Authoring Writing Life

Random Autumn Thoughts 10/13/2020


Tis my season to do nesting things. When the nights get longer and the days turn cold, I develop a specific kind of energy & focus. I move furniture, change light bulbs, finish assorted small repair projects I’ve ignored for months, get my flu shot & yearly physical, order clothes, do all the seasonal cleaning other people call “spring” cleaning, and basically Get Ready To Do Nothing At Home For Months.

My social batteries drain to zero between November and March. I do leave the house–for work, for emotional health, for fun–but it’s hard. It’s a physical strain. Knowing I am equipped to hide in the house if I just can’t cope with people– it keeps the stress below redline. Mostly.

Squirrel shopping is a major component of the prep. I pick up a little extra here and one more than I need there all autumn long, until my cabinets & closets are full.

(do not speak to me of “but restaurants deliver.” Ordering food is stressful. Drive-throughs are stressful. MENUS are stressful. A pantry stash requires zero interaction & minimizes decision paralysis.)

Stocking up always felt silly because it’s not like I can avoid shopping all winter like a hermit or a sleeping squirrel just by having extra boxed rice dinners or frozen green beans on hand. It’s not like I’m out in the wilderness where I might get snowed in for a month. FFS, there are six grocery stores minutes away from my home.

But the squirrel stashing feeds that emotional need for refuge-building, so I learned to indulge it. Coping mechanisms. They’re real.

Still, every year I wondered if it was an unhealthy emotional crutch and/or if I was allowing fears inspired by my post-apocalyptic fiction writing to affect my real life.

Until this spring.

I never worked down the pantry overstock the way I usually do in late winter. Pandemic news had me on edge by mid-January, and allowing the quirky desire to be Ready For Any Disaster free rein gave me a little relief from stress meltdowns.

By mid-March and the “stay home stay safe” phase of this dumpster fire year, my pantry was at peak November levels and more, since I’d impulsively grabbed extra cleaning supplies & personal care items on my February shopping expedition.

“Weird personal quirk” has turned into “reliable source of tiny indulgences that make involuntary isolation and fearful uncertainty more bearable.”

It stayed winter all summer long, as far as my nerves are concerned. I now catalog and inventory before shopping. (it IS possible to have too much boxed rice when the store keeps putting them on sale at 10 for $10.)

And now we’re heading into another winter, with who knows what kind of stresses and disasters await us all. My burrow is as ready as it can be, though, and that’s something.

A few things I learned this summer.

Milk gallons freeze just fine as long as you make sure the bottle has enough headspace; celery & carrots keep well and satisfy my greens cravings; commercial bread loaves and English muffins also freeze well; a watermelon keeps for a week on the counter if you don’t cut it open– and keeps for another week in the fridge if you rind & quarter it. Apples only freeze well if you peel & core them first & plan to use them for sauce or baking.

A things I hate but can’t help thinking about

We got a lucky break with COVID-19. Yes, I am aware how horrible and gross and coldhearted it is to say “lucky” when millions are dead and millions more are suffering and we aren’t anywhere close to being done with it. It’s AWFUL. I’m awful for typing it. I’m a sick monster.

What’s more awful is that it’s true.

SARS-CoV-2, the new-to-humans virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, is deadly, but some viruses are 20 or 30 times more lethal. We’re lucky they don’t spread easily. Others spread more easily than SARS-CoV-2 but aren’t nearly as lethal and/or we can vaccinate against them. (There are also some truly terrifying viruses that haven’t jumped from animals to humans yet. Looking at you, hantavirus)

We would be thoroughly FUCKED right now if the first novel virus we faced had been like measles, and everyone who got it infected 8-10 others instead of 2-ish. Or if it was like hantavirus and killed 30% of its victims, not 1% like SARS-CoV-2. What if it was like measles and hantavirus at the same time?

Infectious disease scientists don’t have to imagine that. They can model it. As the global population grows, the arrival and global spread of unique new diseases is an inevitable development. One of them is bound to be a monster.

And in February 2020, none of those experts could be sure SARS-CoV-2 WASN’T a Big One. They were pretty sure they had a handle on the basics of it–and they knew it was BAD–but it was still too new and the data was still too raw to be sure it wasn’t even WORSE.

Cautious, careful governments locked down to prevent its spread (real lockdowns, not our nation’s sorta-kinda-half-assed-half-hearted version of a lockdown, but real shutdowns) because quarantining is the one tried & true way to shut down viral spread, no matter what it is.

