Life and Stuff. Plus Some Books.

It seems like a year since I posted last, even though I know it hasn’t been so long. But it HAS been a rough year. Not terrible–just a little rough.

After the most productive writing year of my life, during which I completed two novels (2015), I had the LEAST productive writing year of my life. I blame insomnia for making me just tired enough to make writing (including blogs and submitting said books to agents) a chore rather than a pleasure.

Chores are no fun.

My insomnia seems to stem from persistent intestinal gas that strikes at about 4:00 AM every night. No matter what I eat. I don’t like to go to bed particularly early, since I like to squeeze as much living into my life as possible, but when I am up at 4, it makes it difficult to function when I don’t go to bed until 11. When I went to bed earlier, the gas would merely strike earlier. I’d still be awake for about two hours, resulting in oversleeping, getting into work later than I wanted, and therefore working later into the evening than I wanted, resulting in a vicious cycle.

The good news is that melatonin seems to be helping. I still wake up with the gas, but the melatonin makes me sleepy enough most nights to be able to get back to sleep without lying there for hours. I am still working on getting a solid week of at least 6.5 hours of sleep. I’m not there yet, but I’m closer.

So that’s all.

I’m thinking about renaming my blog to something like Life, Writing, and Stuff. Yeah, I know that name sucks. I may play with formats and titles over the next few weeks. I also need to figure out if I want to move this blog out of wordpress.com and into a self-hosted site. I meant to do it last year (and the year before, and the year before), but I had that terrible infection. Yeah, yeah, excuses. And–oh, yeah–I did say that was all, didn’t I? One more thing …

What I’m Reading Now

I am slowly reading The Dreaming Hunt by Cindy Dees, which is the sequel to The Sleeping King. I meant to review The Sleeping King last year, but see above. I’m almost done with it and it has been pretty entertaining because it is much like reading the adventures of a RPG group going through a long-term campaign. Five adventurers (or maybe six) fighting their way through battles with all kinds of fantasy races, while constantly being healed and even resurrected when necessary. Maybe I’ll review both books together when I’m done. (However, any such review will be WAY more informal than those I used to write. I am still not considering myself a book reviewer. It’s just stuff I’m reading.)

That really is it, this time. What have you been up to? Any good fantasy book recommendations?

Aah … Autumn!

I hate it when I start a post, and then I can’t finish it for days! The original title of this post was Summer’s Over Tomorrow! My life is too hectic.

Since I live in Florida, the end of summer is definitely something to celebrate. Now maybe, I’ll come out of my hibernation. The weather has actually been much better than usual in recent weeks. We had a brutally hot July and early August, but a tropical storm passed by a few weeks ago, and brought milder weather with it. I’m hoping the hot summer means we have a nice, cold winter. We have not had a cold winter in several years.

And now I can feel autumn in the air! Our Chinese Flame Tree is ready to flame up!

I have not been reading as much as usual. When I do read, it has been nonfiction. The first is Cicero by Anthony Everitt. I have a fascination with Rome and especially Cicero, who Everitt brands as “Rome’s Greatest Politician”, and I’ve had this book for quite a while, now. I’m slogging through the chapters on his early life right now. I’m hoping I’ll see more of the writings by Cicero in the chapters ahead. Also, my boss is being a good mentor and sent me home with a technical book called Design Patterns. It’s actually much more engaging than you might think.

We did not go anywhere this summer, other than two trips to Melbourne. We keep talking about taking a trip to Pensacola, and I hope to make that happen sometime this fall or winter (or spring).

That and writing is most of what I’ve been up to. How about you?

~*~

Got a book in the mail called The Dreaming Hunt by Cindy Dees. It reminded me of a book I read a while ago called, The Sleeping King. I intended to review it, but never did, so I hope to work on that this week. I don’t normally review books anymore, but every once in a while, I make an exception. I do still like to read, and I do still like discussing books, after all!

Knocked Flat by Antibiotics

Hopefully, I’m back.

Where have I been? It’s kind of an epic. A lot of people, when they get sick, hang out online. When I get sick, I go low-tech. I read lots of books. The only time I fire up the computer is to lose myself in a computer game. So that’s where I’ve been.

I wasn’t “sick” sick. No fever, runny nose, or chills. I had an infected sebaceous cyst. It had been growing larger and larger for a number of years, and it started feeling funny just after Easter, so I went to see my PA about getting it removed. She gave me a referral to a dermatologist to get it drained. But I never had a chance to get it drained, because it started swelling and turning red. Heh. I guess that’s why it felt funny.

I left her a message, but the doctor called me back instead. This was on a Tuesday. He put me on an antibiotic with a steroid, and warned me that I may need to get it lanced. Ouch. That just sounded so painful. I took the antibiotics, but by Friday, it was clear that it was only getting worse. I went in and as we walked in the door, he said, “Miss Patricia (my real name), are we going to have to do surgery?”

I said, I think so. I showed it to him, and it had already started to rupture.

