We are back in our home! This is Monday; we've been here since Friday night. My parents are here, working on various things, while John is at the rental with the men from the rental company. Me, I'm working with my parents and resting. The girls are sound asleep, and if they're not up in ten minutes, I'm gonna get medieval on their asses. That is all!
So many people commented on Social Security turning me down for disability that I need to say something.
I've been trying to get Social Security for 13 years, the length of time since I had my first heart attack(s). In the time since, I've had multiple heart attacks, a cardiac arrest and death, and now, a stroke. It's a rare condition called Prinzmetal's angina, or variant angina; I don't have blockages, or any of the normal signs of heart disease. In fact, literally nothing is wrong with me, except this strange angina (and the stroke). Few understand it, and I have no illusions anyone at the SSA is any different.
I've applied at least three times for SSDI, and I've been denied, every time. Only once have I turned to a lawyer for help, and I knew immediately that no help was forthcoming; he was useless, and as expected, the "appeal" failed.
It's been disheartening to be repeatedly denied. My friends and medical acquaintances alike are shocked. It makes me feel like I'm faking, when I know I am not. Neither John nor I knew how to get a lawyer who could really help me, but now, we do. We know someone who...well, s/he knows what to do, and who to talk with.
We have an appointment, and should know soon exactly what our chances are. I'll let you know.
In case you missed it on Facebook. I don't really like it there, but my friends insist on hanging out there.
It's been nearly nine months since the stroke that nearly killed me. And so, a status report, in response to my husband's questions. Those who only do good news, scroll down.
How are you doing?
I am stronger than before, with limits.
I went for my final examinations for Social Security Disability, and the 99% chance I'd be approved went poof. We Are the 1%! Oh well, that's why they made an appeals process. It's been thirteen years I've been trying to win approval now; at some point, they'll have to give in. I cannot work, even before I had the stroke. In the past, I have had either no one [legal] on my side, or [legal] hacks.* This time, I have someone on my side who truly understands the process, and I'm optimistic. I won't give up.
I'm still stroke-affected. My right hand is much, much better, which is only saying so much. My right leg works now; I couldn't move it at all--not a fraction of an inch. That said, they remain difficult.
My balance is still bad. I have a hard time standing in one place for any long period (over five minutes). The balance issues extend even into sitting; with no opportunity to rest, the room just swims. If I sit quietly, the issue goes away. The problem is with my right eye; it doesn't move as my left eye does, and the result is double vision/diplopia. The neuro-opthamologist says it's definitely neurological, not physical. Not great news, since there's only so much that can be done.
The balance issues may resolve given time. It has definitely gotten better since the stroke. I am now walking with a cane, sometimes unassisted (though usually I rely on help). In environments which are familiar, like the house we're in, I walk without either assistance or a cane. Most of the time, it's fine. Sometimes, it's not, but my "you will NOT fall" record is intact--at least since leaving the hospital. I credit my physical therapist, Jordan at Therapeutic Associates. He's AMAZING, as is Debra from Connected and the crew at Care Center East, especially Karen. Blessings on them.
My speech is very nearly intact. As long as I'm not over-tired, I'm fine (part of the finding of the SSA people, a part I agree with). My wits are what they were. I'm able to concentrate past the balance issues to communicate. For the most part, that's enough. Missing is the ability to write fiction. It's just not there. I haven't the heart yet.
What could you use going forward?
VISITS. I know most of you don't have time, but for those who do, I'm lonely. Any time: evenings, weekends, daytime. It's hard but not impossible for me to get places. I am fairly normal, not at all difficult to visit. I wear an eyepatch over one eye, I walk funny, and my hair is quite short, but otherwise I am the same. Please call or write first.
We still accept dinners. John tires of cooking, and I'm still not much in the kitchen apart from super-simple main courses. T'ain't critical, but it helps.
What has been an amazing surprise for you?
THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE. From the fire through the stroke, I have been continuously astonished--FLOORED--by the outpouring of love, caring, and materials our friends and coworkers have given us. Blessings, BLESSINGS, on all of you!!
* Note: I (JJ) added the legal note to clarify after discussing with Lynn. This was directed at the legal profession, NOT our friends.
I'm home, or what passes for home right now. I've been here a month--more than a month, really. I am having more fun working at home than I ever had at the care center. I am home, y'all!
Fun aside, I am not whole. I still can't stand for any long length of time. I'm unable to walk steadily--but news flash! I'm able to walk! Yay!! I was unable to walk unassisted, and then only for short steps. And that was after six weeks of rehab. (I started unable to lift my right leg. At all. Like, not even a little.)
So actually, I'm doing extremely well, fantastically well. I stand to fix breakfast and lunch for myself, I walk to my room and the bathroom, I'm... Normal. I'm normal at home. I stagger a little, my gait is uneven, but I'm normal. Especially at the beginning of the day.
Today, I met with the physical therapist and the occupational therapist separately. The PT said I've got six more visits--three weeks. The OT and I will continue to see one another for a while yet; I still have work to do there. I don't have the ability to hold what we've done in my mind very long, though it's longer than it's ever been.
