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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Where Do We Go From Here? 2017 in Review, Honest Look at 2018

Here we are nearing the end of 2017, and if you’re reading this, congratulations:

You’ve survived.

Surviving this year took a lot out of me. Like many of you, I feel tired and beaten down, consumed by anxiety by the government’s continued totalitarian direction. It turns out that being ruled by someone who is clearly cognitively impaired is pretty stressful. That’s the overall context for me this year.

Travel

Maybe that’s why 2017, for me, felt so much like a year in which I was barely able to do the minimum I needed to in order to survive. From the outside, it was an amazing year of travel. I was Guest of Honor at Swecon in May, went to the Hugos in Finland in July, survived a Florida hurricane with my family in September, did a client conference in Anaheim in October, and saw my sister-from-another-mister in ABQ in November.

But every one of those trips took a toll, not just financially, but also emotionally. Traveling is stressful. My spouse insisted we do the Hugos; it’s important to my career, but man, that trip just about wrecked us. The Florida trip? My family lives on the west coast, and I hadn’t seen them in more than two years. When I finally buckled down and paid the down payment, I got a really nice note from my dad saying how much it meant to him to see me. My parents are getting older, and my dad, in particular, is not in great shape. I worried I might not have much more time to spend with them.

I ended up cutting several career-related trips in order to make the family trips work: I didn’t do Gencon this year. I backed out of several appearances and deadlines. The year tried to swallow me whole.

The Work

THE STARS ARE LEGION came out in February. Yes, that was THIS year. I had to literally look up the date because it felt so LONG ago. It feels like we have survived SIXTEEN WARS SINCE THEN. Even as I typed that I thought, THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT IT MUST HAVE BEEN A YEAR AGO. The book did well, and people seemed to love it. So, I’ll take that as a win.

But there were a lot of setbacks, too, some I shared, and some I didn’t. I wrote 90k of THE BROKEN HEAVENS that… just wasn’t working. My agent and I decided to table it and get started on writing THE LIGHT BRIGADE, my next contracted book, instead so we don’t miss that deadline too. tLB is due in February and… whew. We’ll see. Every time I open up the manuscript I feel this wave of despair come over me, this DON’T FUCK THIS UP HURLEY OR YOU WILL BE A LOSER voice, and yeah… it’s hard to make words.

That means this is the first year in some time that I haven’t completed and turned in a book. That said, we were able to fill the gap next year with Apocalypse Nyx, a collection of novellas from my GOD’S WAR trilogy. Sometimes you have to forgive yourself and just move on and make the most with what you have. It’s been a shit year for many of us.

When it comes to short fiction, however, I killed it this year. I will have completed 12 stories this year for Patreon subscribers, one each month. Those stories are:

What I like about completing so much work is that there are many avenues in which I can sell it. Story collections to publishers, audio rights to various audio publishers, sales as Kindle singles, and H-wood money on occasion for options and etc. There’s lots that can be done with them. Which makes a nice segue to…

Patreon, and Diversifying Income

So Patreon recently screwed up by charging massive fee increases to those pledging at lower levels (a 40% increase to backers at the $1 level). It caused a huge bleed off from patrons (rightly so) and made me decide it’s time to look for other avenues for creating content. I’ve come to rely on Patreon not only for the income, but for the fact that because I’m so money motivated, it induces me to CREATE stuff, even during this terrible year where I mostly just wanted to lay in bed with my dogs and never get up again.

Kickstarter has a competitor, Drip, that will be launching publicly early next year. It’s also possible that I can do something that’s fully integrated into my website (which I’d prefer!). So that’s on my list for January, once we see how things shake out. Overall, I know I need to put more effort into consolidating all of my stuff onto my own website. I want fan forums, a public wiki, all sorts of things. I am also looking into merchandising for next year, something I haven’t done anything seriously with.

This is also the first year a got a small amount of money from H-wood, though nothing to get excited about. Just deepening interest in shopping my work, which is great. I finally got to sign a piece of paperwork this year. Amaze.

I also launched an Etsy store for select paintings and signed books. That said, I haven’t put much time and effort into stocking and promoting that venue, and looking at 2018… I need to get serious about that shop if I’m going to make life work.

