Random things inside my head

6. It’s confirmed! I’ll be an Attending Professional at Dragon Con in 2019. Sweet, sweet validation. (It helps balance the relentless march of zeroes in the sales reports)  I’m hoping to participate in programming for Science Fiction Literature, Fantasy, & Urban Fantasy at the least. I would love to be super-busy all four days. 

One happy bright spot in a week I’ve spent being fiercely determined not to cry about, well, EVERYTHING AND NOTHING BECAUSE LIFE IS MADE OF STRESS. Ahem. Onward. Major tooth repairs tomorrow. 

5. Holidays mean I get to hang with friends more than usual. So much catching up to do. Being a hermit whose home no one ever visits, I always fall behind. What are all the many talented, hard-working people in my immediate circle doing these days? Incredible things. Getting degrees, playing games together, working at astonishing jobs, fighting for new jobs, traveling all over the country…loads of wow.  Me? I felt awkwardly tolerated, boring, and unintentionally ruse.  You know, the usual.

Someday I should write a post about all the specific communication tools my writerfrenz and artistfrenz use to help each other cope with gathering in groups. I miss those things a lot when I’m with others.

4. Working the weekend at the library is a big change than working weeknights. All the same tasks, but the rhythm is so different.  On weeknights, the last hour is the slowest by far. Weekends? Busy. Even on a slow day. Makes for a nice change of pace.

The latest in searches:

  • free home floor plan generator
  • 19th century attitudes toward exercise
  • under 18 population Illinois 2017 census

Media update:

  •  Read: Working my way through Ardulum trilogy by J.S. Fields. Seanan McGuire recommended it, and it’s worthy. Space opera that’s careful about its science? SIGN ME UP.  
  • View: Hurricane Heist. So bad it was almost good. Okay, not really. It was just plain bad. Bad science, bad writing, bad special effects…but it was fun. Molly’s Game:  Did not finish. Sorry. I wanted to be interested, but…poker+smug people being smug+YAWN. 

3. Scooter has figured out I’m worried about his mobility. Now he lies on his side and won’t move until I pick him up and put him down gain to make sure his back legs still work.  Then he stands there and purrs and strops my legs and looks smug. CATS, y’know?

Random cat pic

2. Our official house nickname for Thanksgiving is now “The Week-long Celebration of Leftovers” And I was chastised for eating too much (read: any) of the sage dressing. It came out really well. 

1. I saw a Great Horned Owl! Spouseman heard her hooting up a storm in the middle of the night, I went to the back window to see if I could spot her in one of the neighbor’s trees, and SWOOOOOOP, she went right past the window and caught an updraft to cruise over the neighbor’s roof. So. Cool

and that’s all the all there is.

making the best of bad times

My professional plans for this weekend imploded in a most frustrating way, and I’m…pretty torqued about it. Sad, frustrated, disappointed, you name it.

But…instead of seething about it, I’m giving myself a consolation prize: a Total Writing Retreat. ™

I was supposed to be out of town, so everything is set for me to be gone. It should be fun to see how much I can get written while I’m pretending I’m on the road, offline, cut off from the everyday routine & exempt from household responsibilities.

I’m still REALLY unhappy. But maybe I can make somethng of it? I dunno. I hope so.

Meanwhile, if anyone feels like helping cheer me up, you could always buy Rough Passages or one of my other books, leave an Amazon or online review for something of mine you’ve read already, send me a picture of my book in your collection or TBR stack…or heck, just post funny pictures on social media?  I’ll see ’em when I’m back online next week.

But reviews & sales would make me happiest. Yes, I am shallow and mercenary

Look. It’s simple. I  want to reach All The Readers Ever.

Each sale and especially every Amazon review causes a real and dramatic boost in my visibility. Support from you, my loyal & astonishing followers, makes the party even bigger.

