08 Oct


Along the way of writing A Gift of Grace, I had an idea that raised the stakes, which I approved of, and so I intended to use it. I’m finally at the point where I need to write it and it doesn’t have a secure foundation. That means I should go back and write that secure foundation in, but the very thought makes me want to stab myself. Hari-kari? Was that the ritual suicide that involved ripping open your guts? I should go look it up, but I refuse to succumb to the lure of random internet research today.

I’ve been working on this book for almost a year now — I started it as last year’s NaNoWriMo — and I am not going to start revising it until a first draft is finished, even if my draft readers are going “huh? what? where did that come from?”

I also realized yesterday that an element of the story that was always clear to me is never once explained to the reader. It is a bit much to expect the reader to read my mind, and so that also makes me want to go back and revise. But no. No, no, no.

This is the question I’ve been stewing over and this is the decision made. But the process of fretting about whether I should revise made me think about the word “stew” when it equals worry. It suggests that worry is a process of cooking, as if there’s heat to the idea of worrying. Not a lot of heat, not a boil, but a low heat.

When I was working on becoming a therapist, the kind of therapy I wanted to practice was called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. One of the things I liked about ACT is that it teaches techniques that… well, felt more in line with my experience of the world. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is probably the most commonly-used type of therapy today, teaches people to look at their thoughts, logically analyze them, and reject the bad ones. So if you’re feeling self-loathing, a CBT approach would be to look at the good that you’ve done in the world, the people that care about you, and remind yourself that you’re a good person who is loved.

It does not work for me. My thoughts are great at telling me that I’m fine, but my feelings let me know that actually, I’m just lying and not very convincingly. I can think as loudly as I like, as positively as I like, but it doesn’t change the underlying feelings. ACT instead says, yep, that’s a feeling, embrace it, this is the way you feel, and now move on, what can you DO that will help you feel better? Not what will you think, because thinking isn’t the problem, but what action will you take? And in that “embrace the feeling” stage, there are exercises to do, specific techniques to let yourself experience pain, feel it, and let it go. You don’t do the exercises to escape from the pain (known as experiential avoidance in ACT and considered not helpful) but to allow yourself to feel the pain. Anyway, after turning this into a very long story, I’ve decided to work on developing a stewing exercise, where I let myself ruminate and worry, in fact focus on my worrying instead of trying to escape from it, while I visualize my worries slowly cooking and breaking down. Worry stew. Maybe not delicious, but the imagery is so satisfying somehow.

My second reason for thinking about stew is that CostCo had fresh cranberries yesterday and so I bought meat to make stew. (This seems like a non sequiteur but cranberries are a fantastic ingredient in beef stew — they add a delicious tang and a beautiful color.) This morning I realized that for various reasons, namely a commitment to make pot roast on Sunday, I should either make my stew today or freeze the ingredients until sometime next week. But eh. I was not in the mood. So I made a lazy stew — no flouring and browning the meat, no deglazing the pan with red wine, no fancy stuff, just throwing some raw ingredients in the crockpot and hoping for the best. Ingredients: carrot, parsnip, celery, onion, three cloves of garlic (peeled, but not crushed), dried parsley, dried rosemary, fresh cilantro, salt, 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, 2/3 cup of chicken broth, stew meat. I’ll add the cranberries about an hour before I want to eat. If it works, I’ll be pleased, because it seriously cuts stew-making time and effort down to… well, I had everything in the crockpot before 8AM, with time to eat leftover coconut curry seafood stew for breakfast and still be at my computer by 8. Fingers crossed that lazy stew tastes good, though. I will be seriously annoyed with myself if I’ve wasted my stew meat with something that I don’t like enough to eat for three days.

05 Oct

Worry, worry, worry

I hit a point in my writing over the weekend where I couldn’t remember what I’d already said, so I had to go back and reread what I’d already written. It was a good reminder to me to relax. I spend so much time picking at individual words these days. Twisting and turning sentences. Asking myself if the characters are working, if I’m being too repetitive, if my backstory is too much, if I need to include more action in patches of dialog.

