other things Writing Life

More midwinter musings.

I think I posted about this earlier this year, but tbh it’s an evergreen topic. I found this draft buried in a folder from this time last winter & I’m cleaning up my WordPress today, so I’m finishing this and posting it.

It’s even timely, since it refers to the day after Christmas.

This is the time of year structured social interaction becomes painfully difficult, stressful & exhausting. (Yes, this does include daily interaction with Spouseman, but he married me, so we do our best to rub along.)

Is it irony? The time of year everyone wants to get together the most, I NEED to crawl into a figurative cave? It’s something, that’s for sure. One thing it isn’t is Seasonal Affective Disorder. (I investigated that, we all thought that’s what it was for years, but turns out it isn’t.) It doesn’t get better as days get longer. It gets better in February, period.

If I get a seasonal downtime, then my energy level, my creativity, my stability in general–really the whole rest of the year–goes well. If hibernation time gets interrupted by demands from The Outside World, if I’m forced to deal with things I can’t handle, then the whole year suffers.

I’ve lost friends over this issue. (Pro tip: do not drop a “jokey” guilt trip on me by email the day after Christmas. I will cut you out of my life like snipping a price tag. Same for rants about my lack of responsiveness at New Year’s.)

Working retail 4th quarter always meant missing holiday parties and ending up w/a post-Xmas staycation. I felt bad about missing out but was relieved to avoid the social scene at the same time. Post-Borders, I slowly recognized that I had been leaning hard on that built-in barrier to fulfill an underlying need for withdrawal I hadn’t realized was there.

Since then I’ve had to learn to make my own excuses, schedule time off and pretty much avoid Big Planned Activities, Basic Life Decisions, and anything else that requires Normal Conversing or Responding to Inquiries between mid-December and the end of January.

It isn’t easy. The social pressure is pretty HUGE. But it’s better for everyone this way, it really is. I cannot human in midwinter. I am a bear. Of course some years hibernation isn’t possible. Whenever that’s happened, I’ve coped. I get through.

Coping isn’t thriving.

There’s a high emotional cost to pushing beyond safe mental limits, and those effects are long-lasting, rolling down through the months until my next big seasonal reset. (That happens around fall equinox, when I become a squirrel. I’ve blogged about that too, I’m pretty sure.)

ANYway. It’s midwinter now, and I am enjoying my downtime, writing this, writing that, thinking and daydreaming and dodging the Real World as much as possible.

And yeah, feeling super grateful to be at a place in my life where that’s possible.

That’s all for today. Until later.

Media Consumption other things Whimsy Writing Life

Good Christmas

It was a good Christmas. I say that every year, even the year Mom died, even the year my best friend was dying, even the year Spouseman was waiting on cancer news, because every year–even the bad years when one or both of us was grieving or wrestling with illness or more–every year there’s been something good about the day to remember. This year there were far more goods than average despite it being Pandemic HellWorld Year Take 2.

We slept in, ate cinnamon rolls, opened presents, and then Spouseman went to game for a bit and I sat in the sunshine near the fireplace and wrote a thousand words about nitrile gloves & why I love them, which might be a boring way to spend Christmas afternoon, but it was comfy and cozy and I enjoyed it immensely. There was also a great deal of cat photography and some family texting, so I wasn’t a total hermit.

On the material side, I received an abundance of socks & can’t wait to wear them. Spouseman’s various Kickstarters and other online adventures brought me tarot cards and tea dragon plushies, plus a Practical Witch’s Almanac that I can’t wait to use all year long. He is loving his PS5 (no, I did not buy it scalped, I got it normal retail, plus accessories) and insists he is not disappointed even though it’s literally the only thing I got him. So I’m happy about that.

Santa didn’t bring me any sales or book reviews, (almost all authors love the gift of new readers, I’m pretty sure that’s a True Fact) but I forgot to send my letter to Santa about that, so the continued drought of sales was hardly a surprise. Maybe next year is the year I’ll suddenly and without explanation make enough money from a title to join SFWA. Or sell two short stories I haven’t written yet. Or maybe it won’t be. I’ll keep plugging away at projects either way.