Yesterday, I said goodbye to the speech therapist, for good. I'm done.
I'm moving fast, but don't expect to see me back to normal for several months. Thank you, everyone, for remaining my friends.
Those of you waiting to hear from me, or waiting to hear news: it may be some time. I had a stroke December 5th. It is a difficult recovery. You would not believe how long it took me to type this note. I am still myself, though. No weird facial tics, or anything like. The damage was primarily mental; it left my sense of self alone, but stole some thought functions. Those are--slowly--coming back. It takes time. I am in a rehab facility in Portland. It looks like I am going home some time this week. Wish me luck.
A version of this appeared on my nonfiction site.
On November 12th, at 2:30 in the morning, we ran for our lives from my home of 27 years. A tiny spark from our pellet stove caught the bark dust alongside our house on fire; it smoldered until high winds blew the burning bark dust against our basement window casing. From there, it burnt through the casing, and spread into the basement.
Our oldest daughter discovered the fire when smoke began pouring out of the heat vent in her room, where she was staying up late finishing her homework. The alarms went off, but if she hadn't run out of the house and begun slamming the front door and screaming her head off, we might not have woken up in time.
As it was, by the time the three of us made it downstairs the house was within minutes of total involvement. The fire department came in the nick of time to save the building, but not before the entire basement was charred, including the floor joists. John tells me the floor boards for the main floor are also burned. We escaped with our pajamas, our dog, one cat and no shoes. Our second cat was discovered dead in the basement last Friday. We were hoping she'd just run away.
It turns out we have good insurance. They have put us up in an extended stay hotel and have found us a rental house not far from our home. They will be gutting our house, to the studs; it is balloon frame construction, and smoke damaged the entire house severely, including much of our belongings. When all is said and done, we will have a new house inside a 130-year-old frame. It will take six months to rebuild, months we will spend in the rental house.
Needless to say, this is cutting into my writing time.
I don't mourn the loss of most of the things I lost. What gets me are little things: all our Christmas ornaments, including the stocking my mother made me when I was a baby; a favorite thermal knit Henley I'd embroidered; fiber, yarn and fabric I'd collected over 35 years, including handspun; a huge chunk of my craft and art reference books; and my comics collection--it's the second one I've lost in my life. I lost looms, my sewing machine, copies of my books. My piano. My drafting table I've had since I was 15.
And my cat, Inky.
The things we miss the most are those attached to memories. Furniture, dishes, TVs--those things can be replaced. Nothing can ever replace my stocking, my handspun, the ornaments my daughters made, or my cat.
It's been less than two weeks. I'm still in shock, I think, though gradually coming out of it. We're all exhausted. But we have discovered we are rich in friends. They've come out of the woodwork, offering help, supplies, and money. Twelve years ago, when we first discovered my weird heart condition, we also discovered we had no friends but my parents and our intentional brother. Four years later, when I nearly died, we had them, and my two best friends. This time, we literally cannot count the people who have come forward to support us.
We are so grateful, so, so grateful.
And yet, we mourn.
That's a Van Morrison album, titled for his revelation after he left Scientology. I kinda feel like I just left some kind of cult, the cult of not trusting myself. I am never again going to use someone else's work method as my own.
I'm a slow writer. I hate that. I've been trying to speed my output up, and several people extolled the method of breaking a novel down: three sections (acts one, two and three), so many chapters per section, so many scenes per chapter, so many words per scene. That way you know just what you're going to write every day and can go faster. It's logical, right? It should work. Just outline your work into that handy structure, write a scene a day, and boom, novel.
I've been struggling for nearly a year trying to work this way, believing it would speed my writing up. All the trouble I've been having, I've been chalking up to other things--things that were contributing, for sure, but in the end weren't the problem. I found the choke points (mostly stuff from the original draft that doesn't work any more), worked them out, and still couldn't get this book into a coherent shape.
Today I said fuck it. I jettisoned everything but the scenes themselves. Got rid of the three part structure, the x number of chapters per part and x number of scenes per chapter. Which I knew I didn't have to follow slavishly, but even having it like that in Scrivener was fucking with my head. I dumped all the scenes into one folder...
...and it straightened itself right out. In an evening. I rejiggered the timeline, adjusted the wordcount targets, and went over the outline obsessively. I moved parts around, discovered what happens in the missing transitions (which will now have deep resonance), and I'm finally ready to finish this goddamned book. For the first time in weeks, I'm excited about writing. I got excited a little while ago, but it foundered on the structure I was trying to use to "speed my writing up."
This is the umpteenth time this has happened to me. It's no one's fault; no one's ever led me astray or forced me, I just haven't trusted my own process. Last year, I lost an entire Drifting Isle novel because I followed advice that I learned doesn't work for me: finish what you're supposed to be working on, not what you want to work on ("otherwise, you're procrastinating"--remember, I'm trying to speed up). I was supposed to be working on book three. By the time I realized I'm the kind of writer who has to follow the energy, it was too late: the Drifting Isle novel energy was completely gone, and I didn't have the book three energy, either.
After two years of working on book three--almost a year of which was spent having and recovering from various health calamities, granted--I'm finally on a serious track to finishing this goddamned book. As things already stand, I'm 90% done by wordcount, and 100% done in outline.
And I'm finally ready to trust my own process. After six years. No guru, no method, no teacher. Just me.
I'll be part of the following panels:
Woman in the Fridge: Violence toward women as trope and plot device
Writing Believable Sex Scenes
Social Media and the Modern Writer
Synopses, Summaries, Book Descriptions and Other Horrors
Crowdfund Your Project
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
MeiLin Miranda reading from my work
Stitch n Share (formerly Stitch n Bitch)
Sedra's favorite poet is Lassinia Heinigen, a Littan woman largely regarded as one of the greatest poets of her time, though considered controversial and somewhat frowned upon by the Scholars and other conservatives. A fragment of her poem, "She Walks Along the Strand," published in the 993 KY chapbook "The Passionate Life," is interspersed in an intimate moment of book 3:
That early evening when we paced the strand
The moon abroad late day, to peep through cloud
Soft-tinted gold by sunset’s soft command
And with my dreams for love and fame endowed …
For you, I let my verses wash away
Or so I told you, to allay your pride
The barren sand no marking did betray
But oh, my love, I’ve always fought the tide…
I love writing fake Victorianesque poetry, especially when it goes in a sex scene.
Why look, it's an unboxing!
Twenty copies of my event-exclusive (meaning I don't sell them here and it'll never be in ebook form--you can find them at Amazon but Imma make you look for 'em) little chapbook, About Time. It has two short stories in it, "Reset" and "Dalston Junction," which both happen to be about time travel. Jason Gurley did the cover. He's not just an amazing cover artist, he is a phenomenal writer. Check him out.
If you come see me at StoryCon! in Vancouver, WA or at OryCon in November, you can get one of these autographed--and free. The only other way to get one is to join my mailing list. I'm going to be holding a drawing soon for two copies.
Why? Because if you've paid attention to FB lately, you know that you almost never see stuff from pages you've "liked" unless the page pays for you to see it. I can't afford to do that. So if you want to see me on FB, join the group. I know some people prefer FB to other venues, so that's why I offer myself there as well as here as well as twitter as well as *thud*
Hey, what do you think? I worked like crazy on this. The old site was broken, cluttered and just plain outdated. I hope this one works better for you guys. It still has issues--the user badges aren't displaying, for instance, but they weren't displaying on the old site.
Please let me know if you find any issues, or what you think.
So here's a kind of cool thing that happened:
Yesterday and today editor David Gatewood is holding a 99-cent sale at Amazon for an anthology I'm in, Synchronic. It's a solid anthology; I guarantee you'll find at least three stories you like in it, and many of you will enjoy all of them. I don't get paid any more than I've already been paid, but it's the only way David gets paid for all his work so I wholeheartedly encourage you to get it. If the book does well, we get to make more anthologies and I get to work with David some more; he is just a terrific editor.
The side effect of our promo efforts for the sale is that as it catapulted the book up the Amazon charts--we topped out at #16 in the entire store, not just in SFF (where we made it to #1 in a bunch of categories)--it also catapulted its authors way up the author rankings. That's what the screenshot is of.
For a little, tiny while, I am ranked higher than Neil Gaiman. It's extremely temporary and reflects nothing but a successful promo push, but you can be damn well sure I took screen shots.
I am tickled to death to announce that today The Machine God is part of the Bundle of Extraordinary Steampunk, at Storybundle. The collection was curated by my friend Susan Kaye Quinn, and if you've never heard of Storybundle, this is how it works:
The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $3 to purchase) are:
Black Mercury by Charlotte E. English (one of the other Drifting Isle books)
Zelda Pryce by Joseph Robert Lewis
The Machine God by MeiLin Miranda (that's me)
A Midsummer Night's Steampunk by Scott E. Tarbet
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $10, you'll get another three books:
Lumière by Jacqueline E. Garlick
Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
Fall of Sky City by S.M. Blooding
You're going to want to sign up for my newsletter because I'll be giving away THREE of these bundles to subscribers later this week!
The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, and .mobi) for all books, but after the three weeks are over, the bundle is gone forever! You can also buy a gift card for this StoryBundle if you have a friend you think would enjoy this.
Why StoryBundle? Here's what they say for themselves.
-- Get quality reads: We've chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
-- Pay what you want (minimum $3): You decide how much four fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that's fine! You'll still get access to four thrilling titles.
-- Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there's nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
-- Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. We're currently featuring Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now.
-- Receive extra books: If you beat our bonus price, you're not just getting four books, you're getting seven!
You've got three weeks to get this bundle, but get it now while you're thinking of it.