Health Considerations

Last year my doctor cautioned me that in addition to continued weight gain, my blood pressure was now rising for the first time in, like, ever. I was stressed the fuck out post-election, and drinking too much on top of all the other bad habits I’ve gotten into since I started the publishing roller coaster. I knew that if I wanted to stick around (and fit into airplane seats for all the traveling I needed to do this year) that it was time to make some changes.

All of my changes have been small, but they are working. I have dropped about 20lbs, enough to ensure I was able to fit on a plane, even if not comfortably. My blood pressure is also normal now. I still have a lot of work that needs to go into this – getting more regular exercise, continuing to stick to the meal plans that ensure I don’t keep gaining and gaining (the constant gaining was getting scary, honestly). My doctor has also adjusted a few of my meds, which means the anxiety issues are no longer there except when, you know, our president threatens nuclear war and etc. You know, the normal anxiety one experiences living under a totalitarian-lite regime.

Mainly, I realized that writing full time and doing Patreon full time and doing my day job full time was killing me; the regime change was the last nail in that coffin. I couldn’t do everything and stay sane. While it felt like, to me, I took a rest this year with the writing, after writing about my work, above, I realize it was just… comparatively restful. I wrote a lot, but… I didn’t churn.

Going into 2018, I’m more hopeful about my health. After six years of grinding at the writing work, it’s time to prioritize it again before it’s too late. I’m on the right path with this again.

Ongoing Health “Insurance” BS

Speaking of health, well… there’s the cost. Like, the actual financial cost of keeping me and my spouse alive, and I won’t lie: it’s becoming untenable.

While my day job is great, and gives me a lot of flexibility I need, it had its stressors this year, too. There were a few months of nail-biting there waiting on a big contract renewal. And our already shitty health insurance plan increased it’s deductible another $3,500 to a whopping $10,400. Yes, that means I’m paying $10,400 on TOP of my month $300 premium BEFORE the insurance actually pays ANYTHING for me.

With meds running $1500 a month, I go through this fast, sure. But… it means coming up with $1500 every goddamn month. I can do it because – multiple income streams! – but it’s not fun, friends. That means that $1500 isn’t being used for other stuff, like paying down debt, or going into savings, or retirement. It means I’m shoveling like $2,000 into the overpriced, bloated maw of the healthcare machine every fucking month just to survive. On top of that, my insurer continually refuses to pay for drugs that my doctor recommends, so we have to go through like 2-3 alternatives that are cheaper, even when the one that works best is name brand, and even though I’m paying the first $10k out of my own pocket! It’s… nightmarish. I hate this fucking health insurance.

What this made me realize, finally, is that our country’s health insurance nightmare not only isn’t getting solved any time soon, but that just having an employer isn’t enough to protect me from the health insurance racket. The regime made some terrible executive orders this year that destroyed the market for everyone – employer or no employer – and I’m not confident it’s going to get any better. It’s fine and good to say, “Wait for 2020!” but the reality is, a lot of us won’t make it that far, and to be dead honest – the current regime is pulling us further and further right. What we consider a “moderate” candidate is going to be, like, a Regan. I’m not convinced we’ll see real, affordable care for at least a decade.

Where Do I Go From Here? 

It’s been a rough week for me, personally. On top of deadlines I’m struggling to meet, my house was broken into, I got that shitty news about the health insurance, and I maxed out the last credit card with anything on it to buy glasses because my insurance benefit expires at year end. We have a massive amount of traveling debt from this year – not unexpected, and it’s the choice I made by booking those trips, but it still hurts, and I’ll be spending all next year paying it off. Yay 2017!

But if there’s one thing that all this stress and the backing-off of my dead book taught me, it’s that I need to stop churning and start figuring out what the fuck I want to do with my life.

When the regime came into power I said to myself, well, shit, I’m never going to be able to be a full time writer now. It had been my goal to quit by the time I was 40 and write full time. I had this whole goal in mind. In some ways, I think all the traveling and debt pile up this year was also just me going, “What if we all die in nuclear fire tomorrow?” and “What the fuck else do I have to spend money on, it’s not like there’s a future.” And lo, she drank, and ate at Taco Bell.