ANYway. In case it isn’t clear, this is my way of recording thoughts I would usually scatter piecemeal across social media. Writing down what happens in my head and in my life helps things stick in my sievelike memory, so…here we are.

n with the day. Eventually we went out for a walk in the sunshine and the weather was so crisp, still, & clear that we impulsively decided to have a fire outside when we got back. The temp dropped hard as soon as the sun set, but was a good test for my new dragonship heat deflector. Success! It kept us toasty warm. Some next-block neighbors were having a yard party with much carousing and caroling, too, so that was a nice bonus.

The finale: we had leftovers from the Eve Feast in front of Iron Man 3. It’s kind of a Christmas movie, and it had been a while, and it didn’t require a lot of mental energy. I might be the only person in the world who likes it, but I do.

And that’s a wrap on this year’s official winterfest holiday. Spouseman is gaming, the cat is in the sink playing in the dirty dishes (I should go roust him out) and I’m writing this in front of Spiderman: Homecoming in prep for seeing the new movie on Monday.

Until later.

Oop. Some pics from the day.

Detours other things Writing Life

A Mistake of Misplaced Trust

November is NaNoWriMo. For me this is the second day of “finish my damned draft” month, but I’ve written less than a hundred words in that. I wrote this instead.

My mistake was looking away from the long scary needle carrying my second dose of Shingrix vaccine as soon as the nurse uncapped it.

I know, everybody looks away. But I am here to tell you: DON’T. If the person administering the shot is not sitting down too, and/or is aiming that needle at the TOP of your shoulder, object quickly and loudly. Before the needle goes in.

I forgot that advice, and now this vaccination is kicking my ass in ways that have pissed me off enough to file a CDC Vaccination Adverse Event Report online. (That’s pretty big. The VAERS process feels designed to make people decide “Eh, I’m feeling lousy, but not so bad that I’m willing to fill out this excruciatingly-detailed multipage form.”)

What happened? Welp, imma tell you.

It started with my long-delayed annual physical. The exam went fine. As part of it, the doctor went through my vaccination history with me. Annual flu done, COVID done, TDap up to date, only thing I needed was a 2nd dose of shingles vaccine, and my luck was in, they had doses on-hand!

Long tangential story. Shingles vaccination was first recommended 7 years ago. My insurance requires I get it from the doctor’s office. Six years in a row, they didn’t have any vaccinein the building. Six times I was told, “We get supplied on Mondays, keep calling every Monday and eventually you should get be able to get in.”

The first time, I believed them and tried several times before being defeated by the call system & app. Five times I replied, “That isn’t a good answer. I can’t call direct, so I would have to come here every Monday. I am not made of that kind of free time.” Last year was Pandemic Year One.

This summer I lucked into the first shot when I went in for a diagnosis on my eczema trifecta. That doctor entered my Covid vax info (yay!) saw I was 7 years past recommended age for getting a shingles shot, and asked if I was reluctant.

I explained. He tracked down the last dose in the building that day for me. I know this because the nurse who came in & sat down next to me mentioned that during the sleeve lifting & swabbing part of the process. I watched the first dose go right into my deltoid muscle where shots belong, nice & centered. WIN!

But I digress.

This time, the nurse came in after the doc and I finished, and some chat about scheduling my fasting blood test ensued. (Fun fact: I only need to fast 8 hrs now, not 12+!) That done, I lift my sleeve, swabbing ensues. Needle gets uncapped.

It’s been a rough few weeks. I’m not up to watching. I. Look. Away.

The shot went in with a deep stabbing pain. Yes, needle, pointy, but shots feel like a poke, not an alarming STAB. The only time I’ve felt pain like that has been during dental work, when the needle full of numbing agent hits or gets too close to a nerve.

So I said, “OW!” and also, “I’ve never had that happen from a regular shot.” The nurse shrugged it off with, “A lot of people say the 2ndshot hurts more.”

That’s when I noticed how much higher than me she was. She was either standing or sitting on the tall stool beside the exam table (I confess, I didn’t look at her feet to see which, I was too shocked by the OW.) I did have to look up and to the side to see her.

And that’s when the reality of my mistake sank in.

Pro tip: never accept a shot in the arm from someone who’s standing or sitting higher than you are. Want to know why? Do a search on SIRVA (Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration)

By then it was too late for me and not worth discussing with someone who had already dimissed my pain. I left the office, did the “use the arm as much as possible” routine and hoped for the best.

I’m still hoping, but I’m also ANGRY.