And then I reread it and its funny and entertaining and if it’s sort of annoying that I’ve written 20,000 words in which nothing much has happened… well, they’re still 20,000 entertaining words. So maybe this will be a story in which nothing much ever happens. Things will not happen in an entertaining and highly readable sort of way, so maybe that’s good enough?

I’m determined to go to yoga today (it’s been a while because I have been not well and struggling), so I thought I’d write a blog post instead of writing my book, but even just writing about writing my book makes me want to go back to writing that. Nothing is happening, but it is amusing me. So enough blogging, time for a 30 minute writing sprint. Wish me luck!

02 Oct

Autumn arriving

It felt like fall today, so I made myself winter food for breakfast: veggie hash, which is basically just whatever veggies I have available, chopped up reasonably small (for fast cooking) and sauteed, with some protein source mixed in. Today, it was acorn squash, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, bok choy, and red onion with bacon. Some spices — garlic-salt and ginger — while cooking. At the last minute, I added half an avocado because I had two that are ripe. Wow, the avocado just made it. It added a touch of cool creaminess, but the heat of the veggies was enough to soften it, so all the veggies became lightly avocado-flavored. That sounds weird, but it was delicious.

In the last four days, I have edited 150,000 words. (Mostly not my own words.) I am seriously wiped out. Editing is such focused work. But I enjoyed it. Most of all, I enjoyed going over to a friend’s last night for our weekly writing get-together and getting to be back in my own world again. Spending my day hours editing made my evening hours of writing all the better.

I haven’t thought much about editing as what I should be doing to make money while I write for fun, but now I’m considering the idea. I thought I was so burned out on editing that I would never go back, but… well, I don’t know. Maybe.

Yesterday, first day of October, I stretched my lunch break to two hours so that I could spend one of them floating in the pool and reading a book. I think this is the first time that I’ve still been swimming regularly as October begins. This year I saw maybe two love bugs, that was it. Usually by now we’re infested with them. Maybe the summer was too wet? But I’m grateful for the last lingering days of enjoying the water.

This feels like a very boring blog post, but I’ve got a bunch of businesslike things to do — making a new box set, pulling The Spirits of Christmas from non-Amazon sites, downloading a translation, writing a book description and a forward — and I’m feeling so fried from the editing that I’m avoiding all those things. Plus, avocado in veggie hash & swimming in October are things I want to remember, and blogging works that way for me. But back to work I go…

27 Sep

SF:SE 2015

I spent my weekend at the Speculative Fiction Southeast convention, which I found out about just a couple of weeks ago.

I think this was the first year for this convention, but I hope it won’t be the last. It was tiny, but I loved the focus. After spending a decade going to many, many conferences/conventions — I usually did between 3-6 a year, ranging from the enormous (Macworld, SXSW) to the tight knit — I’m a little cynical about them. It’s so easy to go to a con and get all inspired and equally exhausted and then a week later, life’s back to normal and everything that you were inspired to do is just a distant memory. Although, ha, I just remembered that I started this blog at a conference one year. SXSW, I think it was. Oi, that was a long time ago.

At any rate, this con was fun. Interesting people, good conversations, and sessions on subjects that I am actually interested in. I did find one session on publishing modes to be acutely painful — it is surprisingly close to torture for me to sit still in a room where someone is giving information that is (IMO) horrendously bad. I had to put my hands over my mouth at one point to stop myself from objecting and I finally did raise my hand and say something, but it was frustrating that the panel didn’t have a good representative of indie publishing on it.

Also frustrating — if you’re going to change the rooms where people are presenting, why not put a sign up? Sure, technical difficulties happen, but tape, paper, a marker, and you don’t have people sitting around wondering why no one is showing up.

But I don’t want to complain too much. It was fun, a worthwhile investment of both time and money (although I’m going to guess that they’re horrifyingly in the red — there’s no way they had enough attendees to cover the expenses of so many conferences rooms, even if they got a great deal), and I do hope they come back next year.

