So I’ve been glassy-eyed with mild fever for a few days, aching all over, and with a nose not as full of snot as it could be. It took my writing partner saying, “Maybe it’s flu?” for me to figure out that perhaps, yes, some sort of virus. Great. Just wonderful.

What the hell? I hate being sick. I don’t have time. I have climbing to do, running to get out of the way six days a week, revisions packed tight for the next six months and oh yes, two books to write in the next six months too. (Well, six to ten months. STILL.) My immune system needs to get on the stick, for heaven’s sake.

Let’s see, what can I report? Copyedits for the first Bannon & Clare were finally bled dry and sent in a neat package back to the editor today. The Little Prince has expressed a desire to take karate classes. (This is going to be fun.) I am still addicted to Glitch. (Also fun.) It’s concert season for the Princess’s choir. (Oh God.) Plus, I am eying the upcoming holidays the way a mongoose eyes a cobra she’s not quite sure she’s big enough to bite to death. (I could write about why my childhood makes me view holidays as poisonous, but that would take more energy than I have today.) Oh, and one of those books I have to write? Deals with plague. OH, THE IRONY.

I know I should write the last half of the Battle of Pelennor Sunroom. It’s just…release hath followed upon release, and I went on an Internet semi-fast for a little bit. Just didn’t have the bandwidth, plus, it is my firm belief that a writer should not respond to reviews, and if one cannot keep one’s mouth shut it is best and easiest just not to look. This is the same principle I avoid watching television on.

On the other hand, the smell of autumn and falling leaves does not disturb me nearly as much as it has in years past. The Moon last night smiled down at me as I jaunted out to the rubbish bin, and it struck me that at this time two years ago, I was just barely afloat; a year ago I was healing but still fragile. The faith that time will heal a wound or two is a fragile thing, and cold comfort at best, but it kept me going during the dark times. (Along with a healthy dose of tough love from my Chosen Family.) It is always a shock to look back and see how far one has come.

Now if I could just kick this virus in its snot-soaked, irritating little nads and send it crying away, I’d be all set.

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It’s Friday! And Ilona Andrews has pictures up from our recent Powells Pwnage. You can see me looking slightly-less-terrified, and Devon is always beautiful. Also, I promised to announce the winner of the RECKONING contest. The winner is…

Reader Heidi F. from Eichenau, Bavaria, in Germany! Heidi, I will get your prize to you as soon as possible. (She gets to read a chapter of RECKONING before anyone else in the world, aside from my agent and editor. Lucky lady!)

Thank you to everyone who entered by pre-ordering signed books from Powell’s. And thanks to all the wonderful Readers who came to the event! We had a great time.

Today is nice and sunny, and I’m due out at the track for a couple miles before long. I even got a watch that’s supposed to help me track my times, but in order for it to do so I must:

1. Remember to wear said watch
2. Hope that the battery in it doesn’t give out within the week, like every other watch I’ve tried to wear
3. Remember to check the watch while running
4. Decode what the watch says while running
5. Do basic math to figure out my speed…while running

Needless to say, I am not sanguine about this. Normally, while hauling my silly ass along at anything faster than an amble, my higher-brain functions pretty much shut down in protest. So, there it is. I’ll report back next week. If I don’t trip over my feet and hurt myself trying to check the watch. Which would be embarrassing, but not exactly surprising.

Catch you later…

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Regular readers will have noticed that certain things haven’t been mentioned here at Casa Saintcrow for a couple years. They will also have noticed that for the last year or so I’ve been working pretty hard on some personal, private stuff, and that I’ve largely retreated from talking about any aspect of my life that isn’t “professional” or “worth a good belly laugh but in the end, not very revealing”. (Yes, SquirrelTerror, I’m looking at you.) My level of stress has been abominable, but I haven’t felt comfortable talking about it until certain things happened. Now I can finally say out loud now the Reason For All That.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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I felt okay until about noon yesterday, when WHOMP! This damn virus descended on me. I’m producing all sorts of phlegm in varied rainbow colors. I’m sure I’m spreading the contagion over everything in my vicinity. I was tired and waspish yesterday, as my writing partner found out. (Sorry about that, kiddo.)

Anyway, there’s very little to report. I sent off a short story and am editing Something Sekrit. I do have Very Good News, but I can’t announce it until everything’s all wrapped. Plus, I still have to write about the squirrels, the gulls, and the CornPops war. I have to wait until I can breathe, because just thinking about it makes me laugh.

I did manage to get out and purchase a “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder. It has a sort of wire cage around the tube holding the seed, and when a squirrel gets on it the cage slides down, barring it from getting any noms. (Almost like this guy, but more decorative.) We’ll see how this works out. If all else fails, it should at least be hysterically funny. I kind of dread one of the little rodents getting a paw caught in it or something, though. Because let’s face it, these squirrels would be the ones to do so. Especially Neo. He’s having some bad luck lately.

ANYWAY, while I was purchasing this wondrous object, I also picked up twenty pounds of birdseed. (What? I like to be prepared. It was on SALE.) Then I turned around…and saw it.


Can you believe that? I’ll say it again.


People pay money for this.

I stood there in the Fred Meyer aisle for at least twenty long-ticking seconds, dumbstruck and staring. Three shelves of squirrel food. I cannot believe people feed these fuzzy little cat-kicking ninjas. There was a wide array, from corncobs to corncob-shaped hanging loaves of seeds and nuts, to sawdust-looking cornmeal things that are probably the Metamucil of the squirrel world. There was tons of it.

“No way,” I finally breathed.

At this point, I have to admit, I did think about buying some of the pressed seed loaves and hanging them up in the plum tree. Why? Aw, just for the lulz, maybe.

No, not for giggles. I’ll be honest. Jesus, don’t look at me like that.

AS A BRIBE, OKAY? As a kickback to the little fuzzy commandos so they won’t break my windows with peanuts or anything. But then I thought, you know, you start paying the squirrel mafia off and sooner or later they’ll start squeezing you for more.

“Oh hell no,” I muttered. Well, maybe not muttered. Maybe sort of said out loud. “No way. I’m not being held hostage by a bunch of rodents.”