We now know SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t the Big One. It’s horrific, it’s historic, it’s phenomenally deadly and permanently damaging…but it’s treatable and its spread can be defeated by simple, low-tech, public health measures.

We caught the lucky break. The first modern global pandemic is a disease that is ONLY 10 times more deadly than influenza, and one that ONLY spreads at a moderate rate.

The world is a cage fight tournament, humanity vs viruses ( sponsored by Climate Change!) and we drew a pussycat opponent in the first round. This was a lucky chance to fine-tune our fight strategies, build up public health muscle and improve our scientific skills, because as sure as rain falls, we’re going to catch a lion in one of our next match-ups.

Too bad we blew it big time here in the USA. We are fucking up our gimmee game beyond all recognition. I wish I thought that we’d learned our lesson, that we’ll do better when the curtain inevitably goes up on the Big One.

But I don’t think that.

I see to many people spouting bullshit like “There’s no point in making kids wear masks–the labels say they aren’t medical, so they’re useless!” Which is so staggeringly wrong it’s hard to know where to start. And an empathy-fail trophy goes to those who insist that the virus isn’ dangerous because no one they know has died of it. Runners-up in the ignorance sweepstakes are “It’s all a government hoax,” and “If we didn’t test so much, it wouldn’t be as bad.”

Oof. When the big one does come (or when we fail to contain this pussycat and it goes rabid) when there aren’t enough healthy people left to keep the lights on or the water running, no one to make or transport supplies, or to staff hospitals and stores and laboratories…well.

Hi. I write post-apocalyptic fiction for so very many reasons.

And a few bright personal threads

I am fully 2/3 of the way through Sharp Edge revisions and ready to send off the next section to my alpha readers for feedback. That’s very exciting.

I have a presence now, where you can buy my paperback books AND ALSO support your local independent bookseller:

Thanks to the completed exterior house renovations, my office now has modern windows, so the blinds don’t sway whenever the wind kicks up. This makes me unreasonably happy.

I have put my ebooks up on Ingram for distribution, so brick & mortar store that sell ebooks should be able to order you mine now. I admit I haven’t figured out how that part works, exactly, but the channel is open.

AND! AND! I’m working up my courage to approach a professional narrator and get more of my books on audio. If you read audios and have a favorite narrator you would like to nominate, please, PLEASE share the name.

You have reached the end of this post!

That’s all the all I have until later. Thanks for reading.

Photo by Valeriia Miller on

Have a nice picture of autumn beverages to go on with.

Authoring Writing Life

Random Thoughts Roundup

Winter is coming.

Autumn is already here, seasonally speaking. The calendar will catch up soon. And I fear winter’s going to cut down on opportunities to safely spend time with other people, what with the pandemic & all. I wish that wasn’t true.

Some of my favorite memories are cold weather ones: campfire parties with bunches of Girl Scouts, all sitting on logs bundled up, hot drinks in mittened hands and marshmallows blazing over the fire; comet watching with Spouseman, lying on the warm hood of the car, staring up at stars on a back road in a forest preserve; all alone on a sunset walk through the neighborhood, ice crunching under my boots, ice forming on my eyelashes, ice making the bare tree branches creak in the -40 degree wind chill.

Gonna pause here to note that I was rarely cold out on any of those occasions. Did I did mention I hate feeling cold? Yeah. No cold toesies for me once I was old enough to buy my own boots.

I hate being cold, but I’m willing to keep having outdoor hangouts all winter long, if I can find other people to hang with me. It’s partly about having the right gear, and all about the good company.


I am a citizen of a country whose federal government throws people into concentration camps, keeps them in wire cages, starves them, experiments on them, & sterilizes them. I’m a citizen of a country where local and state police forces promote violence and consort with thugs, neither serving nor protect the communities that provide them with budgets dwarfing the ones funds given to public aid and education. I live in a country where the haves are unforgivably selfish and dangerously blind, and the have-nots are willfully ignorant. Where far too many people have no idea how their own government works, and are so secure in their willful ignorance that no narrative truth can reach them.

It’s painful, that’s what it is. I’m not helpless, and I am not a bystander, but it’s hard, not being able to do more without breaking myself. I don’t do as much as others, but I give, and I speak up, and I support where and when I can. Not everyone is built for battle. Not everyone is strong enough to hold up themselves, much less others. It ain’t fun being fragile, is what I’m saying.