Most of my post-shot symptoms are on the “common” list: soreness in the injected arm, body aches, fatigue, lack of appetite & a pounding headache. All very ordinary viral vaccine reactions for me. All responding nicely to Advil & hydration.

But the sharp pain at the site hasn’t gone away, and tingling down my arm started within a few hours of the shot. Those aren’t normal post-vaxx symptoms. Waking up multiple times with a numb left arm all the way from shoulder to fingers? Definitely not the usual. Nothing worth the risks of an ER or urgent care, but no fun, lemmee tell ya.

I’ve had bursitis in enough other joints to recognize the pain & tingling from inflammation near a joint impinging on associated nerves– but I can’t know if this is a Major Situation Developing or only a Painful Hassle for at least a few days. The weird nerve effects could be caused by injection site swelling alone. Becuase it was done too high, and too close to the nerves. I hope that’s all it is, because damage caused by vaccine getting into the shoulder bursa could affect my left arm permanently.

Thus, I am pissed off. Partly at myself, but yes, partly at the nurse who stabbed my arm nearly 2 inches higher than she should’ve done. Because of that, I have to sit here not only hurting, but also worrying for several days.

My mistake wasn’t getting vaxxed. My mistake was forgetting the person doing the shot might not do it RIGHT.

And that is on me. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has bad days. I should’ve kept watching. Fingers crossed, a few days of pain and stress are all the price I pay for my error. You can bet I will NOT look away next time, and that I will insist on my health concerns being taken seriously.

I urge you to do the same. Do not look away. Advocate for your safe care better than I did for mine.

That would make me feel a little better about this wretched experience.

This was 1000 words and I’m counting it as writing.

That’s all for now. Until later.

3. Other Things other things Writing Life

Baking my way through the snow & cold

I hate being cold. Hate-hate-hate-hate-HATE it. But I also hate heating a whole house full of rooms to a comfortable temperature when I can only occupy one at a time. It isn’t a rational objection, nor–thanks to circumstances I am daily thankful to live in–is it a financial problem. It’s strictly a philosophical reluctance of the “NOOOOOO, THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” kind.

In practice, this philosophical struggle results in me turning the house thermostat way down & finding ways to heat small parts of it to toasty, tropical levels. Some methods are straightforward. For example, due to the way the house is ducted, closing my office door will keep it 10º to 15º warmer than the rest of the second floor. And the gas insert in the living room fireplace makes it the world’s most decorative, highly-efficient space heater.

But when the outside temperature drops into negative numbers (negative in Fahrenheit, yikes!) I have to get really creative to keep things warm without cranking up the heater. Keeping the oven going is my go-to method for raising the temp in several neighboring rooms.

Warm rooms AND hot food. It’s a win-win.

Below, is a list of my favorite foods for cold, snowy days, chosen as much for their cooking requirements as for their tastiness. Listed in no particular order, most with links to past blog posts where I did recipes & suchlike. Looks like I should blog my soup & baked apple experiences and make this a complete list of Greatest Recipe Hits. Something for the future.

  1. Kitchen Sink Biscotti. These require TWO bakes at moderately low temps. Twice the baking, twice the warm. They’re fantastic for dipping into hot drinks too, so it’s a triple win.
  2. Ham & bean soup. From scratch with dry beans. It cooks in a dutch oven at 250º for hours & hours. The house will fill with mouth-watering smells. This year I tested out a BBQ baked bean variant too. It is delicious.
  3. Oven Eggs. Like scrambled eggs with cheese & veggies, only poured into a baking dish & cooked in the oven for a long time.
  4. Oatcakes. Add milk, oil, salt, baking powder & a little flour to oatmeal to make a smooth batter, spoon it onto baking sheets, and bake until the rounds are dry and crisp. It takes an hour per sheet or more. And they’re yummy.
  5. Breads. All kinds, any kind, but no-bake loaves with an overnight cool rise and second proof after shaping is the BEST kind. First, there’s the no-fuss “just let it rise” part, then the “proof in a warm oven” part, AND the hour of baking part. My fancy new oven even has a proof setting, which makes it all delightfully easy & indulgent.
  6. Pantry casseroles. Vegetarian-style shepherd’s pie & chicken-rice pan-bakes are super easy to whip together from on-hand frozen & shelf-stable ingredients in less than 15 minutes. But they COOK for an hour or more.
  7. Swedish butter cookies. Another sliced bar cookie like biscotti, only even simpler.
  8. Baked apples. SO EASY. Peel. Quarter. Core. toss with cinnamon & cook in a covered dish at 300-325 for an hour-ish. This fall I had too many apples to cook or process, so I threw a bunch of peeled & quartered ones into the freezer. Turns out that they bake up EVEN BETTER after being frozen first. Kinda like an apple version of casseroles or soupos being better the second night, after cooling & reheating.

