsinki. I’m tentatively considering making a trip to Iceland and Norway next year, maybe in August. That would be a way of extending my fall. WorldCon 2019 is in Dublin, and I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, so I may do that one and do some touring before/after. And there’s a book I want to write that will require a research trip to England.

Wrangling Kindergarteners

It’s been a busy week, since I had music and art camp in the mornings Monday through Thursday. I was in charge of kindergarten, and I had 16 kids, 10 of them boys. I did have helpers, which was nice, but I was the one ultimately responsible for making sure all the kids made it to each session and didn’t kill each other along the way. There were wild and crazy boys who interpreted every instruction as “run” and clingy girls who tried to demand special treatment for every little thing (I don’t like that snack, can I have something else? Not wanting to do anything but sit in the lap of the teen volunteer). I came home and pretty much collapsed every afternoon, and I got next to nothing done.

But I think my brain was plugging away in the background because I seem to have worked out the logistics for the new version of the next phase of the book.

I had a lightning bolt a week or so ago when I realized that the entire end of the book was based on a faulty premise. If I had the bad guys act logically, it changed everything, and that made things a lot more interesting. I had an initial idea of what might be happening, then that developed, and then I did some research, and now it’s coming together in a way that’s really clear. I just need to be able to find a way to put the imagery into words.

Then this morning I had a physical therapy appointment. I may be almost done. I see the doctor next week, then I have another appointment, and we’ll decide from there if I need to keep going or if I can just go to doing it all on my own. This has been a very expensive way to spend the summer (buy my books!) but I can tell a big difference, and I’m getting in better shape overall, not just my knee.

Now I need to try to get my brain in gear and get back to work.

More on Willpower

I had a realization yesterday during a particularly difficult writing sessions that the decision fatigue effect (making decisions is exhausting, which is why willpower can be difficult) may have something to do with why writing can be so tiring. It’s a constant string of decisions — what happens next, what should the characters do? When you have one of those “gift” books where there are no decisions to be made because it just seems to flow, writing is easier and less tiring. That’s when I can whip out thousands of words in a day. But when I’m constantly making decisions and figuring things out, it’s utterly exhausting. Plotting can help with that if you can separate the decision process from the writing process so the decisions are all made before you start to write, but there are some books that defy plotting. The one I’m working on now is like that. I have an entire spiral notebook filled with plot outlines, character arcs, etc., and none of it is doing me any good once I get to writing. At every turning point, I have to stop and think, and now I’m having to figure out if the choice I made five chapters ago is the right one. No wonder I’m exhausted. This also explains why writers need snacks and why my page count M&Ms or cherries work — making decisions depletes glucose in the brain. You need fuel to be able to keep making decisions.

Another thing that I found interesting in that book I was discussing yesterday (Willpower) is that deferral actually works the same way in the mind as indulging. Saying “not now, but later” provides a kind of satisfaction that means you may not even want it later. They tested this by having subjects watch a short film with a bowl of M&Ms nearby. Different groups of subjects were told either to imagine they’d decided to eat as much as they wanted, to imagine they’d decided not to eat them at all, or to imagine that they weren’t going to eat any now but would eat some later. Both the “no” and the “later” groups ate fewer M&Ms while watching the film. Then participants were given a survey to fill out that was supposedly about the laboratory they were in (it didn’t seem like part of the study — they’d already answered questions about the film. This was more of a “how did we do?” thing) and told that they were the last participant of the day, so here are the leftover M&Ms if you want them while you fill out the survey. The “later” people ate fewer than the “no” people or the “yes” people, and then in a follow-up survey, they reported that they were less interested in eating M&Ms. Saying “maybe later” provided the same sense of satisfaction as giving in, and the anticipation of the future pleasure counted as pleasure.

I’m curious whether they did any comparison between the high self-control people and high impulse people in this. I know that I frequently enjoy anticipation more than the actual thing. That’s how I am with shopping. When I see some non-necessary thing that I like, I generally don’t buy it right away. I’ll say “maybe later.” Then I may find some enjoyment in thinking about the “later,” but usually even the interest in the thing passes. I’ve learned that it’s often more fun to think about the possibility of having the thing than to actually buy the thing. Generally, the thing itself isn’t as fun in reality as it was in thinking about it, then I don’t have the money I spent on the thing and I have a thing I have to deal with that I don’t have space for. I can see where this might be a point of clashing in relationships. I know people who get frustrated with me when I mention seeing something I want and I don’t buy it, and they don’t get that me not buying it isn’t actually something I experience as self-denial, while I would get frustrated with someone who bought everything on a whim rather than thinking about long-term goals. There’s room there for a lot of fighting.

Though it can be taken too far. I’ve planned a lot of vacations I’ve never taken. I do get a lot of pleasure out of the planning, but it doesn’t really substitute for actually going somewhere sometimes.

Superhero Armor

Welcome to the new website! This is where I’ll be blogging from now on, maybe not daily, but when I have something to say. If all I need is a short news bit, that will be a “news” item that shows up on the front page. There are still a few things to work out, like making the social sharing buttons work with my hosting provider. I need to get back to adding content because I could tell while moving things over that I’d really slacked off on that front.