FFS All opinions were NOT created equal.

When did the absurdity of “We can agree to disagree, but it’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it,” become an acceptable conversation topper? It isn’t true, it isn’t right, and it’s responsible for a lot of evil in the world. That’s my opinion. And if you disagree with me, you’re wrong. Period. So there.

Vote Dammit.

I have voted in nearly every election since I turned 18. That’s a lot of elections, and a LOT of disappointments. I have known all my life the system was rigged and broken and the only chance we had to fix it was to vote in people who were willing to change it.

I’ve preached about the importance of voting so often my friends who think it doesn’t matter get annoyed and edge away from me every time it comes up. (YOU WERE FOOLS AND NOW LOOK WHAT IT’S COME TO) Ahem. Sorry. Not helpful, but GD*#$#)$&^#@ it’s frustrating.

And this year…oof. This year I am feeling very gloomy about the outcome but still hoping I am wrong. We’ve got this one last chance to steer away from the precipice. Maybe. But by golly, whatever happens after the election, I’m gonna go down knowing I did everything I could to make a better future out of this mess I grew up in.


Last week started off more cheerful than it wrapped up, can you tell by the way the entries deteriorated into rants? SORRY. In writing news, things are going okay. I’m grinding through the end of the 3rd of 6 sections in Sharp Edge. I’ve hit a plot point that doesn’t want to polish up, but things will work out.

ANYway. It’s Monday night, so this is going out now. Until later!

Detours Whimsy

I made some things.

So today I decided to bake a bunch of things and cook other things that would make the kitchen steamy. OF COURSE I DID. The high today was 93 degrees, about 20 degrees above normal for late September, and the humidity was through the roof.  Baking and boiling things were an act of defiance.

(I also wrote a few hundred words the yesterday, read a couple of books,  dove deep in a bunch of other projects, and tackled the overgrown  garden before it produced triffids, but that’s another post. Whew. Just writing all that was tiring. No wonder I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck….)


I’ve been feeling the baking itch for a couple of weeks but had to wait until flour went on sale. Why, yes, I AM that much of a cheapskate, thanks for noticing. Spouseman was happily estivating in the basement with the air conditioning at Arctic Circle levels, so I pulled out the supplies and went to work.

The first batch of dough didn’t rise well, a common issue when I use fresh honey, old yeast and not enough of it, and impatiently mix all the ingredients up together instead of following the proper fussy rituals of Yeast Placation. No worries!  I whipped up a second batch of yogurt-boosted basic rolls and turned the honey dough into honey-cinnamon bread after it basked outdoors in the heat for a couple of hours.

I haven’t worried about bread “not coming out right” since the day I forgot to add yeast to the bread machine I used at the time… and the gaming group wolfed down the whole (flat, dense, chewy) loaf  before it even had a chance to cool.  If it bakes, it eats.

The apple sauce cooked down entirely without drama. I had a few too amny apples to safely boil down without boiling over, so I sliced ’em up, coated ’em in sweet batter and tossed them in to bake with the bread.

Total for the day: 3/4 of a gallon of applesauce. 8 pseudo-sourdough rolls. 1 loaf honey cinnamon bread. And a whole pan of apple pudding.

Here’s the official photo:

This will be breakfasts and desserts for a few days easy. For tonight  I’ll toss some romaine withdressing to go with the rolls, slice up some tasty Wisconsin cheese, pour myself a nice heffeweissen, and call it a day.

1. Storysculpting Book reviews Detours Media Consumption Writing Life

Black and Blue & Busy All Over

Busy times in the last little while. Lots of randomness and many life detours.

First, the reading. 

Raising Caine  Charles E Gannon. The third of three books in a series. The ending makes clear there will be more. (Not a cliffhanger. More like a traditional television season ending.)  Still enjoyable, but still very much hard SF.  This one read faster than the other two, as I’d reacquainted myself with the chewy, sticky style and started compensating.

A Scot In the Dark Sarah MacLean. Fluffy, fluffy historical romance. Some consent issues, unusual from this author.

Summer Is For Lovers Jennifer McQuiston. Quite fun. Took place in Brighton, which gets terribly neglected in most British historicals, it revolved around a swimming competition and had some interesting social commentary.

Jumper’s Hope Carol Van Natta. Special mention for this one. I got a sneak peak at this upcoming SF novel as a beta reader.  It is a super-shiny awesome space opera, and it releases later this fall. If you want to catch up on the series first, click the author’s name above to be magically transported to her web page.