I should mention that there was a lady in a red jacket at the other end of the aisle, looking at hummingbird feeders. She gave me a startled look and trundled her cart away maybe a little more quickly than was necessary.

I left the squirrel food where it was, shaking my head. All the way through the store I kept having one recurring vision–of nattily-dressed squirrel mobsters doing James Cagney sneers. “Eh, here, you see. We don’t like dat boid feedah. We like the ones that are real easy-like. But if ya wanna keep that one, sport, all you gotta do is hang up some Metamucil. We likes it, see?”

…yeah, I amuse myself all the time like this. It’s what makes me unfit for a great deal of normal life, I guess.

So. The new feeder is hanging up. The cats are agog, especially sweet dumb Tuxedo!Kitty, who crouches inside on the windowsill and keeps warbling his throaty little “ohpleaseohplease” song as the birds discover new munchables. No squirrel has attempted it yet. But I’m waiting. And as I sit here, looking out my window onto my front yard, I can see a couple bushy-tailed ninjas frolicking. They stop jumping around every once in a while to shoot me filthy looks through the window.

I have the sandal of DOOM right next to me. Let the games begin.

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I was fine until about 10:30 last night, when my stomach decided it’d had enough of hosting dinner and muscled everything out like an irritated bouncer. I’d call it food poisoning, but nobody else shows any symptoms; I’d call it a bug but I have no other symptoms; I’d call it stress but I’m remarkably unstressed for once, having had all the locks replaced and deadbolts put in. Maybe it was the release of stress, and finally feeling completely safe again?

I don’t know. I’ve officially thrown up my hands (when they’re not crossed protectively over my aching middle) and decided to just treat my stomach gently, and devil take the rest.

This didn’t stop me from my first five-mile run this morning. I got on the treadmill determined to only run as long as it felt OK, and to stop at the first twinge of not-really-all-right. Five miles later, I forced myself to stop, but my stomach kept running, revolving like a bus wheel. It just felt so good to burn everything off and keep moving, really. The only problem was when I stopped. And I do seem to have largely sweated out whatever-it-was.

I’m sure you all wanted to hear about the state of my belly. So I’ll just tell you that I’m working (between naps) on proofs for TAKEN today, as well as getting an amnesiac heroine in another lead-spraying fight, and shuffle off stage left, muttering. I had big dreams of walking down to the corner grocery for pesto today, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. It’s eleven AM and I’m beat.

See you around.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Jun. 16th, 2010 01:02 pm)

PW says paranormal isn’t dead yet. I am, of course, happy to hear this.

Here’s something that resonated strongly with me: Issendai on sick systems. Been there and done that, in retail and in relationships. I think I’ve achieved enough in the way of age and self-knowledge that I’m a little less likely to buy into it anymore. Of course, saying that is just an invitation for the Universe to whomp one upside the head. *braces self, eyes the sky suspiciously* But seriously…knowing it and naming it is a prerequisite for not falling for it. I’ve had enough of being exhausted and living with crazymaking people. I’d rather strike out on my own.

The first day of summer vacation is proceeding apace, with videogames, bicycle riding, and much relaxation for the wee ones. I remember those first few glorious days of freedom, when the entire summer stretched out in front of you, terra incognita and delicious. It does me good to see them enjoying themselves while I’m tapping at the keyboard. I don’t wish for a comparable vacation–I’d write all through it anyway. But I can live vicariously.

Climbing this morning was awesome. I tried a 5.8 I’d never tried before, and I’m starting to think with my body on the rock wall. I can’t explain it any better than that–it’s the point where your body learns what’s going on and suddenly starts moving without thought, a sort of trained instinct. It’s damn beautiful to feel. I love the solitary nature of rock climbing–even with a belayer, it’s just you and the rock face. You can’t measure yourself by anything other than yourself. For someone who hates team sports, this is as close as I’ll get to them. It helps that my regular climbing partner is incredibly supportive, and we’ve worked together enough by now that I know without a doubt exactly what she’s thinking when she’s on the wall, and vice versa. There’s something to be said for feeling the belay line tighten and knowing that your belayer has seen you’re getting tired and needing a reminder that the rope will catch you. There’s also something really nice about reaching the top of a difficult climb and hearing everyone around you cheering you on and appreciating the nature of what you’ve accomplished.

Like I said, I’m not much into team sports. But I’ll take it.

I’ve reached the last difficult point in Dru 5. It’s the point of the book where nothing seems to be working right, you’re running out of room, and the entire thing feels like crap. The only cure for it is pushing through and trusting the work to catch you, like that belay rope. Leaning back a little, looking at the holds in front of you, and knowing that it may not look like it, but you can reach the next one. You just have to go for it. If there’s one thing writing has taught me, one lesson I keep learning over and over, it’s that I can reach higher than I ever thought I could. Just going for it works out an amazing amount of the time. I suspect the Universe is built that way.

Over and out.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Jun. 3rd, 2010 10:34 am)

The Dame Smackdown is still ongoing! Remember, if I, ahem, “win”, I will be posting an excerpt of Jealousy or Heaven’s Spite. *tempty tempty*

This is going to be a post tangentially about my weight…so if you’re tired of hearing me talk about that, you’re probably better off stopping now. On the other hand, I will be tying it into writing, so it’s up to you.

I’ve (drumroll please) achieved the weight goal I set for myself lo these many months ago. (All the way back on Labor Day of 2008, I believe it was. Slow and steady…) I’ve lost between 70-80 pounds and overshot my goal of a size 14 by, let’s see, three or four sizes. Some of that was stress-related, yes. It’s been a stressful year or two. But most of it was acquiring healthier habits– watching what I ate and making exercise more of a priority. I found out halfway through that when I wasn’t miserable over crazymaking people, I didn’t want to eat to dull the misery. That revelation was accompanied by the fact that the steady work I’d been doing before then making exercise a priority actually started to pay off. Once I started seeing results, the whole world opened up, so to speak.

I’m choosing to be very proud of myself. It’s been a long, long road, but I’m glad I started, and I’m glad for everyone who supported me along the way, from my writing partner to my kids to my hairdresser friend C.