Despite my rallying cries, most of the time these days I don’t feel like I have a future. Not one worth investing in, anyway. Why save money for retirement when your own government wants you dead? And not just them… honestly, it was this:

When we got hit with that extra $3,500 deductible at work, we were all offered the option to pay an extra $35 a month in premiums and go back to the old deductible, or pay the same as last year and get this much larger deductible. There was an informal poll at work on which we should do. I chose to pay the $35, obviously, and I’d like to think I’d choose to pay the $35 even if I wasn’t sick. Because this is what health insurance is: we all put money into the pot so that if something shitty happens to one of us, we’re covered.

Turns out I was alone in that. I was out-voted, and we got the extra $3,500 deductible. Or, rather, I did, and anyone else there who has a catastrophe this year.

I cried a little about that.

I cried because it reminded me that as things get worse, we may no longer be able to rely on each other. I’ve been hearing a lot of people I felt were in “the middle” making arguments for the regime now. They’re spewing back the same talking points. I’m reminded, again and again, of the Milgram Experiment. I’m reminded that my friends and neighbors all have terrible monsters inside of them, waiting to be unleashed.

I worry they’re already being set free.

Oh, Canada?

A colleague of mine reached out recently and recommended an immigration lawyer. They said the lawyer had helped them get into Canada. I had thought my spouse and I were barred from Canada due to our medical issues, so this had never been a serious consideration for us. But after talking with the lawyer, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Our conditions aren’t severe enough to trigger the “undue burden” medical clause, and being a writer, I’m in a business class that is actively encouraged to move there.

Simply applying for this isn’t cheap, of course, let alone retaining the lawyer. But… healthcare here isn’t cheap either. I look at my $2,000 a month in medical costs and I’m like… it’s cheaper, in the long run, to move for that single reason (the primary meds I take are $500 here… and $65 in Canada. SAME MEDICINE. Even having private insurance until Canadian healthcare benefits kick in, I’ll be paying less because their system is simply better regulated and more efficient).

After talking with my spouse, we decided it’s worth at least trying. The process takes 6 months/2 years, so it’s better to start sooner rather than later. That also means the costs will be spread out, which might make it possible. If we’re accepted, we still have a year to decide if we want to go through with it.

This wasn’t a cost I wanted to stare down right now, with the looming credit card bills, but royalty season comes in February, and it does give me a greater sense of urgency to finish those outstanding books. I realized that, for the first time in awhile, I had a tangible idea for a future I wanted to work toward. One that was possible. One where I didn’t feel I needed to be drunk all the time in order to endure it.

The more I look at my country, the less I see a future here for me. Again, not just because of the government, but because of the people. I look at my illness and I know I’m on the List, not “just” for being a woman, or liberal, or queer, but highest, above all for this: for this terrible thing that happened to me, over which I had no control, the very thing that health insurance was supposed to be for. And no one here is going to have my back, when the trucks comes.

What I see here instead of a future is a long slog of endless horror from my own government, of mounting anxiety, of skyrocketing medical costs, of working until I fall over because I don’t have a retirement, of never having savings, of never getting out of debt, of staying chained to that old Conan torture wheel forever.

I saw that future, and you know what?

I remembered my own words. I remembered my own heroines. I don’t have to just sit here and take it. I don’t have to fight it from here. I can work for another future in a place where I’m more likely to actually have a future.  I may still end up here, we may still get denied, or it may be too much money in the end, to go. It’s hard, and expensive, and we simply may not be able to do it. But at least now I can see a glimmer of something else at the bottom of my whisky glass. I can see something to work toward that isn’t this awful nightmare future where all paths lead to a black hole.

That realization was a heavy one. I’d become myopic, resigned to this increasing horror show of begging my government not to kill me. I was in some terrible abusive relationship with my own government, my own future.

Yes, there’s a better future on the other side of this one. But I have to survive this one to get there.

In the end, fascism is likely to eat Canada, too, but maybe I’ll have a few more years there.