"Reset," the short story I wrote for the anthology Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel is now available for purchase by itself, since I know some of you didn't want to buy a whole anthology. (You really should; it's quite good.) You can purchase it directly from me in mobi/Kindle, ePub and PDF, from
Amazon US and all the international Amazons (just search for ASIN B00MC8UXLE), from Barnes & Noble and from Google Play. It's still in the process of publishing at Kobo, but it'll get there eventually.
This is long.
I haven't gotten much writing done these past few days. Some, but not much.
For years after I got sick, our yard went to hell, and I tell you: In Oregon, hell is covered in blackberries. The blackberry vines were up to my neck. The dog couldn't go down the back steps. It was that bad.
We finally scraped enough money together to hire a landscaper, who wasn't able to do much more with the little we had but clear out the blackberries and other weeds, and lay down the bones of our future garden. Gravel paths. Beds where future shrubs will go. A gravel patio next to the concrete patio, with two raised beds for vegetables, and a fire pit.
For eight years I haven't been able to use our yard. Now, in fine weather and foul, I find myself walking through the yard, patrolling for those damn blackberries and thistles. Even after their ruthless extermination, they're determined to come back, and I am determined to stop them. The only way to do so is to wait until they stick their tender, tentative heads up through the mulch or gravel, and cut them to the ground. Over and over and over. Eventually, they give up and die, or go somewhere less hostile.
When that is done, I find myself sitting on the back deck under my new patio umbrella, drinking coffee. Sometimes I read. I am so very behind on my reading. I haven't read--really read--in years. I haven't let myself. Reading fiction was frivolous. I felt guilty for doing it. I had things to do, like kids, and staying alive.
I have a lot of young writers in my orbit, not unusual in homeschool circles and not unusual when both my daughters are writers of one kind or another. "For every word you write, you must read ten," I'd opine, parroting better writers than I am--Steven Barnes just for starters.
But was I reading ten-for-one? No. I had spent my youth walking into walls with my nose in a book. Wasn't that enough? Hadn't I stored up nearly forty years' worth of words before I stopped letting myself read?
Reading is my job. It's a huge part of my job. It's a part I was confusing with laziness. Reading, for fiction writers, is not laziness. It's essential.
Consequently, I am gorging on words like a starving woman. I am sitting on my deck in soft Oregon sunlight, sometimes filtered by the patio umbrella, sometimes by clouds, and I am reading. I spent this afternoon reading a Roger Zelazny novella. I spent the days before that reading Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover (wonderful, and very close to my own work), Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind (the longest prologue I've ever read, not that I minded too much), several anthologies including the next one I'm in (Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel, which you can pre-order now--it's coming out Thursday!).
I read N.K. Jemisen's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I finally finished Anansi Boys. I have a bunch of books by friends on my Kindle to go through. I renewed my subscription to Fiction River and Clarkesworld, and I'm going to subscribe to Lightspeed. I'm reading Trollope, who I adore, along with a group of other Trollopians; right now we're reading He Knew He Was Right. I may even take YET ANOTHER run at that goddamned Cryptonomicon; I have been trying to read that book for years now.
Today, as I sat in the perfect warmth on the deck, I had the Zelazny novella ("Eye of Cat") in my hands. I'd spent my therapy appointment yesterday talking about why the hell I wasn't writing more than a couple hundred words a day (yesterday I actually deleted words); I didn't know, except I currently have a strange, dreamlike sense of the present that I'm loathe to leave.
Last week was my eighth "rebirthday," the anniversary of my death and revival. Usually flashbacks and PTSD accompany the day, but not this year; this year I didn't even realize it was the day until it had passed. For the last few years, struggling with the PTSD, a supplement it turned out was slowly poisoning me, several illnesses and a surgery, the world of the body was out of my reach. I didn't go outside--couldn't. I didn't do much of anything but write, and suffer, until there was nothing left but illness. I am better now, but I am also empty.
It dawned on me that in spending my days reading outside, soaking in warmth and peace in my new garden, I am not just filling myself back up. I am learning how to be in a body. I've never been good at being in a body. When I was a girl, struggling with my weight and all the soul-crushing judgment that comes of being a prone-to-fatness woman in a misogynistic culture, I used to fantasize about being disembodied--just a floating consciousness.
What a sad wish, don't you think? I have had and will have again literal eons to be part of the disembodied whole. Though droplets of my soul may go on to be a part of many other things, this is the only time I'll be me. Being me, means being in this body.
So that's what I'm doing. I'm back to learning to be in this body. I'm back to learning my craft through the work of others who are better at it than I am. And that will have me back at the keyboard, sooner than we all think, because I am letting myself do these things.
I have to.
I'm celebrating being at the halfway mark on book three in An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom!
Lovers and Beloveds is FREE for a while at Amazon, Kobo and Google Play. If you've ever wanted to read it without clicking through all the chapters here, or if you've ever wanted a friend to read it, now's the time.
LaB is now free at even more bookstores! Here's the full list:
I think I miss this every year--MeiLinMiranda.com turned five years old on February 28th, if you can believe it. I can't! Some of you have been with me the entire time, some of you have just recently stumbled in. I love you all.
CORRECTED: I counted wrong because reasons. We are SIX, not five!
The response here, on FB and from the newsletter has been overwhelming. It's motivating, that's for sure! The consensus is 100% for two books.
The more I've thought about it, the more I've been able to make room for Mattie in book three--a little in book four, but mostly book three. Considering the theme of three is Queens, it's fitting. We'll see the
Book four is centered on the responsibility of leadership. Tem will learn some hard lessons.
I'm back at work on An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom after a difficult 2013. Hard at work, actually--the writing is coming much more easily, to the point that I now face something of a dilemma. I think I know what I'm going to do, but I'd like to talk with you about it.
Part of what tripped me up so badly last year (besides being sick or recovering from surgery a lot of the time) was structuring book three. I have two major story arcs that had to continue right away: Sedra's impending marriage and Temmin's continuing education and growth toward kingship. And then there's poor Mattie. I couldn't figure out how to shoehorn it all into one book with a unifying story-in-story from the History. I puzzled until my puzzler was sore. I knew I was going to have to split it into two parts, but where was the logical split? I even dragged poor Netta into a whinging, epic Skype chat, which helped a little but left me with no clear answer and Netta with a headache.
And then it came to me a few weeks ago. I was given a particular template to aid in outlining. I sat down with it and boom, in two days I had an outline for the whole shebang. It works chronologically, it gives shape to the book and it allows me to tell the story I want to tell. I went to town and put down/organized more usable words on it in the last two weeks than in the previous six months. Here's the thing, though. As I work on it, I realize I don't have one book with two parts. I have two complete books, each with their own beginnings, middles and endings.
Which brings me to you.
I am leaning very hard toward splitting this into two smaller books. In IHGK terms, "small" is relative. Normally the books weigh in between 145,000-150,000 words. If I release these as one book, it'd be in the 145,000 word range. If I release it as two, each would be in the 90,000 word range--smaller than usual, but keep in mind if I did them as one volume it would not be one 180,000+ word book. That's just too long, sorry; it makes the paperback way too expensive, and I like being able to give people the paper option. I'd have to make cuts and leave stuff out. Here are the pros and cons.
- I have what would become book three well under way. If I maintain even a modest pace, I'll be finished with this first draft in mid-April or so barring disaster. I'd need two weeks off then time for revisions, so let's say it would be ready for the editor in...we'll call it June to be safe. I could have it out the door and in your hands by August. If I do the two books together it would take me until close to the fall to finish the draft at this pace.
- Sedra would get her own book, something a lot of you have asked for. (Yay, Sedra!)
- We'd get twice as much awesome cover art from Alice Fox--if she's available--I haven't had a timeframe for her, so I haven't booked her yet. If she isn't, we can in all likelihood turn to Bea Gonzalez again and know we'll get great art either way. And if neither of them are available...well, I have backups for my backups, all artists I like and know you will, too.
- If I do the two storylines separately both Temmin and Sedra will have room for stories-in-story; only Sedra would get one otherwise. There'd be room for more story, period, as two separate books, at least 40,000 words' worth between them.
- I'd have room for Mattie's continuing story as sub-plots in both books.
- You'd have to buy two books, not one. If they stay in the 90,000-word ballpark, they'd be $3.95--$7.90 total for both books (paperbacks would be in the $12.95 range, I think). Were it one book, it'd be $4.95/$16.95 (but you'd be getting less story).
- For the first time, Temmin would be a supporting character in an entire IHGK book and not the lead. It puts his story arc off a while; you won't find out exactly what happens to him after the explosive end of Son in Sorrow for another book.
- It will cost me more in editing, artwork, production and distribution. (Those are costs I'm willing to bear, though, and I'm bringing some production in-house.)
- I might be able to finish the one book faster than the two together, though with the two-book plan you'd have Sedra's book on the shelf and in your hands way, way sooner. Instead of book three in August-ish and book four in spring 2015 (maybe sooner--I've got some of it laid down but not much and I don't want to over-promise), I could possibly have a mega-book-three to you in winter 2014/2015. Temmin's book is brand-new material, all of it. There's nothing I can use from the original serial draft for him; we're into terra incognito as far as he's concerned. Either way, that particular section (or separate book) is going to take longer to write since I have at least a little of Sedra's story from the original serial to draw upon--but not much. Her story is a lot different than it was, as is the story-in-story of Macca Princess Royal of Sairland.
I will be frank with you: I'm heavily leaning toward the two-book approach. I want you to have some IHGK sooner than later. The stories truly are separate; this would not be an artistic compromise to split the one book in two. I'm coming to you because I want to gauge how you'd feel about a largely Temmin-less book in the series and how you'd feel about paying for two smaller books instead of one normal-sized book. Even though I give you what you need, not necessarily what you want (see: Son in Sorrow), I don't want to alienate you guys too much!
Let me know in the comments what you think.
(PS: The newsletter version of this has teasers for the two books/parts; subscribe for access!)
I figured out recently why book three has fought me so hard, and why I've kept radio silence on some critical issues: I'm depressed, a lot more than I thought, and for some time now. If I haven't answered something you've asked me, that's why. Not an excuse but an explanation. I'm trying to clear things up and get straight.
I can tell this mood is starting to break up because in the last few days book three finally sorted its structure out in a logical way. Today, for the first time in months, I feel as if I can work. Until recently, sitting down in front of the IHGK and/or DIC Scrivener files has resulted in actual panic attacks.
You're supposed to write through times of no inspiration, but I think this has been bigger than "no inspiration." Those of you who've been with me since the "old days" remember when I was diagnosed with bipolar two a few years ago. I'm on meds and am generally a WHOLE lot better than I was, but sometimes the brain chemistry goes awry. I think this is one of those times; it's just taken a while to see it because it's not the spectacular crash-and-burn of pre-diagnosis days--NASCAR had nothin' on me.
And also last year there were some definite situational depression triggers; I was sick or recovering from surgery for three months of the twelve. A confluence of suck, in other words.
Anyway, it's getting better. Thanks for your patience with me.
We are having what is for Portland bitterly cold weather! It got down to 12F last night. This is a problem for me; my heart condition is such that breathing cold air can bring on angina. Happened on Friday.
So I broke out the bunny hat! This is me (on the left)and my fellow bunny-wearing friend Ima. We are the Bunny Hat Gang. Hand over the chai and no one gets hurt!
Wherever you are, I hope you're warm!
I've been having a lot of trouble writing this year--a lot, especially the third History book. I've cranked out some short stories and edited The Machine God, but otherwise it's been dismal. I had some reason; of the last eleven months, I spent three flat on my back, sick abed. It took the wind out of my sails, and my self-confidence with it.
When in doubt, read.
I was at the Goodwill yesterday and went through the books. This particular Goodwill is well-stocked. I got a bagful of books for less than the cost of two mainstream publishers' ebooks. Used does not support the authors, which makes me sad, but right now it's the best I can do.
This is what I came home with, all things I've never read:
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1), Patrick Rothfuss (I know, how could I not have read this)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy), N.K. Jemisin
The Kingdom of Gods (The Inheritance Trilogy), N.K. Jemisin
The Wee Free Men (Discworld), Terry Pratchett (another run at Pratchett)
Hell and Earth, Elizabeth Bear
Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay
I lied, really. I have written, a little. In book three, a frustrated Sedra "gorge[s] on words." Sometimes, it's the only sane option, and so I shall do the same.
What quality do you most admire in men and women?
In both it’s the same: empathy. So many people have trouble recognizing the struggles and suffering of others.
What is your greatest regret?
That I wasn’t brave enough to write fiction until my late forties. I chose a journalistic path because I was afraid of writing fiction but still wanted to write. It was for me a poor second.
Eden does this periodically with the same set of questions for authors and her own responses to their replies. She's an awesome lady, and one of the authors featured with me in Allegories of the Tarot.
Continuing my quickie reviews of the latest BPAL series, here's A World Where There Are Octobers, which I didn't receive until November, but oh well. It's based on a quotation from Anne of Green Gables:
"Oh, Marilla," she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it? Look at these maple branches. Don't they give you a thrill--several thrills? I'm going to decorate my room with them."
I didn't read that book till I was an adult, and it still claims a spot in my heart. The scent description:
An armload of maple boughs and a swirl of autumn leaves.
In the decant: a woody, slightly sweet cologne
Wet: much sweeter, but still quite woody. It's not a foodie sweet, more of a slightly too literal "maple bough," if you get my drift. Despite the sweetness, it reads masculine to me.
Dry: the sweetness vanishes. It goes through a masculine cologne phase, then fades to soft woods and wet leaves. I put it on around 2 pm and now it's 6:30 pm; it's almost entirely gone.
Verdict: a certain kind of man could pull this off easily. It's not for me.
For those of you unfamiliar with my BPAL reviews, every Friday the 13th the company puts out a new limited edition scent, available just for that day and no more. I bought a decant rather than a whole bottle.
Generally speaking, I like the 13 series; it's usually based on a chocolate note of some kind. I don't always get a decant of the series, though, since I have a lot of them already, more than I can use in a lifetime for sure. This one has allspice and nutmeg, though, and boy I love spices. (My desert-island BPAL is Mama-ji, which is spice spice spice Neil Gaiman and spice.) Here's the description for this one:
A fortune's wheel of thirteen lucky and unlucky herbs, spun around a rich, dark core of pure cacao: allspice berries, cascara sagrada, ladybug beans, cinnamon, catnip, sweet clove, cumin, huckleberry leaves and fruit, master root, copal negro, sarsaparilla, nutmeg, and green rice.
In the decant: a definite raw cacao rather than a chocolate or cocoa. Something dusty green underneath.
Wet: Warmer than in the decant. Still overwhelmingly cacao, but with a light dusting of the spices, especially the allspice. As it develops, the allspice begins to overtake the cacao (chocolates almost always fade quickly) and the clove peeks out. There's still that dusty green. I suspect the green rice and cumin. I have no idea what ladybug beans smell like.
Dry: A few hours later and my skin has eaten this almost entirely. Just before it disappeared it was faint allspice with a little clove and dust; somehow it combined to remind me of amber, but lately my skin's been turning everything to amber. Damn hormones.
Verdict: Eh. Not bad, but not one I'll be reaching for much.
Back to the Halloweenies '13 and Liliths '13 as I try them. For the BPAL-fluent I got the following in this batch: 13; Theme in Yellow; Goblin Market; Dorian in the Pumpkin Patch; A World Where There Are Octobers; Alice in the Pumpkin Patch; Lilith's Bubblegum and Roses; Lilith's Feel Good Flowers; Tarantula Fascinator; Autumn Fancies; Capax Infiniti; Little Pythia; and Tris Tarwater lent me her decant of Dark Pumpkin Mead to review.
This sounds like I ordered a ton of perfume; these are actually two separate series, and the decanter sent them all at once to save me shipping, and these are all tiny 1 ml samples.
Any requests for tomorrow?
I finally got my envelope full of decants from the latest BPAL limited,edition collections: a bunch of "Weenies" and some of the Lilith collection they do every year to celebrate the birthday of their daughter. There are some real winners in here, stuff that I may watch for partials of, for when I have monies, which I don't.
Today I tried Theme in Yellow, based on a Carl Sandberg poem and described thusly:
Ghost songs and love to the harvest moon: fresh pumpkins warmed by candlelight and aglow with Halloween joy.
In the bottle: very foody, but not overly sweet. Unlike many BPAL pumpkins, this isn't cloying--it's not "buttery," which is often the description used for their pumpkins. This is very much raw pumpkin--it smells exactly like a scraped-out jack o'lantern.
Wet: still that raw yellow pumpkin flesh smell, now joined with candle wax and a little smoke. Beth never fails to amaze; she almost always hits the olfactory mark, and she does so here. This is a fresh jack o'lantern.
Dry: this has more staying power than pumpkin fragrances usually have, but still fades. Several hours later I'm getting more of a beeswax/amber, faint but still there.
Verdict: love! On the partial list.
Tomorrow I'm sending a chunk of book three to my newsletter--if you're not a subscriber, subscribe now or you'll miss it. The piece I'm sending out is the beginning of chapter one; it's a draft, mind, so I hope you cut me a little slack.
Patrons have already seen it. Actually, patrons have seen the prologue, too, which I can't send out via newsletter since it's a little NSFW. This is IHGK. People have sex in it. That's what makes it the "intimate history" and not just the "history." Patrons will also get the next bit of chapter one tomorrow.
Whee! I love showing you guys bits of book, even if the writing isn't polished. That's what we've always done, no?
Get to know Anne Chaconas, one of the 22 contributors to the recently-released Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology (which is already trailblazing its way up the fantasy anthology charts on Amazon!). Anne wrote her tale, Reply All, based on the Temperance card. You can read an excerpt of her story below.
Anne Chaconas was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and made it her mission from around the time she was three years old to move to the United States (where, she told anyone who would listen, all the music was in English, which automatically meant life was better--flawless toddler logic, people). She fulfilled her mission at eighteen when she moved to Connecticut to attend a small private university in New Haven. There she bounced from major to major, finally landing on Literature (and guaranteeing herself absolutely no job prospects upon graduation but absolutely exceptional cocktail party conversational skills).
After realizing people down South were much nicer (and the food was much more fried), she moved there in 2007. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids, four cats, two dogs, and entirely too many books. She is a work-at-home mom, and spends her days making things in the Crock-Pot, changing shockingly awful diapers, getting sunburned at the park, and working on her prose and for her marketing clients during those 45 minutes when the kids' naps overlap and those fleeting hours after they go to bed.
Anne writes many things, but has found her true love in humorous non-fiction and parenting essays. She is currently working on two books, Embrace Your Weird (a how-to guide on how to be happy from someone not academically qualified to write such a guide) and A Stork Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (a collection of essays, limericks, and assorted musings on pregnancy,†childbirth, parenthood, and other unnatural acts).
She also swears. A lot.
You can stalk her online at about.me/annechaconas.
Just a few questions...
What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? The sheer power of it, and everything it represents. Temperance stands between worlds, the buffer between death and the Devil, the potential decider of fate. At the same time, it embodies calm, peace, and acceptance--a willingness to share control, see both sides of the equation. Temperance is everything, while at the same time being nothing, and it has the ability to determine endings as well as beginnings. It is a complex, complicated card, where nothing is quite as it seems--and it suits me perfectly.
Why did you decide to get roped into this project? I like a challenge. And I LURVE Netta.
Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? Only in passing. I've never had my cards read, and I possess only a slim familiarity with the practice. Anyone want to take a pass at freaking me out with the metaphysical?
What other projects do you have planned? TOO MANY. I've had a literary/women's fiction novel called Salve Reginain the works for literally YEARS, and I have a number of non-fiction projects in the works--Embrace Your Weird and A Stork Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next--that deal with humor, finding the happy in everyday life, and loving your inner freak. I am also getting ready to pen a collaborative dark humor mystery series with another dear author friend. AND I also run a book review blog (Indie Author Book Reviews) and a parenting blog (Momma Dearest), as well as blogging on my own author platform. It's just too much. TOO TOO MUCH.
How did you decide what to write about? The first thing that came to me was the title. "Reply All." I really liked it, so I knew I had to do something with it. I've worked in enough offices to see the disastrous effects of a poorly-timed "reply-all." The fact that Temperance stands between Death and the Devil really kept coming back to me, too. And, because I am thoroughly unable to take anything seriously and like to insert the raunch in whenever I can, I found myself drawing upon my years as a stock broker's assistant and how I was basically the buffer between him and anything that came his way. And how he was basically a devil-like asshole. And how that basically made me Temperance, standing guard between the Devil and anything that came his way. So, really, this is fully autobiographical. AND DEEP.
How literal did you want to get with your card? I knew, and continue to know, nothing about the Tarot--or at least very little. So I did what any tech-savvy person would do--I went on Wikipedia and also googled the card. And then I went on dictionary.com and found the definition of temperance--"habitual moderation in the indulgence of a natural appetite or passion." And, as any good humorist knows, the best way to get a laugh is to go the complete opposite way of a perceived outcome. So I fed all this information to the little muse in my head, and she screamed out "SEX! WEEE!" And off we went.
That didn't really answer the question, did it? But my answer did include the word "SEX," so bonus points for me!
Is your story a part of something you've written about previously? Not unless you count my own reply-all messes (of which, thankfully, there aren't many).
Would you like to have written about any other card? Which card? Why? Annetta picked out my card for me. I asked her to. I did that because the card I really wanted, The Hierophant, was already taken. And the only reason I wanted it was because I thought the name was really cool (seriously, I know nothing about the Tarot). And thank god for that, because can you imagine the horrible, blasphemous shit I woulda done to a POPE? The Universe worked to save my everlasting soul on this one.
If you could have the power to divine the future, would you or would you not and why? I'm that person who always vacillates when asked questions like this. I'm a planner, you see. I like to know what's coming. But what if it's bad shit? Because I'm also a moper, you see. I like to brood and stew on the bad shit. I do things like have fights with those who have wronged me, in my head, while washing dishes. So perhaps it is better if I can't divine the future. Now, if I had the power to divine AND change, that would be another matter altogether. MMMM DELICIOUS OMNIPOTENCE.
An excerpt from Reply All
Date: Friday 13 June, 9:45am
From: Williams, Temperance
To: Arcana Enterprises <Distribution List>
Subject: Leaving early today
Please be advised that Mr. Mammon is leaving at noon today to attend a tennis tournament, and will be unavailable until Monday. All urgent matters should be brought to his attention no later than 11am.
Executive Assistant to Stan Mammon, VP - Arcana Enterprises
Date: Friday 13 June, 9:47am
From: Kaiser, Victoria
To: Mammon, Stanley
Subject: RE: Leaving early today
Oh, is that what weíre calling it now? A "tennis tournament?"
Date: Friday 13 June, 9:50am
From: Mammon, Stanley
To: Kaiser, Victoria
Subject: RE: Leaving early today
If you want, I can ask Temperance to send out an email clarifying my weekend activities. What would you like me to have her say?
Date: Friday 13 June, 9:51am
From: Kaiser, Victoria
To: Mammon, Stanley
Subject: RE: Leaving early today
Have her say youíll be riding me roughly in the back of an El Dorado.
Read the rest of Reply All in the Allegories of the Tarot Anthology!
About Allegories of the Tarot
Once upon a time, there was an editor with a fascination for the Tarot. She was struck one day by a crazy idea. "Hey," she said. "What if twenty-two writers each wrote a story about the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and were fashioned into an anthology?"
The idea would not leave her alone.
And thus, the Allegories of the Tarot was born.
Crowdfunded by a campaign on Indiegogo with the help and support of an amazing group of writers, twenty-two stories were crafted around the mysteries of the Tarot. The group includes a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Pulp Ark nominee, a former Bigfoot researcher, a journalist, an award-winning YA author, and a Rhysling Award winner. Professional writers, new talent, and a range of genres boggling the mind: Horror, Speculative Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Erotica, Mystery, Humor, Paranormal, Epic Fantasy, Literary, Romance, and Historical Fantasy.
What has emerged is an outstanding collection of fiction, unique and mysterious. Stories that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think. Stories that make you feel the touch of the Universe.
Dare to step through the portal to shadowy realms and emotional journeys.
Get the book!
...and now the giveaway!
The Machine God, my steampunk fantasy novel in the Drifting Isle Chronicles collaborative series, is on sale today and tomorrow at Amazon for 99 cents! So if you've been thinking about it, now's the time; a full-length book for a buck is an offer that's hard to refuse.