I’ve always been a big advocate of taking a brisk walk or blocking out a fight scene to shake things loose inside a story. Physical movement works very, very well for me when it comes to my creative process. The trouble was, for a very long time I hated working out–long, long story having to do with my aversion to anything resembling a team sport. I like to work alone, thank you. Now that I’ve arranged my life so that I can run on the treadmill every weekday morning, ALONE (I’m up to just over three miles again, every day), that time is some of the most productive I’ve ever had.

I’m not saying you have to run three miles or lose a good third of your bodyweight (ha ha) to have a sustainable creative career. I am saying that when you’re stuck working on a story, getting up and moving around for ten or fifteen minutes often unsticks the damn thing and gets the Muse off her couch and away from those damn bonbons. (Not so incidentally, this is another use for your trusty kitchen timer. Set it and move, and when you’re done, voila!)

We live a lot in our heads, we writers, and we tend to forget there’s a whole body carrying said head around. Getting up and getting the blood moving gives the Muse a fresh start on things. Never underestimate the power of ten jumping jacks, ten minutes shaking your booty to loud music, or a brisk ten-minute walk when characters aren’t behaving and the cursor starts blinking at you like Sauron’s Eye.

Just this morning I was brooding over a plot point, and fifteen minutes into my run–at about the first mile-mark–all of sudden the next third of the book opened up, complete with scenes and settings. It’s magic when it happens, and I spent the other two miles playing with it inside my head, fine-tuning. It was awesome. Of course, the cardio benefits aren’t bad either.

You don’t have to run flat-out. Another particular favorite of mine is putting on some music and dancing, awkwardly I’m sure, in my living room. Usually it’s a song from the “soundtrack” of the current book in progress, and it reliably shakes everything loose. I wouldn’t dance like a dork if it didn’t actually work 90% of the time.

Well, yeah, maybe I would. I’m funny that way. But I’m glad it works.

Over and out.

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Today is an overcoming-dragons type of day.

I hate driving in Portland. It’s really not Portland’s fault, even though I swear to God the streets change, especially at night. No, most of my stress comes from the fact that I rarely have access to a reliable car, so on top of the navigational stress (which I handle with the GPS that came with my cell phone, thank you God) there’s also the will-my-vehicle-blow-up-on-me stress.

Today, however, I had a reliable car (thanks to Subaru Shawn, who rocks) and the GPS, and plenty of time. So I made it out to the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s–remember, I’m going to be there on May 25th, signing with Ilona Andrews and Devon Monk–and, to put whipped cream and a cherry on the whole day, I navigated successfully to Deek & Bryan’s Next Adventure for climbing gear.

It was worth trying to find parking around Grand Avenue in the middle of the day, because the staff are so helpful and nice. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone having a bad experience there. Once I found the climbing section and actually opened my mouth to ask questions (sports supply stores always make me feel lazy and underachieving and shy) I got the help of a very nice young man who took me patiently through buying my first pair of climbing shoes and my very first harness. (My one moment of caviling? “No flowers on the harness, please. Just…no flowers. I’m not a flower type of girl. Unless it’s a flesh-eating monster flower…oh my God, did I just say that out loud?”) I didn’t catch the young man’s name, but his mother must be very proud of him.

Now I’m home and I’ve bolted lunch and I have to get dear, sweet, stubborn Dru in more trouble. I feel refreshed and renewed, instead of wrung-out and panicked. Which is a big change. A reliable vehicle does indeed make all the difference. I know, it sounds boring and pedestrian. But little by little I’m doing things I’ve never done before, and my life is getting so much better. The process of breaking out of the chrysalis proceeds apace, and it’s nice out here. It’s like all the work of the past year, and especially all the very intense work of the last six months, has suddenly started to pay off. Where before it was just a slog, now I’m seeing actual results.

I like that. I’ll keep it.

And now for chaos, panic, and vampire attacks. Catch you later, gator.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Apr. 19th, 2010 12:01 pm)

I feel like a cranky old granny today. “All you kids get off my lawn!” As I rattle my cane and glare balefully.

The weekend was busy. Fortunately, a huge personal disappointment isn’t throwing me into the slough of despond; I think I’ve reached the point where I’m actively expecting to be treated well. And when that doesn’t happen, I’m cutting my losses sooner. I used to think that if you just loved someone hard enough, everything else would work out. Now I’m slowly learning that loving someone does not have to mean sacrificing every last bit of myself only to have them disdain me in the end for being too easy.

So. This weekend there was much glee, because the couch arrived. I didn’t get a couch before now because, well, there was a lot of cleaning-up I had to do after people and seriously, I did not have time to even THINK of cleaning a couch. Now that the living space has calmed down immensely and I’m picking up after just two reasonable children instead of several over-18 children (oh, don’t even get me started on man-boys!) I felt like I could have something nice. So…I got something nice. And I spent a half-hour with a ratchet putting the sofa arms on.

It was the first time in my life I had actually used a ratchet. I felt quite, quite manly.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, but I didn’t mow the lawn. I probably should have, but it was my friend Monk’s birthday. So there was a new recipe tried for dinner, much laughing and talking, and a generally great time was had by all. Plus, Monk got to crash on the new sofa instead of the laundry pile or the air mattress I used to drag out for him to sleep on.

Sometimes it is just the little things.

The most helpful part of the weekend was reading Jennifer Crusie’s most awesome essay on protecting the work. I realized that I’ve let a lot of Life Stuff impinge on my working in the last six months. Granted, they’re the sort of life stressors, both positive and negative, that can really throw anyone for a loop. But now it’s time to buckle down and really remind myself that people who don’t value me are people I can do without, and people I don’t need to drain myself to take care of.

This is a huge realization for me. I’ve spent a lot of my life taking care of people, and it’s liberating to narrow the field to the people who I WANT to take care of instead of anyone in perceived pain I wander across. Healthier? Yes. Sometimes exhausting because I feel the pull of old bad habits? Oh, hell yes.

Which is why I think I might print out Ms. Crusie’s excellent essay and read it every day for a while. If I have to be a cranky old woman to protect my work…

…well then, I guess I’ll have to buy a cane.

See you tomorrow, dear Readers.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Apr. 12th, 2010 02:27 pm)

Oh, Monday. Just when I thought my week couldn’t get any better, you come along.

Thankfully I don’t have to visit the dentist for a while now. I mean, they’re nice people, and the nitrous is okay, but the less time I spend there the better.

I had an extraordinarily productive weekend, between tax filing, mowing the lawn (always my favorite chore, NOT) and cleaning gutters. You’d think gutters would be right up my alley. Alas, no. I loathe cleaning them. Except I put together plot architecture, mumbling under my breath while I scooped out sludge and freed up stagnant water. If that book turns out soggy, I know who to blame.

So now it’s working on that short story and waiting for my mouth to feel like it belongs to me again, while I listen to Brahms and long for a cup of coffee.

Oh, Monday. In a few hours you’ll be gone, and we’ll both be happier that way.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Dec. 18th, 2009 02:37 pm)

First, the links! An octopus who loves his Mr. Potato Head. Lauren Leto’s screamingly funny Readers By Author. And Bitten By Books is discussing the Jill Kismet series today.

And now, for the Friday post.

Not everything in my life centres around writing. It just looks that way.

I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight lately. Part of that is stress, another part of it is exercising six days a week. Also, a couple weeks ago, I picked up a book about using cognitive therapy to help normalize your relationship with food and weight. Yes, it has the word “diet” in the title. I believe it’s a fact that DIET’s first three letters are a warning. But it’s equally true that I have a messed-up relationship with food. I know cognitive therapy works for me, so I’m willing to give it a go.

Several of the exercises in this book centre around “answering sabotaging thoughts”, especially when it comes to the “it’s not fair” portion of life’s program. Yes, it’s not fair that our bodies are built to store extra against famine, and it’s not fair that during times and societies of plenty we get obese and shorten our lifespans. It’s not fair that I can’t eat the way I want, be sedentary, and be as physically fit as I want to. It’s not fair that I have to drag myself to the treadmill and that I have to write down the calorie counts of what I’m eating. It really, truly, is not fair.[1]

But that is the way it is.

One of the strategies for answering these sabotaging thoughts–because that’s what they are, they’re little saboteurs–is an index card with the words NO CHOICE printed on it. Every day, when I read my reasons for putting myself through calorie restriction and exercise, the NO CHOICE card is also there, and I read it too. If I want to become as physically fit as the goal I’ve set for myself, I don’t have a choice.

Which brings me to writing. My Friday posts are about making a living writing for publication. To me, this involves the discipline of writing every day (something I’ve caught quite a bit of flak for saying) and acting professionally and reasonably even in the face of rejection and bad reviews. It involves putting up with shifting deadlines and making the effort each day, every day. Sure, I’d rather sit up in an ivory tower and be a Speshul Snowflake, but that won’t feed the kids OR get me invited back to be published again.

There are several times during the day when that little NO CHOICE card flashes through my mind. As Dr. Beck points out, there are rules in everyone’s life. You don’t struggle or agonize over brushing your teeth, do you? (At least, I don’t. And neither do my wee ones.) It’s just the way it is.

Here’s why this is valuable: if sitting down to write every day is a rule, you don’t struggle with it. You make time to do it because it’s a priority. You have no choice. Getting into the mindset that this is important and you don’t have a choice about doing it increases your chances of getting published exponentially. Because you’re treating it seriously. If you can make time to catch that TV episode, you can make time to write every day. If you can make sure you have a latte every morning, you can make sure to write every day. Getting into the habit of considering daily writing a fait accompli is your first step.

Once you have a good solid discipline of writing every day, you can do what a lot of professionals do and take the occasional day off. Your busy little brain, in the habit of working through stories, will still be working all through your “day off”. Plus, once you have a good solid disciplined habit, it’s easier to get back into it after a holiday. But discipline is like a muscle, it must be used or it atrophies, and I have not met a single professional writer who doesn’t need to exercise that muscle and spend effort to start it back up again after a holiday.

Viewing this as a “no choice” thing frees up a lot of energy I would otherwise use bitching and moaning about it. It gives me a lot more energy to just concentrate on what I’m doing. It’s the same reason I find rollercoasters relaxing–from the moment I’m strapped in and the car jolts forward, I’m in the hands of the gods. I can’t do a single thing. It’s a submission to the inevitable, and it works for me.

So here’s my advice if you want to write for publication: get yourself an index card and write NO CHOICE on it in the biggest blackest letters you can. Read it twice a day, and really think about the things you make time for, the priorities you have. If writing is not on that list and you want it to be, do it. Just say “it’s not fair, oh well, I have no choice, I HAVE to write today.” Set your kitchen timer for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, and go to.

You’d be amazed at how those two little words–both the “oh well” and the “NO CHOICE”–open up time where you thought you had none. It’s not fair, you’re right.

But that’s the way it is, and it’s the best advice I can offer.

Keep writing.

[1]Somewhere David Bowie is snarling, “You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is.”

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This weekend I finished the revisions on Heaven’s Spite. Or more precisely, I realized that bashing at it would NOT make it better and that it needed to go live with other people for a while. So I send a reasonable first draft to my agent and editor. It feels good to have that weight off my mind. I had to ask for an extension to finish it, because I wasn’t sure I could. There’s whole chunks of it written during some of the most intense emotional pain I’ve ever felt (that’s saying something) and it was good to see that it held up while I was in a more calm and centred frame of mind.

I also got a short story into first-draft form and sent it off before deadline, freeing me up for a little bit before I have to dive again. That’s one thing about drowning one’s sorrows in work–a whole lot of stuff gets done. Things are getting better. So better, in fact, that I’m not just keeping my head above the waves. I’m actually swimming, with destinations in mind.

This is a great change. I like it. I want it to continue.

The “good” thing about a complete emotional and spiritual breakdown is that it gives you the opportunity to try new things. Break out of a rut, so to speak. After January 1, I’m going to have a lot more free time during the day. So, I’ve been making lists of things I could do–other than working, which is going to remain the constant–to utilize that free time.

The list is by no means comprehensive. But here’s a bit of it:

* Take a photography class.
* Take a pottery class.
* Get into a Krav Maga class.
* Start taking ballet again.
* Take a foreign language (probably French, again, I did four years of it in my benighted youth) and brush up on my Latin.
* Take myself out for coffee and a half-hour of pleasure reading at least once a week.
* Knit in public.
* Volunteer. Haven’t figured out where yet, but there’s a bunch of options.

Out of all of those, the one that has the most chance of happening initially is taking a Krav Maga class. I’m interested, and it will help with combat scenes. Plus, if I have any lingering anger, that’s a great place to get it out.

Then I can sign up for photography, drawing, pottery over the next few years at the community college, just take it really slow. Once my weight becomes reasonable again, ballet is an option as well. I love ballet. I love the form, the gracefulness; I always loved how I knew what was going to happen in a ballet class. First the warmup, then the barre, then the slow floor work, then the fast floor work. It doesn’t change. I appreciate that.

I might even loosen up and take other dance–hip-hop sounds fun, and maybe some more bellydance.

I also want to take some auto-mechanic courses. Find out more about cars, meet some people, get some grease on my hands. Who knows? Woodworking might be cool too.

The point I’m aiming for is: I’m over the bad part of it, and my life is really starting to open up again. It’s a good feeling to be interested in things again. I’ve spent my life being interested in pretty much everything–the world is a fascinating place. I’ve never understood people who think the world is boring. There are little miracles and opportunities to ask why all over. Sometimes I retreat to lick my wounds, true, but I’m always aware that there’s a big fascinating world out there, and that it’s just waiting for me to come dance.

Right now I’m stretching a little bit, getting my muscles ready. But soon–in less than a month–I’ll be ready to tango with the big old world again.

It’ll be nice to be back out on the floor.

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Sometimes the days when I am most productive are the days I feel like I’ve gotten nothing done, because of the sheer amount of time I’ve spent running around with my hair on fire. I guess adulthood, motherhood, and working in publishing are all like that.

So here I am with one book revised and out of the way, a short story boiling in the foreground (got to get to that before it boils over and spills something) and a ton of correspondence done. Where did the weekend go? Oh, yeah. I worked straight through it.


Still, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m supposed to be celebrating how far I’ve come over the next two weeks. Looking back I can see the changes, the peaks and valleys. There’s a long way yet to go, but for a while at least the hard part is behind me. At least I scraped along the bottom for a while, and now I can feel the lift gathering under my wings to help me back up.

I’m going to start my celebration with some leftover Indian food for lunch. And by putting on the two rings I just got. They are simple silver bands. On the inside of each is etched the simple words: I love you. They’re promise rings–and they’re a promise I’m making to myself. I am going to love myself. I need to be the first person I nominate for that job. I am tired of what Irene O’Garden so memorably called “the venom of the Bitch Within.” I deserve better.

So, dear Reader, this Thanksgiving week you can imagine me being grateful for how far I’ve come. Every person who’s ever been knocked down and wondered if they could ever get back up–you can. Here’s my hand. See the rings? Imagine the slight scratch of etched silver against your own skin, whispering I love you all day, every day. Let that be a gift you give yourself.

It’s a damn hard job. But if we don’t love ourselves, who will?

Over and out.

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I’ve been shamefully neglecting blogging lately. Partly because the only things I’m thinking about, really, are personal things I’m not sharing with the world. It might not seem like it, but I am a very private person. Here, you get to see some parts of me.

But not all.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling a bit down, but then I got on the treadmill. Exercise helps. I did the shovelgloving. That helped too. And by degrees I arrived at a place where I’m feeling OK. Really OK, not just “make do with less pain than usual.” The feeling might not last–if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past couple months it’s that the waves can pour over you at a moment’s notice. (That’s why they call them feelings, I guess.) But it’s good while it’s here, and I can focus on extending it and knowing it will return. I’m struggling free of that place I retreated to, the safe place where I had to curl up and lick my wounds for a while. Pretty soon I’ll dry my wings off…but not yet. Right now I’ve just got part of me free, and I’m breathing some good air.

Part of the good feeling is making decisions about things to cut out of my life I am a curious mixture of contradictory things, and “doormat for the people I love” is one of them. I can’t afford to be a doormat anymore, love or no love. It’s too damaging. It sucks up all one’s time and energy and leaves nothing but an empty shell–especially if you love someone who takes without giving.

I’m worth more than that.

Still, I’m having to be careful what kind of music I listen to. Love songs still hurt. I’m sticking with instrumentals, breakup songs (the cheerier the better, but still used with caution) and flamenco. The love-song rule doesn’t count if they’re singing in a language I don’t understand very well, I can just listen to the phonemes.

Anyway, enough of that. I’m only checking into NaNo every few days, so my wordcount jumps are not at all how I’m getting the daily wordcount done. My brain is still dry and empty from finishing the zero draft of Heaven’s Spite. (It’s not pretty, but it’s done.) I’ve got revisions coming up, a short story to write, and cover blurbage to organize. Along with yoga to squeeze in today between all the errands.

No rest for the wicked. Really, I suspect the wicked prefer it that way. I know I certainly do.

Over and out.

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Today’s writing post is another oldie–from April 27, 2007. For various reasons, once I reread it this morning I started crying. I still believe, very strongly, that art saves lives. I have made it through two marriages now, and the Infamous Vampire Novel I refer to below has been sorta-published. But I still hold to everything I say here.

At my blog today I wrote about how deciding not to engage can save one’s life. Here, because I am feeling both introspective and ambitious, I want to talk about writing saving one’s life. Really, any art can save you, but writing’s what I know. So here goes.

I got my first intimation of the power of art while I was a teenager. I was dating a man seven years my senior, who had a taste for very young girls and using his fists on the same. Yes, I was stupid–but what fourteen-year-old isn’t? I had no means of measuring the threat this predator represented, and I had no other benchmark for affection other than abuse. As a matter of fact, the kid my own age I dated before that was so nice I got nervous and broke it off with him, because he didn’t hit me. It just didn’t feel right if someone wasn’t whaling on me.

So there I was, getting it from both ends, and I discovered alcohol. I’m sure I was drunk through most of my junior-high and high-school. I still pulled a respectable GPA–academics were, at that point, still a fun game for me and I have never lost my taste for learning. But I was desperate. There was literally nowhere I could turn. I had grown used to keeping secrets by then, and staying on top of this pile of things I couldn’t talk about was wearying, to say the least.

This was also the time I was reading (please don’t laugh) Uncanny X-Men. A LOT. Especially when Claremont was writing and Lee was drawing. The idea of being a mutant, with these fantastical powers and loneliness, was very appealing.

So I did what any redblooded junior writer would.

I started writing fanfic in spiral notebooks. Obsessively. I even cut back on the drinking so I had more time to write. It started out so innocently, a story about Wolverine and a mysterious assassin who seemed to heal just as fast as he did. Then there was the Colossus-Storm mix, because I thought Forge was a wimp and Ororo deserved someone nice. Then I started interjecting my own characters–Mary Sues and Gary Stus, to be sure, but they felt good at the time.

Things crept into my writing. Descriptions of punches I’d recorded in my diary, things I noticed about the world, snippets of conversation I’d heard. I cut back on the drinking even more to have more time to write. I wrote in the bathroom in the middle of the night, my heart in my mouth, sneaking out of my boyfriend’s parties to write on the porch, hiding my notebooks in my locker because my mother went through my diaries at home once or twice and administered a whuppin’ because of what she found.

The writing was always there. I could take almost anything because I was thinking, when I get by myself I’ll write about this. Fixing my attention on that was a disassociative trick to be sure, but it worked. It gave me a future to look forward to.

Eventually, the fanfic stories grew thin. I wanted other characters, I wanted other settings. I had this idea for a book…a fantasy book. And with my heart in my mouth, I tried writing it. Took me years. And I started not writing the X-Men stuff so much, and started writing other little slushy snippets of things. Here and there. Bit by bit.

I moved away from home and in with another boyfriend. That didn’t work out so well. I bounced around different homes, different relationships, writing all the while. An old friend died and I cried with my notebook in my lap, struggling to put the hurt into words so I could get some sort of handle on it–any handle would do, I just needed one.

I found it in the first few paragraphs of another novel–the infamous vampire novel, of course. Which, like the First Fantasy, will never see publication because it’s so sloppy and uneven. But my God, it felt good to write, and it felt good to bleed off some of the pressure of guilt and grief into the structure of a story.

I’ve gone through a marriage and a half since then, and the birth of two children. And several other life events. Writing has been there all the time–the friend that gives me strength to go on when I don’t think I can. The way of transforming the world to make it reasonable, or at least a little less scary.

A few Decembers ago I was in a bad car accident. (Twisty road, nighttime, a deer on its way home and me trying not to kill Bambi.) Hanging upside-down in the truck’s cab, one part of me was screaming in hysterical fear. The largest, Mommy-based part of me was calmly saying, first let’s get this seatbelt off and kick out a window.

Another part of me, the writer, was considering all of this and taking notes. So that’s what this feels like. Damn, it’s good material.

I was fairly calm, all things considered.

It all started with me and a notebook, the pen in my hand and my heart in my mouth, daring to do that most subversive of acts–tell my own story. To honestly and simply tell any story is an act of magic, an act of liberation. It is a lifering when you’re drowning, a way to scramble for higher ground when the water rises. It is sorcery, a way of remaking the world. I felt like a mutant when I was scribbling in those spiral-bound notebooks. Dangerous, lonely, and socially sneered-at–but with a secret power, a talent I could use for good or for evil, something I could do.

And each one of those words saved my life, over and over again. Each was a step up out of the abyss of believing myself worthless, a waste of skin and breath. Even today, each word, over and over, saves my life. It is a net when I’m falling, a rope when I’m drowning, a reminder to be calm when I’m in the middle of smashed metal and glass, smelling gasoline and so scared I can barely breathe.

I once received a fan letter from a woman who rescues elderly cocker spaniels. She said that some of my books had given her hope, that sometimes when she was feeling down about the plight of these poor dogs abandoned by their owners she could read them and forget, or read them and get a little bit of hope. Just a tiny sprinkle.

I cried.

Because if writing can save my own life, and if it can give someone else a little bit of hope, then I consider it one of the greatest acts of magic I’m capable of. Getting paid for it is nice, sure–I have kids to feed, after all. But if something that saved my life can also give someone else a little bit of hope…that’s damn precious. If even one person feels the world is a better place because of this story I’ve told as well as I’m able, I consider my time on earth well-spent.

And that’s really all this writer asks for.

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Cotton wool stuffing my skull. Stuffed nose. At least the cold doesn’t seem to be getting any worse. I can still hit the treadmill in the mornings, which is a step up from the last round–that was the Travel Cold From Hell. *shivers* Ugh.

I am in the stage of writing a Kismet book where I have an acute attack of nerves. Nobody’s going to like it, I don’t know what I’m doing, who do I think I am… The usual. The good thing is that I’ve done this so many times by now that I’m prepared for the emotional upheaval. The bad news is…emotional upheaval. And I’ve been writing this book under acid-test conditions, as it were.

I just keep reminding myself: if I could go through pregnancy, 11+ years of being a mother, and getting published in the first place, this is small potatoes. Well, maybe small yams. Or something. I’ve done this before, I can do it again.

Last night I did some yoga on the Wii. It was actually really cool. I’m avoiding Downward Dog (the trainer tells you to put half the weight on your arms, instead of keeping most of it in your legs) and the shoulderstand (what, do I look like I shoulderstand? Not on your life, buddy). But the Palm Tree, Sun Salutation, Grounded V, Chair Pose? Oh yeah. Those I can do. And I feel so good after it’s finished–I think it’s the deep breathing.

Of course, doing yoga with a head cold is hilarious. If only because of the noises one’s nose makes during the deep breathing section of the festivities.

And now, because I’m sure you’re bored of hearing about All That, a link!

Very short stories, courtesy of Wired. com. I love these, especially Margaret Atwood’s. I found a book of 50-word stories once, including one (maybe by Chekhov?) about a woman named for a wolf. When you have so few words, each one counts for more than itself.

And with that, I’m taking myself off to a lunch of tomato soup and yesterday’s bread. Yum. I just wish I could taste it through this damn cold.

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Yesterday my friend MakeMe took me to the mall. We ended up going down to the Hawthorne district in Portland too, to visit Chopsticks and the Gold Door. It was good to get out of the house, and even better to spend some time with a good friend. Unfortunately, I caught a cold somewhere in the crowds of Sunday browsers.

So this morning I’m logy. Enjoying the rain coming down outside, it’s starring the puddles over and over again. It makes me feel all nice and cozy, nevermind sniffles or the mud that’s sure to be tracked in.

I’ve finished reading Kage Baker’s Company novels (at least, I think Sons of Heaven is the last one) and a couple books of short stories in the Company universe. I think Baker really got her feet under her with Mendoza In Hollywood , and after reading the anthologies I’ve found the immortal I identify closest with is Lewis. Though I’d probably get stuck with Joseph’s job.

Anyway, I’ve moved on to Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet and finally managed to get past the slog in the early part of The Talented Mr. Ripley. I couldn’t watch the Ripley movie, it was just too slow for me.

So today is for light exercise, wordcount (I’ve reached the point where I have to read the beginning of the current book so I can pick up the threads and start tying them off) and a little bit of reading. And chicken soup with tons of garlic. Thank goodness I’m feeling more like cooking again.

But more about that tomorrow.

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I’ve just arrived home from the mini-tour with Richelle Mead. Dude, Richelle’s fans are hardcore. I also got to meet a few fans of my own, which was awesome. Each event was wonderful.

I know today is Friday, but the entire trip was exhausting. We literally saw nothing but airports, our media escorts’ cars, the events, and hotel rooms. Unfortunately, on trips like this you can’t really do much sightseeing. Richelle’s a trooper–she’s got something like twenty more days of touring. I don’t know how she does it.

So here are three book-tour-traveling tips. I’ll have a recap on Monday, when my brain resembles oatmeal less.

* Plastic bags. Bread bags and Ziplocs have a million uses, from making sure your shampoo bottle doesn’t explode all over your clothes to holding hairclips and rubber bands.

* Rest when you can. I know it sounds bad, but when you need all your strength for events, sightseeing becomes almost nonexistent. Events are pretty taxing, even if nobody shows up, and especially if a bunch of people show up.

* Thank your hosts. Being polite never hurts. It may even get you invited back. Thank-you letters to your media escorts (especially when they are ultra-super-efficient) are a Good Thing, too.

And a bonus tip: once you’re in your hotel room, drink all the water you can. Air travel is dehydrating, and when you’re already stressed dehydration can bugger up your immune system even further.

I know this is short. I’m so, so glad to be home, and so exhausted it’s unbelievable. I caught a travel cold, too. As I invariably do. You wouldn’t think I’d catch a fricking cold in California, but I did. Grr.

See you Monday! And if you happen to be somewhere Richelle’s touring, go out and show some love! She is always worthwhile.

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First, check out Nathan Bransford’s excellent post on tropes and originality. This is why I tell new writers “be honest and the originality will follow”. The ring of absolute honesty will shine through a tired old story and make it new again; when it comes through your uniqueness as a filter it will be unique.

If you’re bored with posts about weight, body image, and food, you might want to skip this one. Just warning you.

Last Labor Day I started an exercise regimen. Slowly and carefully, I’ve dropped almost five sizes. I’m shooting distance from a size 16; 14 is my eventual healthy goal. It’s taken me months, mostly because I don’t want to yo-yo. I want to steadily get into the habit of being healthier and more fit. And because, well, I love food and see no reason to set up the nasty boomerang of denial and binge. I have enough to feel bad and guilty over, I don’t need binge to add to it.

I suppose that I could cook low-fat. I really could. But why? Real butter, real vegetables, real cream, all these things satisfy in a way ersatz doesn’t. A very small bit of the “real” will satisfy more than a ton of the ersatz. For example, a small square of high-quality, very dark chocolate will satisfy me more than three or four Snickers bars. A small serving of pasta with this roasted red pepper sauce made with heavy cream (Oh. My. God. Worth the work, I SWEAR) will satisfy me more than a pound or two of fettuccine alfredo from that chain Italian place down the street. The real may be chock-full of Bad For You fat, but I end up eating less–and less chemical preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, etc. etc.

But this is only working, I suspect, because of the other half of the equation. It’s hard hauling my ass up on that treadmill every weekday. The weeks that I get in five whole weekdays of workout are few and far between. I get three or four days in every week, and my energy level has risen to the point where I’m also getting in a lot more playing with the kids and going for longer evening walks. Five days a week of treadmill and shovelgloving is the goal–but like the Pirate’s Code it’s more of a guideline.

Some days I hurt. Some days I’m sick or there’s an Event or some kid is throwing up or having a Bad Day. Some days it’s the story burning up inside my head. Some days I just plain don’t wanna.

But most days, I do. When I’m ill and I can’t get the exercise in, I feel it. I suppose I’ve reached the point of being addicted to running. And addicted to swinging a sledgehammer around for fifteen minutes or so.

Now, I am never going to be a supermodel. I love food far, far too much and I have a sedentary job. Besides, have you seen supermodels these days? They look like shit.

I’m sorry. I really am. But “starvation” is not something I find attractive. I like a girl with a little flesh on her, just like I like easygoing men with a little flesh on them. And I have all sorts of problems with the persistent message from mass media that women need to starve themselves to paper-thinness. Our place in the world is already small enough, for Christ’s sake.

The more I don’t watch television, the less I find I have in common with a lot of advertising. I never realized how pervasive this crap was until I took a year and a half off the telly (way back when I was first dating the Muffin, lo those many years ago) and found I didn’t miss it. Not only did I not miss it, but my sense of proportion (ha ha) came back in a big way.

Another thing that’s dropped by the wayside: fast food. Cheap fast food…isn’t. In terms of community cost, health cost, and my pocketbook, cheap fast food isn’t. Once in a great while I’ll take the kids to a local burger chain, and the little dears are always very excited. But burger-and-fries doesn’t taste as good, and even the fries–I have such a weakness for fries, you would not believe–don’t move me the way they used to. It’s like soda–once I was off it for a long while, all I could taste were the chemicals when I tried it again.

This is turning into a foodie post instead of a weight post. Which probably means I’m avoiding the subject.

So, I’m spitting distance from a size 16. Dropping steadily through clothes sizes has meant getting new clothes, which I absolutely hate. If there’s anything I hate with a flaming fiery passion it’s clothes-shopping. Just the thought of it makes me shiver. I will buy six of something at a time just so I have a “uniform” and I don’t have to pick clothes every day OR shop for them again. I mean, why spend time on that when I could be reading? Or cooking? Or playing with my kidlings?

Along with the steady weight loss has come an unpacking of hurtful assumptions and trauma from growing up. Food has been an anodyne most of my life, and grazing on trash-cooking full of preservatives and corn syrup was the only thing keeping me reasonably sane during a large proportion of my young years. Food didn’t mock and it didn’t judge, and when I felt empty inside it provided a type of fullness. Like any substitution, though, it had to be paid for. And I did. Over and over again.

I’m also beginning to unpack the sense of security having a fat layer gave me. You can hide inside a mass of yourself, you know. For a girl who equated fisticuffs with attention and any attention, good or bad, with the only approval I could get, the extra poundage was a blessing. It absorbed much more than punches.

Which means that, as I’m slimming down, I’m having to face parts of myself and my life I frenetically ate to avoid. It’s probably no accident that I’m writing YA through all this and really remembering what it was like to be young. On the one hand, I wouldn’t be between twelve and twenty-five again if you PAID me. There isn’t enough money in the world to put myself through that again. But on the other, I can’t hope to achieve any sort of peace within myself without looking hard and long at these things and Dealing With Them. Dealing is better than Drugging Yourself With Food or Frantically Avoiding Dealing With Things By Chopping Off Bits Of Self Or Engaging In Crazymaking Behavior.

I console myself with the thought that the most awesome and stunning people I know had Bad Young Years and didn’t Find Themselves until their late twenties. Being forced to find resources within yourself pays off, if you survive long enough and intact enough. The layers of fat were a survival mechanism, one I am trying to teach myself not to need. It was good while I needed it, but now I don’t–and the price of poor health, acceptable while I needed the fat to preserve some kind of psychic integrity, is no longer one I can continue paying.

It was a good cocoon. It kept me safe and it kept me sane, and I’m grateful. But now I’m almost out of it, and spreading those papery, wet wings. Sooner or later this girl is going to fly.

That, dear Reader? Is the very best revenge at all. I wish I was a bigger person and didn’t need that for motivation. But I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t. And I’m taking what I can get. There’s a certain amount of freedom in recognizing that you may not be a bigger person, but you’re going to do what you can with what you have.

Over and out.

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First of all, Deadline Dame Rinda has a hilarious post up about the Waiting Writer In Her Natural Habitat. You can also win a coffee mug and coaster, so pop over and share some commenting love. Also, if you’ve contacted me through Myspace or through my website for an ARC of Strange Angels, rest assured that I’ve passed your contact info on to Razorbill.

As for me, well, this morning I feel like an idiot.

This is a common occurrence. I feel like a dolt almost every day of my life. The instant I start feeling smart, the Universe whaps me upside the head with something I never even dreamed of. So I spend most of my time pretty happily considering myself an idiot.

For example, take the kitchen timers. I have timers scattered all over the house. They’re used for the kids’ schoolwork, for mouthwash (don’t ask), for writing, for cooking, for shovelgloving, and just recently (like today) for telling myself to get up every twenty minutes and stretch so that stiffness in my lower back doesn’t turn into full-blown-walking-like-Quasimodo. Left to my own devices I would probably write pretty much all day, only stopping when the need to visit the loo was intense or when I am almost faint and have a headache from hunger.

This is not good for me. Hence, the timers.

No, I am not obsessive-compulsive. I just use times so much that having one or two in every room except the bedrooms is…

Oh, God. Maybe I AM a little obsessive. (At least I am not a goat held on suspicion of armed robbery, though. It’s the little things that should make one grateful.)

I’m just a little forgetful, that’s all. The timers help to hold me to a particular task for a period of time, or remind me, like I said, to get up and stretch. I’ve reached the point in working out and getting fit where I NEED to stretch. The muscles are unhappy; my posture and the way I hold myself are both changing. The shoulder-hunching and slouching has GOT to go. So, getting up and stretching every twenty minutes is necessary.

I just feel like a moron because I can’t remember to get up every twenty minutes without the timer. I can’t keep track of time on a clock–I get INTO what I’m doing, no matter what it is, and the clock begins to fade in importance with each passing moment. I consider it a miracle that I am ready for dinner each day (but this only happens because I start fretting about it around noon). I also feel faintly ashamed of admitting my firm belief that a kitchen timer is one of God’s gifts to writers, for reasons I’ve already stated.

I’m also feeling like a dip today because I’ve gotten two very nice responses–one from short story editors on an anthology, and one from my editor at Razorbill. But I worry and obsess so much over every piece of work–will the editor like it? Oh God. They won’t like it and they’ll take the advance back and then we’ll starrrrrve and the sun will go out and everyone will hate me because it’s all my FAULT…

When I hear people are considering writing for a living my first instinct is to laugh nervously. Because the rejection and the worry are both soul-wracking. The early rejections make a writer almost pathetically grateful for any sign of approval, and most of us don’t need any help when it comes to the seeking-approval thing. (It is only natural and human to want approval, after all. It seems like one of humanity’s biggest needs.) Then fierce performance anxiety kicks in, at least for me.

So both nice responses were a huge relief, and I’m sure both sets of editors think I’m an idiot for worrying so damn much. My emails are full of caveats and “you might not like“s and “tell me where this is broken but tell me one good thing about it first, please God“s.

See? I am a total spaz today, and probably not doing much better in this blog post. I’m going to blame the lingering soreness and mucus from the flu (and THAT was a doozy, I don’t think I’ve ever had so many dehydration headaches in a 72-hour period) and give myself a day off.

The way I’m feeling, it can’t hurt.

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