Favorite info: Orson Scott Card’s rant about first person narration, which completely validated my own feelings about first person pov.

Favorite experience: Funnily enough, Maria Snyder’s sister shares my sister’s name and birthday! That was an extraordinarily random connection, but it will make a very nice story when I give my sister her birthday present next week. (And yeah, it’s a little complacent of me to assume that she’s not going to read this post and have her present spoiled, but I feel safe.)

I wish I could say that the conference inspired me writing-wise, but… not so much. I did not come home with story ideas pouring out of my ears. I wrote a couple paragraphs last night just to keep the story going, but I don’t think that’s going to happen tonight. So it goes.

22 Sep

Bookmark giveaway addresses

April, Patty, Kristin, and Janet — please email me your addresses (to sarah at sarahwynde-dot-com) so I can send you bookmarks! Yes, that’s four instead of three, so one of you won’t be getting A Gift of Ghosts bookmark, but really, choosing one person to not get a bookmark is well beyond my abilities.

Fortunately, the bookmark for The Wedding Guests is also super-pretty, so I hope whoever gets that one is happy with it, too.

Thank you all for doing good deeds!

13 Sep

Lazy Sunday

I have a sore throat. I’m trying to convince myself that it’s allergy-related, and it could be, but suspecting that it’s my own damn fault does not make me feel any less sorry for myself.

Nor, unfortunately, does it make me any more inclined to avoid the foods that I’m allergic to. Cheese & chocolate are worth a little suffering. If it wasn’t Sunday, I’d head over to Trader Joe’s, in fact, to buy fresh rice noodles to make myself the most delicious crab pasta dish — crab sauteed in browned butter (allergen!), with lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice, white wine (allergen!), lots of cilantro, and served over rice (allergen!) noodles. I made that recipe up last week when my friend S sent me a couple of cans of Dungeness crab meat and it was so good that I’m still thinking about it.

But I also know that a year into my AIP experience, I’ve gotten so cavalier that I’m losing the health benefits I gained. Pain influences my choices too many days lately. Would I be more inclined to write today if my throat and hands didn’t hurt? Maybe. Maybe I’ll go eat some sauerkraut and convince myself that it has enough virtue to balance out the goat cheese.

Apart from the sore throat, aches-and-pains, it’s a grey, rainy, bleak day, further reason to think browsing the internet and/or watching television and/or reading bits and pieces of old books is more appealing than writing. My usual techniques for being productive on grey days all revolve around caffeine (not AIP-friendly, of course) and sugar (ditto). And I am abruptly reminded that I drank a real latte — a pumpkin spice latte, in fact! — on Friday, which is a whole bunch of real dairy. That’s sort of comforting, since it means I might still be able to continue including goat cheese in my diet as long as I avoid cow milk. It was delicious, and maybe even worth it.

Friday was actually a spectacular day after I got over being gloomy about the state of the world. I got Z a new pink basketball at Target (and myself a pumpkin spice latte and a pair of capri jeans for $7.50) and we spent the afternoon in the pool. Much splashing & floating, much throwing of the ball, much, much sun. I wish I knew how to capture the memory of that day in a way that could really replicate the physical sensations of my love for my dogs, the affection and joy and happiness of playing with them when the sun sparkles on the water and the water itself is pure smooth comfort on my skin. A writer ought to be able to, but I suspect when I reread this two years from now or whenever, I’ll think — huh, must have been a nice day with the dogs — without really having the slightest recollection of what the day was like.

But B does these little tentative jumps into the pool these days — he wants his front paws on my shoulder before he’ll step into the pool, and then once in the water, he swims delicate little circles around me, always returning to sit on my arm, and then paddles straight on to the steps and out. He’s baby weight — 14 pounds — and it reminds me of those long-gone days of taking toddler R into the water, always alert. On Friday, it was so warm that he didn’t bother to immediately rush to roll himself dry, just wandered around wet until the next time he wanted to come in again. And bark, bark, bark if I go under. I think he’d really prefer it if I only ever stood, never swam, in the water.