That’s it for the main post.

In Other News, I’m implementing proof corrections on my manuscript this week, then files go up to Ingram & Amazon, and then pre-orders go live!

FINALLY The First-Ever Official Dawnrigger Email Newsletter will be going out soon. Once pre-orders are live, in fact. Newsletter subscribers will be extra-special spiffy exclusives like early peeks at character art, so you’ll definitely want to sign up for it, if you haven’t already.

That’s all for now. Until later!

Authoring Cons & Appearances other things Writing Life

Learning by doing: my latest project

I only did 2 virtual conventions during Our First Pandemic Year because Discord became the default interaction platform, and it was not only a New And Scary Thing, it was a complex new social one. I was already two social media programs past coping, so navigating Discord servers was overwhelming, bewildering. It was impossible for me to get bast anxiety blocks to process how Things Worked. Not the technical side, that was refreshingly clear, but in a basic, human “how do people use this thing?” way.

Learning to drive is the best analogy I can think of. Complex, multi-channel learning. It’s so difficult there are CLASSES and people have to CERTIFY, right? The difficulty has less to do with mastering the pedals, levers, and buttons to make things stop & go, and a lot more to do with learning the rules of the road, and MOST to do with learning to apply those rules to physical experience in real time so you don’t hit the wrong pedal at the wrong time and crash.

Social interaction is like that for me. ALL social interaction. But each new environment isn’t like a new car. It’s like a whole new kind of driving, period. Think car vs airplane, or electric scooter vs sailboat. New mechanics, new rules, new integration. Some elements transfer, but you don’t know which until you’ve put in the time in the new system.

With Discord, the mechanical part was simple, but there were so many different types of interactions that the patterns weren’t readily visible (To me. Things that are as clear as glass to many people are opaque to me, and vice versa. But I digress.)

Imagine trying to avoid a crash when you couldn’t learn the rules first because you’re already driving, so you can only learn the rules of the road only by watching other drivers while also learning your pedals and lever mechanics. Pretty dangerous, huh?

On social media, crashes translate as mortifying humiliation with the potential to drive me into solitude for, oh, years. That made Discord a no-go zone for me for ages. But that bugged me. Things I can’t do always bug me.

So I made Discord this year’s Hibernation Project.

Late winter is the best time for me to tackle Scary New Things. Once my energy starts to build up after the mid-winter crash, I find something shiny and carry them into my nest and get to know them better by combing & petting & squeezing the stuffing out of them.

Almost everyone learns better “by doing,” but it’s the only way I learn multi-channel processes. When I first wanted to understand website design, way back in the day, I bemused my friends who worked in web design by teaching myself to code sites from scratch using HTML & CSS. Why didn’t I focus on learning the web design programs, they wondered. But see, those programs didn’t make sense to me At All until I mastered the underlying language structure.

This year, I dragged Discord into the nest and made it my own. I built my own little server, nice and tidy, with all the usual parts & pieces, then brushed and polished it up to Discord’s Community Guidelines so eventually I can make it public.

That was a long read to get to the news that there now exists a Dawnrigger Discord server, huh? But there it is!

Right now it’s private, invitation only. If you’re a reader and/or fan of my books, if you have room in your Discord for a quiet little server where there’s not much clutter or content yet, you’re welcome to join Dawnrigger’s Den and share the fun.

This also means that when the day I flee Facebook inevitably arrives, I’ll still have an interactive space online, and I’m a LOT more comfortable surfing my way around other servers & occasionally even posting comments & engaging in conversations.

Not comfortable, but not as uncomfortable. And that’s progress. Wins all around.

That’s all for now. Some heavy shit happened online this week. I’m still processing, but there will be blog on ot eventually.

Until then, have a random cat with a book.

Photo by Heather McKeen on