Creating the Future

Having a goal in mind for the next few years that isn’t just “survive” is helpful. It makes me focus, again, on creating those additional forms of revenue, of paying down debt, of being smarter with travel and alcohol. Being able to see, again, a future for myself where I can actually become a full-time novelist someday – even if it means I have to move to another country – is giving me a little more life. I didn’t realize how dead I’d felt because of that, after the election. There were so many awful things all at once that that one personal one barely registered.

No wonder I drank away the last two months of 2016.

Now, I’m working to take that dream back. It’s not going to be easy, or cheap, but at least it’s a goal beyond survival. It may turn out it’s not even possible. But if 2017 has taught me anything, it’s that it’s worth trying. It’s worth doing whatever you have to do, to ensure that you can get out of bed in the morning and do the shit that needs doing. I’m tired of being afraid to believe in the future.

I don’t accept the future I was given. I’m going to keep working toward another one, even if I never get there. It’s 2017, and I’m used to disappointment.

But goddammit – I’m not dead yet.

And we have another banner year on deck.

The View on the Ground in a Swing State

I’ve lived in Dayton, Ohio since 2007. Elections are, understandably, a big deal here. It’s a swing state. The divide here is sharp, and fairly stereotypical. I live very near downtown, where you are highly unlikely to see a sign up for the Republican candidate. We live in a traditionally black neighborhood, and Dayton itself is split when it comes to race, with about 46-48% of the population nonwhite, and growing as we welcome new immigrants who are kickstarting businesses all across this once dead manufacturing town.  It’s Hillary/Kaine all the way down.

But drive up the hill into Oakwood (where convicted rapist Brock Turner went to high school), and the houses get bigger, the tax rate jumps up, and it’s white folks on every corner. When you see someone not white, it’s likely they are being pulled over by police (dead serious. They are THOSE kinds of police). Oakwood is that kind of place. And, predictably, there at the base of the hill, you start to see the signs for the Republican candidate pop up. It always reaffirms my insistence on not living in Oakwood.

We have representatives from every Dem group imaginable coming to our door every day now, reminding us to vote. I tell my spouse to just stop answering the door, but he is endlessly polite. I joke often that I think he’s secretly Canadian. We vote every time at a church up the street. At this point, I’ll likely just be voting Dem all the way down, and approving every single measure that requires us to pay more taxes to fund more services. Voting in Ohio takes on an extra urgency that I never felt in any other election. The first presidential election I could vote in was in Alaska, the infamous Gore/Bush darkest timeline Florida recount Jeb Bush calling the state for his brother crazy times. Even knowing that Alaska would go red, I voted (it always goes red. Tho I’ll note that right now it has a 1/3 chance to swing to Hillary this time, which is wild).

Voting for Obama both times was a far more satisfying experience. He was able to churn up positive emotions for hope and change in a way that I hadn’t seen since Regan (tho it turned out Regan’s “change” began the rapid dissolution of the American social services and safety nets, alas. Emotion still works). This time around all I feel is fear, which is the other side of the emotional spectrum and which does, alas, work just as well. Fear is driving all voters this election cycle: just toward different candidates.

As many have noted, this election is the Sad Puppy fiasco writ large. The media has given a voice to extremist wank because reporting extremist outrage causes reactionary outrage, which causes more extremist outrage, until we have no actual idea of what anyone really thinks in the middle. The fact that I read a lot of news and still have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on in real life is pretty fucked up. The media has become one big comment section, literally, as news stations now make entire stories out of people’s tweets and comments. The more extreme the view, the more the clicks, the more they get paid, the more skewed our view of what’s “normal” out there.

The only real I see these days, then, are in the neighborhood signs. The clear demarcation there at the bottom of the hill shows me the expected slice. The fact that I see no Republican signs downtown, but do still see Hillary signs up there in Oakwood amid the Republican ones, tells me more truth than the news. Not everyone has taken the extremist train to racist-sexist-xenophobia land.

Let’s just hope they all show up to vote the way they did at the Hugos.

Surviving an Extroverted World, Pondering the Soft Apocalypse

I hadn’t been to Europe in over ten years, so I was about due. Trips of this length have their drawbacks – costs being one, and exhaustion over the sheer logistics to get there being another. I’m pretty introverted, so navigating the astonishing mob of people en route to other places can be a nightmare.

But if you want to live life to the fullest, well.. you have to do uncomfortable things sometimes.

London is a mad, bustling place, and had the same sort of cost/benefit issues for me that NYC has. My spouse and I spent five days or so in London doing all the usual tourist things, and also managed to sneak into Pornokitsch’s launch party for The Book of the Dead, which was a fine time. I’m not going to mention folks we bumped into this trip because wrap-ups of the “I met X and X and…” variety always exclude someone, and often make me sorry for all the folks I missed. I also know that I, for one, am always saddened when I’m forgotten in someone’s wrap-up. And due to the number of folks I spoke with this trip, it’s inevitable I’ll miss someone.

Though London is fun to visit, I couldn’t survive living there in the crush of people. Small spaces filled with people are anxiety-inducing for me, even getting in seven miles a day of walking to burn off adrenaline. We did all the tourist things you’d expect – the Tower of London, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and lots and lots of time spent navigating the underground to get where we were going.

It was a relief to hop on a train to Brighton and roll up to our hotel, the Granville, which was right next door to the con hotel and half the price(!!).  After the snooty, elitist tone of the World Fantasy Convention’s communications, I expected an awkward, annoying con that actively sought to boot people out for a variety of plebian infractions. Instead, I had a lot of conversations with folks who *also* felt they were unwelcome at the con and who all said, “Fuck `em” and came anyway. So hey, we all felt unwelcome together!

1453404_10152000458346473_804623708_nThe programming descriptions were, sadly, laughable. My spouse opened up the programming book and made an exclamation of horror at the panel descriptions. “Why is Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman! – on a panel about whether or not comics are important? Is this 1975?” Pretty much all of the panel descriptions had this same tone-deaf, “We’re stuck in 1975!” vibe to them (of course, I can’t imagine a panel in 1975 saying there weren’t any women writing epic fantasy but Leigh Brackett, but I digress), so I encouraged him to just look at who was actually on the panel and decide to go based on the panelists, not the descriptions. The panelists would all just talk about what they wanted to talk about instead of the weird panel description.

For the most part, this seemed to be what happened, and most folks who attended panels seemed happy with them, even if the programming itself was a little thin (I think even ConFusion, which is a rather small con, has more programming than this WFC did).  

What saved WFC for me were the number of wonderful people in attendance. The con space itself was a labyrinth, but there was so little programming that once you’d run around it a couple of times, you could figure out the layout. I had a great time meeting new folks both at the parties and in the twisting hallways, and even got to have lunch with my Del Rey UK editor, Michael Rowley. I hadn’t had an editor lunch since 2007 when I first met Juliet Ulman after she initially bought God’s War for its prior publisher, so that was nice and “real-writer-like.”

I admit that one of the most uncomfortable parts of WFC, for me, was seeing how many people treated it expressly as a networking opportunity. I mean, yes, it is, but these folks had lists of folks they needed to meet and connect with for strategic business reasons. I felt a little overwhelmed by that, because I was mostly still at the “Oh, lovely people from Twitter I’d like to chat with, this is great!” place, and the strategic way a few writers approached the con weirded me out a little. I just like to have a good time. Maybe that’s not smart. Maybe I should be smarter. But I like making real connections instead of forced ones. It leaves off a lot of pressure.

I had a lot of people tell me they read my blog, which was nice (I’m sometimes astonished at the stats for the bigger posts, now), and one very honest young fan who said they’d read the first 100 pages of God’s War and couldn’t get into it, but they were looking forward to the epic fantasy, which looked like a book that would be much easier to get into. I admit I do hope the more reader-friendly epic will serve as a gateway drug to the God’s War books.

Though Brighton was less busy than London, Brighton was very much a work event for me, so I was very happy on Monday to hop on a train and head north to Edinburgh. The train ride was lovely, and our B&B was even lovelier. I didn’t believe there was a B&B in the world that could get 45 5-star ratings. But after staying there, I totally understand why. It’s a private home with just one room, and the owners – Stewart and Stephanie – were just lovely, wonderful people. B&B’s can be awkward, especially when you’re the only guest, but my spouse and I felt comfortable with our hosts immediately. They cooked a hot breakfast for us every morning, and their 16th century riverside house was… well, exactly what you would expect a 16th century riverside house to be. Lovely, lovely. Can’t say enough about how amazing this place was, and you should all check it out if you plan for a stay of any length in Edinburgh.

BYTBB-eCEAAnvIc

Edinburgh itself was much more my pace. We did a lot of walking – up to Edinburgh Castle, across town to the base of Arthur’s Seat (though not up it – next time!) and through many gardens and winding places. We even stopped by The Elephant House, the coffee shop where Rowling wrote Harry Potter, which has an excellent view of the castle, and did an underground tour of some old vaults. We did much of our shopping here, since I was very careful of our budget the first two-thirds of the trip. Once we got to Edinburgh and still had money, it was time to do all the gift-buying. Mostly, Edinburgh was me recharging and having a real vacation after the madness of London and socializing in Brighton. I was talking to a wonderful young woman at the Pornokitsch party in London and admitted I was an introvert, so these events were few and far between for me. Her eyes widened in disbelief and she said, “YOU’RE an introvert??”

What can I say? I’m good at faking it.

For me, social events are like theater. This was one of the greatest gifts that taking high school theater gave me: the ability to pull on the “Chatty author” role and step into it, like stepping onto a stage, and then step out of it to go recover afterwards. I’m severely introverted in a way my spouse is not, so it was interesting to go back to our room and compare notes after social events. I tend to obsessively go over interactions afterward and figure out how I could do better or prepare better for them afterwards, and flog myself for every mis-handled communication. My spouse can just go in and be himself and have a good time. I try not to self-censor when I’m in a conversation – I basically just pull down my filter and resort to loud and friendly – but afterwards I pick over things obsessively. Perhaps this is not entirely normal, and I did start to wonder if maybe I had some severe social phobia because I’d been so anxious and exhausted the whole trip. But then we ran off to Edinburgh where the crowds were gone and the pace was slower, and I found myself totally relaxed. I think that sometimes we think that it’s we who are broken when it’s simply that the pace of life, perhaps, that we find ourselves in just does not suit our temperament. Sometimes it’s not us that’s broken, it’s the environment. I am simply much better suited to a rural pace of life and smaller parties.

But America, in particular, celebrates extroversion and it’s extroverted people who get ahead. I figured this out early on, and I’ve had to work out how to step into it when I need to in order to succeed in any way. Alcohol does indeed help, as it dampens the obsessive over-analyzing, but I’m capped at 3-4 glasses at a time due to my illness, so I can’t have a roaring good drunken time quite like a used to.

Pushing extroversion, however, isn’t necessarily a good thing, because different types of jobs require different skill sets. One disastrous example is when they moved away from hiring introverted, analytical, conservative folks to give loans and manage money at the big banks and instead hired on extroverted, risk-taking, exuberant sales folks. The implosion of the US’s financial infrastructure was only a matter of time. Sales folks are great at many things – but taking the long view and weighing long-term risk generally isn’t one of them.

Most writers tend to lean toward introversion (though I certainly know a few who are very outgoing) because being quiet and observing the world, then making sense of it, tends to be a skill that goes along with wanting to step away from people. It’s harder to catalogue an event when you’re inside it. Being able to step away and make sense of it is a gift.

Our trip back to the US ended up being much better than the trip in. We had a rollicking train ride back in from Edinburgh where we chatted with a group of men from Glasgow headed to Newcastle for a birthday party (they brought a small liquor arsenal with them), a backpacker from DC, a student from China, a businessman from Nottingham on his way to an interview, and a couple from Kuwait who were on holiday. It was an astonishing mix of folks with really interesting stories, coaxed out of them (and us) by the backpacker from DC.

It was this surreal mix of wonderful company that symbolized the trip best for me. My spouse had never been overseas, and he’d come back from parties in Brighton and say, “I talked to someone from Finland, and Russia, and Scotland and Italy… all at the same table! That would never happen in the US.” This trip was wonderful for the epic mix of folks – the fascinating conversations, the different perspectives. We get so stuck in the US, so wrapped up in our own bullshit, that it’s easy to forget there’s a whole other world out there, one with different expectations and experiences. There’s a world much better than the one we have, a world on a different track.

Tricia Sullivan said something very interesting at the Apocalypse panel at the con, and to paraphrase, it was something like: When we talk about apocalypse what we’re talking about is the end of a very specific kind of living. It’s the end of the nine-to-five commute to an office where we sit for eight hours every day, and pick up our groceries at the corner store. But it’s the end of the world for only a very small subset of folks. When our little version of what we consider civilization crumbles, millions of people will simply go on living the way they always have.

And it reminded me that as the US slides into despair and infighting, as the US’s influence continues to recede and our infrastructure crumbles, well… the rest of the world will continue on. Because they invested in other things. Because they saw a different future. Because they’re building something different. And that heartened me. The collapse of one thing just means the rise of something else. Societies need to be able to adapt to change. The ones that do it best will thrive. The ones that don’t: won’t.

And on that chipper note, I’m going to get back to writing my Umayma noir book. Because there’s nothing more inspiring to a writer than not writing for a few weeks.

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Hiding About, With Bonus Creatures

Have gotten more done on new book in three days than I have in four weeks, which I suppose is the sign of any good writing retreat. I’m somewhere in North Carolina, enjoying very Pacific-Northwest-like weather. I also have limited access to wi-fi (mostly self-monitored, but the wi-fi really is kinda spotty), hence the radio silence.

Also, they have these crabs here. Enjoy some crabs.

Having a Baby…

Me: Just one more push! We’ve just got one more!

Steph: YOU SAID THAT THE LAST FIVE TIMES!!!!!!!!!

Me: I meant, one more in this set.

Because baby-birthing is the ultimate total fitness workout.

Oh, How I Love Thee….

J. and I have nearly finished the first full season of Farscape. Last night, he looked up some actors on IMDB to see what else they’d done, then came back into our room and said, deadpan, “Did you know that most of the actors are Australian?”

Oh, J….

Moving Daze

The move to the new digs is beginning. We pick up the keys next weekend, and have started packing today. Or, in my case, cleaning up all the fucking stacks of paper in my room to *prepare* for moving. Figure we’ll get keys next Saturday, spend Saturday cleaning the place up, Saturday night and Sunday moving smaller boxes, and then do an official move-in weekend March 6th.

We decided to do this mainly to cut down on utility costs, since we’ll be paying for both places during March. Better to clean out the big house, jack it down to 50 and stop running the space heaters, and jack up the other house to 65 and sign up for budget billing, which is $100 per month (last month’s gas bill for this house was a whopping $371).

So… here goes.

Back in the PNW

I’m back in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) for my grandmother’s funeral this weekend. I’d have much preferred being back in the PNW on a happier occasion, but since I’m here, I’m trying to make the best of it.

The air here is different, did you know that? Clear and clean; tinged with evergreen. I love it. I miss it. I miss the big trees and the water and the 40-50 degree “winter” weather. I miss eating fresh fish.

I do not, however, miss the cost of living.  I stood in the grocery store this afternoon suffering from quite literal sticker shock. Stuff here was often $1-2 more than I would have paid back in OH. Gas was 30 cents a gallon more expensive. But you know what? Folks are a lot more friendly. And they know how to drive as if there may actually be other human beings in those big hucks of metal they share the road with.

I’m sitting in bed now with the window open, listening to the frogs in my parents’ pond out back gettin’ on their early-spring song in the otherwise silent night, and man… I do love the PNW.

But who can afford to live here?

In any case, here’s a picture of my niece, Kaylee, who is training to be a carpenter or perhaps an engineer, as you can see from how skillfully she removed this slat from one of the kitchen chairs. I anticipate getting her some overalls with a teddy bear patch at some point.

With a career like that in her future, she will have no trouble getting along in the PNW!