And Z was so happy about her new ball. Her doggie smile, open-mouthed and panting, tongue hanging out, while she stands on the steps of the pool and watches the ball float away from her is the purest, clearest, most joyful expression. I wonder if I have a picture. Well, this is from the beach two years ago, but it’s as close as I can come. Doggie joy.

Zelda at the beach

11 Sep

Commemorating 9/11

Today is the National Day of Service and Remembrance. I didn’t actually know that, until I went looking for something I’d heard on the radio about doing a good deed on September 11th as a way of acknowledging the day, but apparently it’s very official, federally recognized and everything. Forbes has a story about it, if you want more info.

For me, commemorating through remembering and memorializing comes a little too close to wallowing, not because the tragedy affected me personally but because it was so overwhelming at the time and maybe also because I’m a pragmatist. I could light a candle and say a prayer, and maybe I will, but what good does that do anyone? Especially right now while hundreds of thousands of desperate people are fleeing the middle east. It doesn’t exactly feel like we’ve come a long way in the past 14 years, or if we have, maybe it was in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, Patrick Rothfuss has given me a better outlet for my need to remember the day. Doing What We Can is surely better than doing nothing, especially today. I’ve never felt so grateful to donate money, to have the opportunity to say, yes, I am not quite helpless in the face of the world’s horrors. Pretty much helpless, but not entirely.

Anyway, today is also World Suicide Prevention Day, which seems sort of like terrible timing on their part. I would think the date’s other significance would get in the way of getting much attention. Although, I don’t know, it is a depressing day, so maybe they figured now was a time when people needed to be reminded that the world is not always as bleak as it seems?

In that spirit, I’ve decided to give away the pretty beaded bookmarks that I got to celebrate 250,000 downloads of A Gift of Ghosts. I meant to do one of those serious Rafflecopter things with them — tweeting and liking pages and all that jazz — but eh, that does not inspire me. This does. If you donate to Worldbuilders and/or suicide prevention and/or do some other good deed today and share it in the comments to this post, either on Facebook or on my blog, I’ll enter you to win one of three bookmarks. I don’t get a lot of traffic, so your odds are pretty good, and the bookmarks are lovely. (This is not the world’s best picture, but it gives you the idea, I hope.)

2015-06-14 09.29.08

Plus, even better, you too will get to know that in a world that sometimes seems impossibly dark, you’ve chosen to be a little tiny flicker of light. That doesn’t feel like enough, but you can never tell which spark will light a fire. Maybe it’ll be yours.

02 Sep


Once upon a time, I started this blog to write about dyslexia and learning disabilities. At the moment when I discovered blogging, my whole life was pretty much about being the parent of a kid who had been diagnosed as severely learning disabled.

I never did write about that much.

It’s not that it didn’t affect my life. All of the choices that I made between 2004 and 2013 or so were about what I thought was best for R. Sometimes those choices were really hard. Leaving California — well, I don’t know how many people can really appreciate what it’s like to say that the number one priority in your life, the thing everything else gets subsumed to, is that your kid learn to read. Moving across the country wasn’t easy, but I couldn’t afford the kind of intensive private school that I felt he needed in CA, and I could afford it in FL. It wasn’t an easy decision. I did it anyway.

And making choices that your kid hates — well, that’s not a ton of fun, either. I will never forget the bitterness in his voice when eleven-year-old R told me that people come to Florida to die and asked me how soon I expected that end for him. I mean, I do have to laugh at the memory, but it was pretty darn harsh at the time.

R has always hated, never gentled into, his diagnosis. I can’t blame him — some of the early stuff around his struggle to read was just so miserable. Summer camp one year — ugh, I can’t even go there. We’ve had a bumper sticker on the car, Dyslexics Have More FNU, since 2004, and yet that has always been plainly not true. Also slightly annoying because “fnu” shows dyslexia in its reality but “FNU” does not. Lower-case u and lower-case n are, in fact, the same letter to a true dyslexic because the difference between them is insignificant in three dimensions and yet the same can not be said of N and U. The person who typed the bumper sticker didn’t get it, but hey, I was desperate for a little positivity at the time, so I didn’t argue.