Watching. The usual. Television and movies.

Supergirl. This one was hard to watch with Spouseman around, as he has zero tolerance for superpower tropes and stilted dialogue. I enjoy the heck out of it, so I chased the snarky comment generator off to play Elder Scrolls elsewhere. I gave up on Flash because TIME TRAVEL UGH, and on Green Arrow because ANGST UGH, but this series–season one, at least–is treading that fine path between camp silliness and serious dramatic development. All the recommends.

Trumbo. A movie about political fear-mongering and strife destroying lives?  Lots of resonance with current events, sadly.  Not an easy watch but an excellent one, and I can see why Bryan Cranston was nominated for an Oscar. He was brilliant.

Extraction. I had to bring it home. I will watch any Bruce Willis movie without shame. I will not pay to watch them, and this movie is a good example of why. It’s only been a week and I could not begin to tell you the plot. Generic action thriller. I think there was a kidnapping? And some villains. Not recommended.

Ghostbusters. The extended edition has MUCH MORE CHRIS HEMSWORTH DANCING. There were also a couple of scenes that make the continuity flow better. I can see why much of it was cut. The pacing for an action movie is so delicate. It would have been too long in the theater. At home on the couch? Delightful.

All the other random happenings.  I have to record them somewhere because I forget everything without written proof. 

  1. Found out I get to spend an arm and a leg getting rid of a tooth that wants to dissolve my jawbone. Thank heavens for installment plans. Oral surgery next week.
  2. Played human signpost for four hours in the freezing dark on a pumpkin walk. Loved every minute. (Pics at the end of the post)
  3. Got sick but got better, hurt myself doing everyday things but am healing okay, maintaining nominal function in all limbs and organs.
  4. Renewed the website package for a year. Might be pointless, but as a good poet says, best to keep a window open. Some goodly people made a point of mentioning they understood and shared the frustration.  Others offered warm cuddlies and reviews. The last feather feather that tipped the scales: a video I’ll call  Benedict Cumberbatch Reads A Letter. Some NSFW language. Much inspiration.
  5. Finished the final revisions on Flight Plan’s second edition and got the new cover  back. Should have the ebook editions finished by the end of the week. Better four months late than never, right? RIGHT?! Right.
  6. Caught up on other writing obligations and stuffed a beta read into the work hours. SO WORTH IT. Always great when a work read is enjoyable too.
  7. Rediscovered the fun of beer breads. Banana beer bread. Savory cheese beer bread.  Chocolate chip zucchini beer bread. Lots of tastiness.
  8. Scheduled fall yard cleanup with the landscape crew who do my heavy lifting these days. (see point 3 for why I’m not doing it for myself.)  If you want two yucca plants or three Rose of Sharon saplings, mine are free to good homes until Nov 15, and then they’re gone-gone-gone.
  9. Took a city day trip for the first time in ages. Visited the Shedd Aquarium (for the first time in ages.)

The pumpkins from the Night of 1000 Jack O’ Lanterns event were gorgeous, so I’m sharing a few even though my photography is not so good.

And I’m showing off my new book cover. Thanks to Nicole Grandinetti for taking my odd ideas and bad pics and fusing them into shininess. 

And penguins for no reason. (They’re molting, thus the cloaks and mohawks)


Teacup Posts

Quality of Light

I think a lot about light this time of year. The hours slide back along the line of the sun’s progress, and the days grow shorter at the same time, and that brings it to the front of my attention.

It’s a wonder to me every year, how the light changes from August to October. The sun drops lower in the sky, angling in from the south, and the light takes on colors missing from the washed-out heat of midsummer. Pale haziness contrasts with orange and gold tree leaves some days, looking warm even when the air has gone icy. On other days deep-gray clouds sail by on strong winds, flashing their white tops at the sidelong sunrays while the deep blue depths behind them peek through the spaces between. I have many reasons to love fall, but the way light makes the world beautiful tops the list.

The last time the spouse and I visited family out West, I noticed that the high summer sunlight in Seattle looks a lot like autumn here.(Yes, the sun does shine there, often and brightly, much of the year.)  Science that is, axial tilt and latitudes and such at work, but in the final accounting, it’s all magic to my eyes.

Time: 9:31 PM
Tea: Decaf Orange Pekoe
Steep: 5 minutes