And sometime bigger really is better. 4B3CA471-FCF2-4E1C-95B0-23C46338E2C3

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Thanksgiving and other awkward things


So, I wrote this on my new tablet, which is to say I thought I posted this around 1800 hours local and now it’s midnight. Oops…

Turkey has been in the oven a couple of hours with an hour to go. A pan of sage dressing & one of sweet potatoes w/onion & garlic just joined it. Apples are stewing with spices. A big ol’ bowl of green beans is making friends with chopped garlic to prep for steaming, diced golden potatoes are in their stock pot of water, passively soaking up heat from the oven to expedite boiling them for mash while the turkey rests. Scarborough Fair bread is rising ahead of schedule, so we’ll have extra starch to go with the other carbs. Cream is whipped & ready to go atop the pumpkin pie I always buy because a) I like store-bought pumpkin filling better than (almost) any home recipe I’ve tasted and b) it’s easy.

In short I have time on my hands. So I go online and read the news, I watch TV, and I do a lot of thinking. Dangerous thing, that.

I hear & see all the usual Thanksgiving cliche jokes about men watching football while women slave away in the kitchen over a meal that will be eaten in 20 minutes and take four hours to clean up, and it irks me as it always does. First, it’s wrong, if that’s what happens. Second, I don’t know why it should be so much work. I do NOT work hard on Thanksgiving. There’s a lots of things in the oven for hours, yes. But work time? Not really. I do all the shop & chop prep in the prior couple of days — and slicing things while watching my favorite recorded TV shows is just keeping my hands busy. Turkey day is mix, set to cook, clean as I go, and do a lot of relaxing. Movies & TV rather than sports, but I definitely get in my recliner time, so to speak. And the cleanup? Anything still dirty after supper is Spouseman’s job. Period.

No, we don’t go out & about. We keep quiet holidays, Spouseman & me. Our families are scattered wide across the count

ry and we are nesters. Thanksgiving is about contemplation, gratitude for the bounty we collect and consume, and lately, a lot of bemusement at the weirdness of the holiday itself.

I worked retail for 23 Christmas seasons. (True confession, I loved the challenge of Christmas season in retail. It was FUN. But then I worked in a bookstore, so it was a wee bit different than most retail. ANYway. ) Thanksgiving Day often marked my last real day off until the new year. It was the calm before an exciting storm, a breather before the home stretch, the last chance to marshal up physical reserves and buckle up the emotional armor. For all those reasons I have long loved the third Thursday in November.

Also a bunch of staple foods I love go on steep sale, so I can stock up like a squirrel preparing for cold winter. This day is a tasty “once-a-month cooking” occasion that once saved me hours on exhausted work days and now just saves me hours.

Notice I didn’t mention loving any of the theoretical reasons for Thanksgiving? That’s because those reasons, as have been pointed out by people far more eloquent and knowledgable than me, are purely dangerous bullshit. I loved the Pilgrim story when I was 6 and 7 years old (who wouldn’t? Spunky underdog rebels being embraced by their new neighbors?) but I am a history teacher’s daughter. As soon as I could read she began to inoculate me against the comfortable mythology of colonial heroism. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a detailed survey course, but a foundation of “white Europeans were NOT good neighbors” was well-laid. Any lingering nostalgia was rubbed out over the years as the holiday’s “ideals” became fetishized even as its dirty, bloody roots were dragged further into the open.

So anyway. I love this day off, but not because it’s Thanksgiving. All the Thanksgiving lies are pretty awful, really. But this day can be a time-away-from-work festive gathering day AND an educational springboard to raise awareness of poisonous lies. Events can be more than one thing.

True confession 2. I also love Christmas, but in the same way I love Thanksgiving–not the materialistic consumerism, not even the Christian holiday itself, but as a storyteller, all the layered mythologies that swirl around midwinter appeal to the deepest parts of my psyche.

Also I was raised in Advent traditions, and they hold a special spot in my heart. What’s not to love about elevating the quiet work of preparation to a place of honor, and appreciating the importance of anticipation as a facet of celebration?