Anyway, last year (hey, this story really is getting somewhere, who knew?), R applied for a scholarship for students with learning disabilities. He discovered it himself, did the work to apply for it, got recommendations from teachers, contacted me to send his test scores to the disabilities coordinator at his school, did the whole thing. I was so proud of him. He’s been tested multiple times over the course of the past decade and every time the results have been the same — wow, this is a seriously bright kid with some severe issues. And you know, when you are that kid, that result kind of sucks.

He… I wouldn’t say he hides it, but he definitely doesn’t talk about it and when I tried to get him to be proactive about working with his college for accommodations, he totally shot me down. Legally, his level of disability entitles him (or at least did in the past) to audio books and I’m sure he could get any accommodation he wanted — more time on tests, an aide to read to him, whatever — he’s got the history and scores to support that. (I’d been warned about how difficult it would be to get him help but literally, on his first IEP, he qualified for an aide in the classroom — that’s how significant his issues were.) He didn’t want any of that and didn’t use any of it.

But he did apply for this scholarship.

We didn’t hear anything. Nothing, nothing, more nothing. Until today.

And it’s weird to talk about money in public and so I’m not going to, but… they gave him our contribution for the year, or close to it. And… I am so incredibly proud of him. I don’t even… it’s not just about the money, although the money is fantastic. Beyond fantastic. But it’s about self-acceptance, about finding the positive side of something that sucks, about making the best of your weaknesses, about compensating… I don’t even know. I do know that I’m super tearful, which is probably silly, but also that this is the reason I have a blog, to save this memory, because ten years from now, I have no idea what book thing might or might not be important, but I do know that remembering this incredibly surreal combination of delight and pride and … well, more pride… it’s going to be the day that I want to remember in 2025.

Way back in 2004, an educational psychologist said to me that it would be okay if R never learned to read, that he was fortunate to live in an age when technology could compensate, and I smiled politely and thought privately, my kid is going to read if I have to sell my soul to make it so. Because I want him to have the joy I’ve had in books more than anything else I could give him. Over the years, I’ve had to figure out that okay, maybe books aren’t the whole universe. Maybe it’s okay if he gets story through television or games instead of text. Maybe it’s okay if he doesn’t love to read. But here we are — and he does love to read. And although he’s still dyslexic to the core, it isn’t stopping him from busily confronting gender inequality in academia and studying medieval Italian city states.

I am so proud of him.

Salad of the day: totally luxe. Mixed greens with dates, goat cheese, pecans, smoked trout and balsamic vinegar. Creamy, crunchy, sweet, tangy, salty. Perfection. Except for the part about me needing to eat less sugar, less dairy, and no nuts. Sigh.

01 Sep


Two random stories are percolating* in my brain today, doing that coffee bean and hot water thing where alone each story is what it is but together maybe they make something better, maybe even something caffeinated and delicious.

*Percolating felt like a thesaurus word, the kind of thing I come up with when I’m over-tired and trying too hard, but in fact, in this case, I really mean it. These two stories are turning into coffee in my brain.

The first was Is $500,000 the new midlist? from Rachel Aaron. I know that it’s meant to be inspirational, that it’s meant to drive writers to believe that we can make it, too, that a living wage (plus a whole lot more!) is within our grasp, but… well, I found it depressing.

A short and personal digression: this weekend I had a lovely lunch with R. He has ruled out a semester abroad for his junior year because it will cost too much, making the third time recently where we’ve had a conversation about money where it’s clear that he’s worrying a lot. I said to him, “I could get a real job again,” to which he said, more or less, “No, this is my choice, I’m not willing to spend that much money for that experience,” but this perhaps explains part of why discovering that I’m nowhere close to the “new midlist” was more depressing than inspiring.