The verdict on my knee was that the kneecap went out of alignment. It’s not dislocated, like it was back when I needed surgery before, but it’s out of whack, and that’s pulling everything around it out of place and making it less stable. Surgery for this is a very last resort. For now, I’ve got this lovely brace that holds the kneecap in place. There’s a sleeve that has a reinforced area around the kneecap, and then the brace that goes over it that really clamps down on the kneecap. It’s hinged, so it’s pretty flexible and mobile. It looks like the beginning of some kind of costume. I can’t quite decide if it’s the start of a superhero uniform, fantasy armor, or if I’m being assimilated by the Borg.

knee brace

I’ll also be doing physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the kneecap and get everything aligned. My dance may actually have been helpful in keeping it all strong. Even though the problem started in dance class, it was apparently something that would have been likely to happen anyway, and the dance may have held it off. I’m looking forward to getting back in shape. For now, the brace means I can walk without as much pain and with a lot more stability, and the doctor didn’t say anything about me having to hold back on activity — in fact, that’s part of what the brace is for, so I can be active.

So I guess my summer will be spent writing and exercising.


I think I had a pretty productive day yesterday. I got a good start on rewriting based on my new idea, though I then figured out what I needed to go back and fix in what I rewrote yesterday.

Today, though, will likely be my “get stuff done” day since I have that appointment to see a doctor about my knee, and that will probably kill my writing time. While I’m out, I can run all my weekly errands so that Wednesday can be a good working day.

I tried to unwind a bit by watching a movie last night. I’d recorded the 1948 production of The Woman in White from TCM. I read the book when I was immersing myself in Victorian literature before I wrote Rebel Mechanics (and when I thought it was going to be a lot more gothic than it turned out to be), so I was curious about the movie. Unfortunately, movies of that era were somewhat lax in anything resembling authenticity. The story is set in England. Almost all the characters are British (except for the Italian). In this movie, almost all the main characters were played by American actors, who weren’t even trying for British accents. Most of them were using that “mid-Atlantic” accent of the era, though one sounded like he was maybe from Georgia. But then most of the supporting characters either were British or were doing passable British accents, which made it even more jarring. I had to turn it off midway through. It’s a frustrating story to begin with because it’s centered on the concept of helplessness, with some of the main characters entirely under the power of others, and then there are some of the attitudes of the period that make you want to smack the characters’ heads together. But when you throw in the accent issues and the melodrama that came with that period, I just couldn’t take it.

I guess the helplessness thing was also getting to me because I’m seeing a doctor today about my knee problems, and I really hate seeing doctors. I’m braced for the “there’s nothing really wrong, it’s all in your head” treatment. Or else the “why didn’t you get something done sooner” lecture, to which the answer is all those years of constantly being told there’s nothing wrong and it’s all in my head. But at least maybe today I’ll get some answers and the start on a path toward fixing it. I miss being able to go on long walks, being able to go hiking on uneven surfaces, being able to dance. I’m getting out of shape and I can feel it, and I hate that.

Audio News!

Oops, didn’t get around to posting this morning. I went to vote early for the upcoming city election, and the polling place is at the library, so you can probably imagine what happened. I restrained myself to three books and two of them are work-related. But there was a lot of browsing. I also walked and took the long way, both for exercise and because that’s the way to avoid the campaigners set up in the parking lot. If I come to the library from the canal footpath, I’m within the no-campaigning zone before they can see me, since no one ever sets up on the footpath.

The big news today is that the audiobook version of Frogs and Kisses is available today! They’d given me a date in June, but I guess they were ahead of schedule.

You can find it here.

I still don’t have any news on audio for the second two Rebels books. Apparently, the audio sales were “modest,” so the publisher isn’t exactly leaping to pick up the rest.

And now it’s time to get to work.

Done With The Draft

I finished the draft yesterday. There are still a few scenes to write, but I’m in the wrapping up phase after the main plot ends, which is where the character and emotional arcs are resolved, and the character and emotional arcs are what I want to focus on in the next draft, so I’m not sure yet how they’ll be resolved, and that means writing those scenes now is rather pointless. The current draft ends with the resolution of the main plot, and I have to figure out how to tie off all the other loose ends along with the character arcs.

For now, I’m going to take a little break from this book and write a short piece, then I’ll get back to this one. I already have ideas for what I want to do with it, but my brain needs a break.

I did discover one way to up my productivity. I usually do my writing in the afternoon. The aim is to start writing after lunch, but that tends to slip as I get ready to work. It sometimes looks like a kid who’s trying to put off bedtime — I need a story, I need a glass of water, I need my pillow fluffed up, I need a blanket, I think I hear something. But in my case, it’s more like I need my notes, I need my pen, I need the timer, I need a glass of water, I need my word count M&Ms, I need my writing music, etc. Yesterday, I set all that up before lunch, so when it was time to write, I just sat down and went to work. I’d done a thousand words before the time I usually get to work. I will have to do that in the future.

Today, though, is mostly errand and business day, though some errands may get moved to tomorrow because there’s one that can’t be done today, and I might as well just make one trip. Also, my weather radio went off three times this morning, starting at about 5:30 and going off again every time I went back to sleep. There were severe thunderstorms in other parts of the county. I guess it just gives warnings for your county and doesn’t break it down by zip code. I may need a nap before I can face the kindergarten choir tonight.