But that’s a post for another time.

Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on this page here. Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices!

Fact-Checking My Facebook Feed

otter things header

After a few hours of post-convention surfing last Monday I unfollowed people on Facebook the first time ever. Historically if I disliked what someone said or did, I have unfriended and possibly blocked. Friend or not-friend. It’s a binary. I like binaries.

I also like variety. Big picture, many lenses. I like seeing things that challenge my worldview. I find shifting perspective to be a neat exercise. Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t enjoy being surrounded by what I already know and believe. There’s nothing to learn there.  So I rarely unfriended, and never over differences of opinion.

The kink in the system is that I now use social media as a professional channel as well as personal connection.

The more I use FB professionally, the more  public-only acquaintances I collect.

It felt awfully harsh to unfriend someone who was never a true-held bosom friend to begin with, but I needed to clean up. My FB feed has been increasingly flooded with posts that deeply offend my sensibilities. Thus I’m giving the unfollow option a whirl.

Now, I didn’t do it to get rid of conservative posts or liberal ones. Tthere’s a lot of territory between an echo chamber and a hostile,  unhealthy life environment. See above re: many lenses.

No, what had to go were the posts that offended me as an analyst, a scientist, and a rhetoric competitor trained in the simple art of reasoned debate. The slippery slope into the contra-factual swamp got a lot steeper this year.  I’m clinging to higher ground by eliminating the stench of bad data.

Wondering if I unfollowed you? Well. Did you knowingly & un-ironically share material from white supremacy/socialist-propaganda/conspiracy theory sites/false news/parody sites and present it as factual?  Did you leave said material up after verified rebuttals from respected sources were posted to the comment thread? Did you defend lies by insisting opinions were persuasively equivalent to facts?

I only unfollowed someone when I saw those intellectual failures committed multiple times within a few days, and it was still a depressingly high number of people.

I understand viewpoints that oppose mine. Empathy and critical thinking are skills I practice daily. I can see from other positions. I respect differences of opinion.

But when opinion is stapled to horrific bullshit labeled and defended because “it’s from a reputable source” when the source is anything but reputable? That’s when my emotional wheels come right off.

someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet I’m tired of being a spectator at a parade of willful ignorance. I do not have the energy to run around placing little fact towels over bouncy, dangling embarrassments posted by acquaintances. I cannot afford to be the internet’s unpaid correction coverage service.

I’ve tried, I have. But from now on I will avert my eyes from the ugly naked lies and say good day. Good DAY. No mess, no fuss, no awkwardness in comment threads.

I am also removing contrafactual posts other ways. F.B. Purity is a useful extension, and I filter out a lot of sites that pitch their sticky, smelly lies at the interwebs. Articles from those sites need to be read fully and carefully and their sources independently verified before sharing, and I don’t have the energy.

I added to my FBP filter  list recently with the help of this:  False, Misleading, Clickbaiting & Satirical “News” Sources.  (edit 11/22 12:00 CST: the list itself has been pulled and is being expanded & revised — I recommend bookmarking the google doc. If you would like the original texts I copied, email me at pub dot rigger at gmail dot com.)

The list is neither exhaustive nor neutral, but you’ll find examples for from the left, the right, the blue, the red, and everything in between. Some of the sites are on there for being biased rather than false, so YMMV, but many of them are run by outright lying liars.

I also always suggest checking unfamiliar “news” sites against RealorSatire.com  and vetting specific stories on Snopes.com (What’s that? Snopes has a liberal bias? Blah,blah, bullshit, blah. Check your sources there. Yeah, no.)

The big problem is both sites are well behind the news distribution curve, overwhelmed by the seething floods of misinformation. By the time they post investigative results, the misinformation is everywhere being trumpeted as FACT-FACT-FACT!

I won’t be party to that, and my eyeballs can no longer bear it. So I’ve purged and I’m filtering…but the mobile app doesn’t filter.

So I’m begging, here. Read first. Check second. Wait third. THINK. If an article passes all 4 hurdles, then share. I know Google and Facebook have claimed they’re going to do a better job of curation and control, but if you believe that, I have some prime waterfront land in Tibet to sell you.

Oh–if you want to see how distorted the same information can get in a real echo chamber even before misinformation is added to the mix, take a look at this article:  Red Feed Blue Feed

It’s problematic in some ways, and not representative of any real social media feed, but it does a good job highlighting polarization of perspective. And it emphasizes the importance of thinking critically before dismissing or distributing news.

Okay. Done ranting now. Can we please endeavor to be more excellent to each other?

be excellent 1.jpg

Wait. Write for who?

When I’m tempted to say, “Don’t worry about other people, just write for yourself” to someone I always stop and bite my tongue. Here’s why: the encouragement aspect doesn’t cross the pronoun barrier intact. It doesn’t mean what I want it to mean.

Writing for self is the ideal attitude when self-administered. “I write for myself,” I say, and that equals “I do this because it pleases me.”  Making stories is an endeavor that combines hard labor and creative joy, and pleasing others with the results is on my list of joys. But I don’t put in the hours of blood, sweat, and tears expecting anyone else’s approval.

The problem comes when, write-for-self  is issued as advice to someone else. That someone is usually feeling rudderless,  bloodied by criticism, or mired in self-doubt. And under those circumstances  the subtext of “just write for yourself,” is far less than ideal.

“You should write for yourself” can magically transform itself into little whispers of disdain. It begins to mean, “Stop whining and feeling lost/hurt/unwanted. Stop expecting anyone else to give a shit. You’re better off keeping your writing to yourself because one else wants it anyway. Shut up and go sit in the corner already. No one cares, no one wants to be bothered.”

Heard once, those whispers of interpretation are easily ignored. When over and over again, someone hears “just write for yourself, stop caring what other people think,” it  can become a slow dripping poison that etches holes in the ego and bruises the soul.

I don’t like briusing people unintentionally.  That acid mutation of meaning is why I don’t offer it as solace and why I loathe hearing it. As a confidence booster it has the opposite effect I think people intend. Or…well, let’s say I hope they don’t intend it as it sounds. Maybe they do.

Maybe they are trying to gently encourage me to go sit in the corner and stop sharing because they hate what I say and wish I would stop sharing it. I just don’t know. It could be read either way, and I’m not good with subtlety. Multiple meanings make it  easy to be discouraging with encouragement. Damned with faint praise, even.

Am I being too analytical and “overthinking” this? Maybe. Thing is,  I’ve learned that people who tell me I’m over-thinking things seldom have my best interests at heart. They usually want to undermine me without taking any blame for it.

So I’m more likely to believe my own bitter interpretation over the cheerier one. And that’s why I avoid offering it as encouragement. It isn’t encouraging.

Writing for myself is like breathing. It’s going to happen. I don’t go around telling other people they should breathe for themselves either. If I did, they would probably wonder if they were breathing too loudly and suspect I wished they would shut up. And that simply wouldn’t be true.

 

What I don’t talk about.

I don’t talk much about hurting myself by “walking too fast” or “picking up a pencil the wrong way”  because that’s my baseline, just as it’s my normal for unstructured social interaction to be a risky gamble. I might pay for attending a party  with hours to days of shaky mental exhaustion or emotional swan dives, I might sprain my wrists stirring a pot of soup, but there’s nothing unusual about either event. I don’t think twice about them. I don’t talk much about breathing or digesting either. Such things are not noteworthy.

The work I put into life  doesn’t feel remarkable either.  I like being active. I like people. I like to push myself. Those traits plus a damfine big box of coping mechanisms obscure how unusual my routines are. Lots of people are introverted, so  I don’t dwell on the enjoyments I ration because I don’t have emotional resilience to spare. Athletes equip themselves to avoid injuries, and daily life is a contact sport for me, so what’s the difference? Exercise is healthy. No big deal that I must do strength exercises and walk minimum 3 miles daily or pay for the deficit in cramps and impinged nerves.

So there are positive reasons I don’t talk about my assorted issues. I seriously don’t notice them unless someone compares my life to norms. (One particularly memorable adolescent conversation involved my disbelief in days without pain. “Like, not any pain?” I asked, wondering if I was being pranked.)  The last reason I keep this stuff to myself isn’t so good. Shame and fear of judgment.  

I work hard to walk in the wide world of normal. That shouldn’t mean forfeiting my right to say I’m only faking normal, but somehow it does. I can look like a duck and quack like one, so I am left feeling like a cheater for not being duckish. I am functional, more or less, as long as I do certain things.  So if I’m not better I’m not working hard enough. right? It’s my own fault. If I had a better attitude and put in more effort, I would be fine.

I know that’s an insidious lie, but it’s the kind that slips past defenses and eats away confidence like acid on a wooden building foundation. And here’s the kicker: buying into the lie leads to guilt. Wimp. Whiner. Quit-exaggerating-you-lying-attention-whore is the internal whisper I hear when I admit to injury or weakness. Always.

It would help if I had an official seal of medical diagnosis, but I don’t. I have plenty of treatment documentation, but there’s a chasm between fitting a condition profile and the legitimizing stamp of a doctor’s note. I have never leaped that gap. My physical condition was diagnosed off-hand by a college health clinic resident in the era before electronic records, and the mental stuff? Well. Let’s just say the cause & effect patterns are obvious but have never been severe enough to make me seek treatment.

Why not? The affirmation would be nice, I admit.  It’s my lazy streak at work. The  official process for pinning causes to intermittent symptoms is frustrating and exhausting even with supportive doctors. And support is mighty hard to find.  So that’s two strikes against putting myself through the wringer. The third strike? There are no cures for what ails me. There are specific management therapies and behaviors, but I already employ them all. Medication? The very idea of testing brands and dosages is too daunting to contemplate. Things will have to get much worse before I’m willing to play that horrible  whack-a-mole game.

Someday I’ll be forced to it. Right now I manage well enough, but my body ages and my brain will always find ways to surprise me. (First time I faced a social situation unarmored by a job title? Oh, hey, that’s what a panic attack feels like! Fun times! Not.)

As it stands now,  with no pill bottles or certification to wield, I never truly believe anyone else believes me when I claim injury or weakness.  Why should they believe in the rotted core when the disguise is effective? Hell, I have trouble accepting it, and I live it.

The best I can do is lay out information up-front, then let it drop. Full disclosure doesn’t stamp out my internal critic, but it does cut down on vocal judgments like, “It must be so nice to be able to eat anything you want and stay skinny,” “Just go to the party for a little while, what can it hurt?” or “But you look perfectly fine.”  (That’s my favorite: when people tell me to my face that I’m not unhealthy enough to satisfy them.)

I know I’m being silently judged even when people don’t say thoughtless, vicious things. But when I lay the groundwork early I don’t have to hear it as often.

So when you notice I sprained my finger, and I say I did it tying my shoe? When I’m incapacitated by a headache before a big to-do? Go ahead and laugh. I do.  Sympathy is okay too. But please don’t say it’s unbelievable.

Because it’s my reality. I just don’t talk much about it.

This article by someone with much worse problems than mine expresses all these feels better than I ever could.  I’ll wrap with that.

 

Life’s Latest Detour

My husband, aka my superhero Spouseman,  went into the ER for a kidney stone in late winter…and at the end of April he woke up from successful surgery for prostate cancer. Nice punchline, right? Boom. Done.

Not so much. For one thing, cancer makes awkward joke material. Second, that ellipsis hides a lot of stressful testing, waiting, and prep.  Third, the wake-up is the beginning, not the end.

The recovery is a process. A journey. A trip into uncharted waters. A leap into the thin air of the unknown. However you analogize it, there’s a point in common: the best travel tales aren’t fun while they’re happening. Pain, conflict, stress, and suffering make riveting fiction because they’re hell in real life.

Stories are what I do, so I’ll be relating events as they happen to me and Spouseman here in my blog even though it isn’t about writing. I probably won’t do it often, but whenever the muse tickles my fancy, whenever life leaves me no heart for other words, I will end up telling tales here.  Life is one long series of detoured plans, and art is life. Here we are.

I’m pleased to announce that Spouseman and I have made it through the prologue stage of this trip, so to speak.  Great time to throw in a bit of ‘splainy exposition, right? Right!

As cancer breeds go, prostate cancer is more like a hyperactive terrier than a pit bull like leukemia or an ovarian-cancer dire wolf. The tumors grow exceptionally slowly. The survival statistics are notably high compared to other cancers. There’s also a lot of controversy in the medical literature and media right now regarding overzealous testing, high false positive results and unnecessary treatment. So here’s a note to alla y’all armchair medicos out there wondering if a surgery needed to happen:  yes. This terrier was as ferocious as they come, and it needed to be put down fast.

Nuff said on that. Onward to the Fun of Life with A Post-Surgical Patient.

The last month ain’t been smooth sailing by any measure. No matter how well you know someone, there are still discoveries to be made. I recently discovered an interesting and relevant bit of trivia about Spouseman: he magically reached his current age without ever once breaking a bone, needing stitches, or even being sick longer than a week–or with any ailment more serious than flu or chicken pox. (Which he didn’t catch until adulthood,  a tale in its own right.)

Compare that charmed life to my medical adventures, which started at age two with 13 stitches in my chin, followed by eye surgery at age four, onward into adulthood via a dislocated elbow, a variety pack of stitchings, a broken finger, broken foot…I’ll stop, but there is more. Lots more.

Why is it relevant trivia? Well.  Ahem. Spouseman has been an empathetic and understanding caregiver through many a healing of mine, but he’d never once experienced it himself. And somehow he never picked up a solitary clue from watching my woes or those of friends. Bless his heart.

If he had ever endured serious physical injury or surgery (or had a larger talent for learning by observation) he would’ve known he was facing a long, frustrating, unbearably awful experience.No matter how painful or devastating the inciting incident, being taken apart and put back together is a singular life event. Healing spans whole epochs of life history. The grind of re-adjusting to a body fundamentally altered is a horrendous test of emotional endurance.

Since Spouseman didn’t know those truths at the gut level,  this past month has been one long, grueling lesson about the way gain follows pain. (Or doesn’t, as the case may be.)

Improvements don’t appear on a nice, regimented, logical, predictable schedule. They’re more like a happy little lambs at play. They pop up here and there, they disappear and panic everyone, they produce startling, random, and indecipherable smells, noises and sights. And everywhere one turns, one steps in the steaming heaps of aggravation they leave behind. Even when things are getting better, they’re different. And that chafes.

My biggest new job? (other than laundry…oh, gods of chaos,  THE UNENDING LAUNDRY) My job is whatever helps. On a daily basis: offering comfort and a listening heart;  being the growly voice of reason; and finding smiles amidst the daily indignities.  Humor is an effective weapon against pain. Laughing through tears is sometimes the only way to get by.

Me being me, there’s the occasional bout of snarly snapping, exasperated impatience, and passionate intolerance for certain core traits that hamper the whole getting-better process. That comes part & parcel with the whole “for better, for worse” promise. The dude is stuck with me, sharp tongue, short temper, sour personality and all.

I’m not sure where I was going with this post (if anywhere.  I wanted to share the details of this shift in my world, and I have. This is where I am, where Spouseman is, where we are. Declaring to the world that we will keep grinding forward through this journey  one bumpy, awkward detour at a time.

Together.