The second story showed up on my tumblr feed, and I’ve seen it before, but somehow today it clicked. It’s a parable about quantity vs quality, generally sourced to a book called Art and Fear. I haven’t read the book, although clearly I should, but the short version of the story is that a ceramics instructor splits the class into two groups. One group is being graded on the quantity of their work; the other half is being graded on the quality. At the end of the semester, the best work doesn’t come from the people focusing on quality but on those focusing on quantity. They produced more work and sure, maybe their first ten pots weren’t as good as the single pot created by the quality-oriented students, but their hundredth pot was distinctly better. That’s paraphrased, but the rough idea.

So my coffee thought — I need to go back to writing fast and letting go, the way I did when I was writing fanfiction. Not because I want to deliver dreck into the universe but because I have two goals and those goals — well, they’re the coffee. My first goal is still to improve, to become a better writer, but I need to believe that I’ll improve faster purely by writing more words. The second goal is to be able to learn a living at this, which also means writing faster. The new midlist author has published 12 books in her three years, compared to my three.

Now the question becomes — how do I do that? The first step, I think, should be starting to post my daily work on fictionpress again. It’s not going to be polished, it’s going to be the first outpourings, the 1000 words that circle around what I want to say and fumble toward some action, where the characters babble on and digress and weave back-and-forth. But that’s okay, because the more words I write, the more I learn, and the better the stories become, one way or another.

Yesterday’s breakfast: spinach salad, with chopped-up Gala apple, slices of chicken sausage, roasted brussels sprouts, and shredded Irish white cheddar cheese, topped with balsamic vinegar. I’m paying the price for the cheese in congestion today, but it was worth it.

29 Aug

Marketing hate

I have a thing to do. A very straightforward thing, really. I so don’t want to do it. So much so that even thinking about it makes me flee from my computer.

So Amazon has sort of changed the way that they format book info, making the info put into Author Central far more important than it used to be. The basic marketing blurb that one writes (with pain and difficulty, if one is me) gets hidden and requires a click for the reader to see in its entirety, while the Editorial Reviews section is much more visible.

The smart author — eh, it doesn’t even require smarts, it’s pretty basic Marketing 101 — therefore needs to put some info into Author Central in order to have it show up on their book page. (Grammar alert: I am choosing to use the plural pronoun as a gender-neutral pronoun, even though it causes me to cringe in editorial dismay. I’ll get used to it eventually and the world needs gender-neutral pronouns.) Ergo, I should do that. It’s really not hard — read some reviews, pick out some nice statements that people have said, perhaps write to said people and ask their permission if that’s possible, and copy-and-paste the info into Author Central. Within a couple of days, it shows up on the book page.



Trivial, in fact.

It requires me to read reviews. I don’t want to. I don’t like reading reviews. I like that they exist — I think it’s lovely that I’ve written things that other people have wanted to comment on, whether good or bad (although good is nicer, of course.) But reading them makes me feel exposed and raw and vulnerable, none of which are feelings that I enjoy, and so…

I can do this. Right? My goal for the day: to add content to the Author Central pages for my books. It’ll be pretty obvious if I succeed or not, since it’ll show up on the book pages, but since even thinking about it makes me want to clean my kitchen, take out the trash, do some laundry, and wash my hair… well, we’ll see.

In other writing news, yesterday was a zero-word day, so today is going to be better. In general, though, throwing out my plot and starting over has been good for me. I think the lesson I need to learn is that I’m not a plotter. The story works best for me when it heads off in its own direction. This one is doing that. I’m very much liking Grace. I thought I knew who she was and I mostly did, but she has more of a sense of humor than I realized before getting into her head. She’s the “good daughter,” but not because she feels the need to please people. She’s much more about taking care of people that she privately thinks are a little too incompetent to take care of themselves, and her family amuses her a lot more than I expected them to.

I’m not going to make myself do the Author Central thing before writing, because I suspect it would be more likely to mean no writing. Ugh, but I do need to figure out how to make myself do it. Bribery? Wine? Some type of reward? Some type of punishment for failure? Maybe an alert on my phone to go off every hour until it’s done… I wonder what I’d come up with after I’d been waking myself up for 36 hours in a row?

I think I’ll flee the computer for a while and think about this later!

%d bloggers like this: