Mental quirks again

Imma talk about another aspect of my brain’s Escher-esque architecture in this post. Today’s stray personal oddity: on top of being face-blind and conflating all context-related memories into one, I lack a tagging system for remembering readers.

Neurodivergence is FUN! Data storage? Plenty! Randomizer that shuffles data together? Top-notch! System for relating data points to origin? Non-standard. Long-term associative storage? Faulty.

Without regular, consistent replacement, memory connections between source & data fray, get impossibly tangled and snap.

This is not cool in many ways. Case in point: even if I know you well in real life (no, honestly, especially if) chances are excellent that I do not know if you’ve ever read any of my books or if you did, whether you liked them.

It isn’t a matter of what I want. I LOVE knowing people love my stories. It is pure happiness. I have given years of my life to my characters & their crises and conflicts, and knowing others also love them is a joy and an honor, and I am beyond thrilled whenever readers tell me what they like about my worlds. It is EXCITING. it is WONDERFUL. AFFIRMING. GLORIOUS.

But there’s a difference between that goodness and getting it to stick.

Seriously. You could tell me my books changed your life, creating a memory I would keep forever and use for encouragement during Bad Writing Times..but three hours/days/weeks/months down the line, my ability to associate that memory with a specific who will be lost.

A few special folks make a point to strengthen and refresh their book connections by reminding me of them–repeatedly and often–but that’s a gift I accept with gratitude, but an expectation. The default for everyone else is “not interested or read them and did not like them.”

This is a thing I felt was important to share with readers & friends– especially since those groups overlap–for two reasons.

1: Uncomfortable updates. If you’ve ever told me you were going to read one of my books? Please stop nervously waiting for me to ask about it. I won’t. Ever. Please stop reporting to me that you haven’t finished it, or got busy, or…whatever. Leave me ignorant. I’ve forgotten, and I loathe the idea of reading from a sense of obligation. Hearing you are forcing yourself to read my story despite thinking it’s too “meh” to make you stay up late finishing? That hurts. Skip it.

2: Accidental secretiveness. I put detailas onto social media in dribs and drabs as my self-confidence allows, but I rarely volunteer details about writing in real life. It’s hard to bait me into talking about my work, and I find ways to quickly change the subject when I realize I’ve wandered into those weeds.

Don’t I want to talk about my imaginary friends & villains & my clever plot ideas & plans for maybe-books? OHGAWDOFCOURSE. I’m dying to yammer on. Get me wound up, and keep asking me questions or pose hypotheticals and I could go on for hours. Blissfully.

But while I know some of my friends online & off have read my books, I don’t know which of you would rather be boiled alive than be subjected to discussion. And I am Not Good about social interactions in the first place.

Most questions containing the words “writing” or “book” fall into the same conversational heading as, “How are you?” People want a quick call-and-response social interaction, not an information dump. When the subject comes up, I will reach for a canned response from my polite-interaction playbook, not an armload of plot bunnies and funny character quirks from my series bible.

And because the questioner or other listeners might be someone who thinks my beloved fictional buddies are made of MEH, I’ll lob the conversational ball away ASAP.

I’m not reticent because I lack faith in my writing. I think it’s fabulous. I’m quiet because talking about it hits an unfortunate intersection of brain idiosyncrasies.

ANYway. If you ever wonder about the mechanics of T-series rampages, or how R-factor activation works, or you want to know all about Colonel Galloway’s backstory and why the hell Kris married a jerk like her ex-husband, or if you wish I would share what adventures I have in store for Serena & Justin & Felicity…hit me up.

I’m not snubbing you. I’m navigating social shit as best I can with uncooperative hardware. If you want to know the workarounds, they’re pretty simple:

  • ONLINE:
    • respond to work in progress updates with questions. Regularly. Eventually it starts to sink in.
    • comment on writing-related posts that you liked a book & why. (that second part is critical because a 2nd connection = 2x the sticking power )
    • All this assumes the social media platform cooperates by showing you posts, but the more we interact, the more likely that is.
  • IRL
    • drop book-related trivia on me, or ask questions
    • be persistent when I turn the conversation to something else. Deflection is a deeply-rutted habit.
  • BOTH
    • resign yourself to me still not remembering you’re a happy reader the next time
    • Maybe think of it as an easy way to give me a nice surprise

In other news: I’m about 55% of the way through the edits on Sharp Edge of Yesterday now, and while working speed will slow down again when I near the end where things need more polishing, it’s a blast to be racking up multiple chapters a day right now. GOOD TIMES.

That’s all until later!

A Monday List

In no particular order, what’s going on in my head:

  1. I’m through Late Eclipses in my reread of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, and I need to say (once again, this isn’t the first time) this author is a genius and if you love fae stories or urban fantasy or both, you really, REALLY should give this series a try. It’s immensely complex but totally accessible, and there are rich layers of story and history that build and build, but the hints and foreshadoing are all there from the very beginning. Absofucklutely amazing.
  2. My Twitter feed now provides me with a cat, a bird, a possum, a wholesome meme, and a fox every hour, plus one Aziraphale meme and a silly gender description per day. This makes the rest of my online life in 2020 more bearable.
  3. Black lives matter, trans lives matter, the United States Postal Service deserves to be freed from its obscenely punitive business restrictions, the US presidential election is 77 days away, and Covid-19 is running rampant through the American population.
  4. #3 is the reason I need my hourly fox fix and visit from BirdBot. Yeah. I should add a few more happybots to dilute the doom.
  5. 2020 is the kind of year when Iowa can essentially get hit by a hurricane and not make the headlines anywhere else.
  6. I am 1/3 of the way through the final revisions on Sharp Edge of Yesterday by chapter count, but it’s closer to halfway through by pages. (87 of ~210 pages) I should probably take a closer look at that. The shit has hit the fan (AKA I’ve hit the first rising action) and the plot complications are piling up. Good times.
  7. Our new old house is getting a shiny new skin REALLY soon now. Fingers crossed the last 3 windows to get finished & the weather holds. Then it will take 2 weeks(ish) to replace the upstairs windows, add eaves & adequate ventilation to the roof, do a redesign on the gutter & downspout system, and button it up with pretty new siding. ALSO VERY EXCITING. YES.

That’s all for now. More when I think of it. Until later!

Say buh-bye to the worn black shingles and faded yellow metal siding. Riviera Dusk vinyl coming in, with a nice Barkwood shingle roof.

Masks. Is yours comfy?

Early in the Age of Mask Mandates I noticed a puzzling thing: I had adapted MUCH more easily to wearing masks than others I knew.

Masks leaves a large percentage of my friends feeling breathless or dizzy, they give people headaches or leave them exhausted after a short time. They hurt. My friends are NOT using these problems as excuses to endanger themselves or others by going mask-free, mind you, but they do suffer major discomfort to be safe and save others.

But me? I’m not suffering. I find masks relatively comfy. This surprised and puzzled me, because as a rule, I have major problems adjusting to new physical demands. (Just ask my very, VERY patient optician.)

So why has mask-wearing been such a breeze? The answer came to me, after much pondering, while washing my face after a 3-hour mask-wearing shift at work.

I don’t mind masks because I was a competitive swimmer for six years, and I’ve spent countless hours swimming laps for exercise in the years since.

No, seriously. Here’s what I’ve learned from playing in the pool:

  1. Swim caps & goggle taught me how to endure the literal pain of straps and seals diging into my head. Anything that presses near the ears or nose, covers the sides of the head, or ties above the neck in back can lead to mysterious, horrendous headaches. You learn which precises spots on your head will tolerate intrusions by trial and error, and even then, tiny adjustments make a huge difference. I do all that without thinking.
  2. Wearing goggles also taught me how to tune out the sensation of things grinding against my cheeks and sinuses. Yes, that matters. We all have lots of nerves there. New experiences and sensations are exhausting even when they’re nice ones. Masks aren’t nice.
  3. Lap swimming taught me how to override my body’s interpretation of pressure. There’s nothing natural about putting your face into water and convincing your lungs it’s FINE, GO AHEAD AND WORK. Inhaling deeply when your senses tell you there’s resistance goes against instinct and sets off an unconscious stress response. Cloth doesn’t create that much resistance to inhaling, but it doesn’t take much to make the experience stressful. And stress = headaches, weariness, and anxiety. Me? I just…tune it out.
  4. Swimming taught me breathing discipline. Exertion in water ups the volume on that constant “not enough air getting through!” message the brain is sending. There is no way to compete without passing out from O2 deprivation unless you re-learn how to breathe in specific resistance-avoidance ways.
    Now that I’m looking for it, I catch myself breathing in through my mouth and giveing the breath a little deeper oomph than I “normally” would whenever my mask rides up against my nose. And then I exhale just that tiny bit more forcefully through the nose than I would without the mask on. Exactly as when I’m swimming.
  5. Competition taught me the importance of evaluating equipment. Comfort, looks, and performance all matter, but comfort has to be priority 1. If my cap gave me headaches, my goggles fogged, or my suit dragged, they weren’t right for ME, even if the whole Olympic swim team swore by them. Whichever one fits me best, meets the monimum specs and won’t get me disqualified.
    Same for masks. I don’t understand anyone who accepts the first mask type as the Only Type. I went through 5 styles and 3 different material combinations to find ones that I can wear all day.
    I am aware not everyone can afford that, but I think everyone should learn that they CAN find a different mask if the one they’re wearing is uncomfortable.
  6. Swimming also taught me how to accurately gauge a 6′ distance, to avoid touching my face, and to read people’s emotional state when half their features are obscured, but those skills aren’t quite as critical as the other ones.

Are masks the best thing ever? Ugh, no. I hear people better when I can see their lips move. I have a better chance of interpreting non-verbal cues correctly if I can see mouths as well as eyes and bodies. They fog my glasses. They make my face sweat. I constantly want to fidget with them.

But the kind of serious issues that make healthy people understandably unhappy about wearing them at all? Nope.

Last little point of interest: people masking up hasn’t significantly affected my ability to identify them. That isn’t a trick from swimming, though. That’s an unexpected silver lining to my faulty facial recognition software. I didn’t recognize people by faces before they wore masks!

So for me, a mask is just another head accessory, and I am thankful for that. I suspect I’ll be wearing one in public spaces for a quite some time yet. So it’s a good thing I love having the right accessories.

I am curious how all y’all are dealing with Mask Life. If you want to share which of your life experiences have helped you make your peace with wearing them, I’d love to read about it.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Until later!

gold carnival mask with red feathered headdress
This is not a protective mask, but it is pretty.