With the help of an assistant, he cut two small incisions into the cyst, and then proceeded to squeeze the hell out of it. The damned thing was about ten years old, and it took significant effort to squeeze all that crap out. It hurt way worse than the incisions. He handed me a script for a truly wicked antibiotic called clindamycin, told me to draw a circle around the red area, and to change to this new antibiotic if the redness spread outside the circle.

My sweet husband went to fill that prescription at 10:00 that night.

The clindamycin kicked that infection right in the ass. The wound would heal at a miraculous rate, and then would break open to drain, only to heal over again. This went on for a week. It finally healed for the last time, but remains an ugly purple scar.

A week and a day after I took that last pill, the fun began. I won’t in all the gory details, but ever since I took those antibiotics, I have had every type of infection you can have, except for parasites. This includes a case of shingles that turned out to be mercifully mild. I now have a toothache, and I think the timing is suspicious. I can’t find any kind of lesion or broken skin around that tooth, but it looks like I’ll have to let the dentist see for himself. You can bet I’ll be telling him about the clindamycin.

So what have I been reading? I finished Karen Azinger’s Silk & Steel Saga, which is a seven book series. I reviewed the first three books here. I read the second book in Blake Charlton’s series (here’s a review of the first book).  I read a debut called The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore. He doesn’t have a website, which I find baffling, but he has a Wikipedia page.

What computer games have I been playing? I discovered that my old PC copy of Skyrim plays quite nicely on my PC, so I started a new game. I never seem to finish these games, so this time, I did something different–I jumped right into the main quest. I finished the Civil War, and now I’m about two-thirds of the way through the main quest. My character is a paladin/spellsword who specializes in one-handed, block, heavy armor, restoration, speechcraft, smithing, and enchanting. She has been single-minded in her focus, and has pursued very few quests outside of her main residences. It’s so much funner this way.

What have you been up to?

Reading Update, a Congratulations and another Time Trip

Hey everyone. Busy weekend, so I’m getting this post off late.

ReaPoison-Priestessding Update

I started reading Poison Priestess, the 4th book in Karen Azinger’s Silk and Steel Saga. While it is pretty gripping, right now, it’s all villains, all the time (almost). The last book left the minor villains behind and focused on the Mordant–who is the major villain–and the heroes, with just a few updates on the small fry. At the time, that was just fine with me. Now, however, there has been fourteen straight chapters of three villains, interspersed with occasional chapters of the beleaguered queen, Liandra.

I don’t read heroic fantasy to read only about villains, so I’m hoping this changes soon.

Congratulations

U. S. Army Ranger Tab

Although I have little hope of either of these young women reading this post, I wanted to offer my congratulations to Captain Kristen Griest and First Leiutenant Shaye Haver of the U. S. Army for making it through Ranger School. I always felt that there was a certain percentage of women who could equal the physical strength and endurance of a man, and they have now proven it.

When I joined the Air Force, I wasn’t exactly gung-ho, but I was a little affronted at the physical standards. I started Basic Training at a physical fitness level that I thought was the basic qualifications for getting into Basic Training. Once I joined, I learned that they were the qualifications for graduating, not for joining. And they assumed that we would have to work up to that level.

This is basic high-school fitness, guys. The ability to run two miles without stopping, do twenty or so sit-ups and the same number of push-ups, to lift fifty pounds. Anyone who was in reasonably good shape could have done it, so I guess that was all they were looking for. Not one of us washed out for failing to meet those standards–not even the ones who were slightly overweight.

Since any average day in high school cross country was much more challenging, I always felt I could have easily met the men’s standard–even the fifty sit-ups. So the fact that these two Ranger graduates met much tougher male standards makes me very happy for them.

Army Graduates First Female Rangers

Time Trip

I have another Time Trip post I’m planning for sometime this week–probably Wednesday. I hope you enjoy it!

Revising East of Yesterday – Plus Stuff

People's DrugstoreHere is a cool drugstore pic from the 1920s. Whenever I blog about East of Yesterday, I’m going to try to find a cool old picture to go with it, to get you in the mood. Click to enbiggen. Shorpy has another picture of the same store, restored and in high-res.

I took my three-week writing break and am now neck-deep in revisions.

I took a different approach with this revision, because I have already revised East of Yesterday quite heavily. I am reading the story aloud to my husband. In the process, it has grown from 111000 words to 115000. I have found some I can cut, and probably will do so tonight, but it won’t amount to more than about 2000 words, if that. All the scenes really do advance the story. I guess it is officially an epic. But historical fiction is often lengthy, so I think it should be okay.

In between read-aloud sessions–I can only go for about 2 hours at a time before my voice gives out–I am doing some revisions further along in the book that I know I need to make, such as rewriting a few scenes in another point-of-view.

~*~

Other than that, I read a fantasy that was very good, but the reviews on the 2nd book are not promising and it is a bit expensive, so I have not purchased it yet. This is the second such novel that I have read. (With the other book, I actually did purchase the second novel, but the plot crashed and burned half-way through) Both started out as self-published Amazon sensations. Hmm.

Does anyone know of a good Google Reader-like website, for reading blog feeds? I prefer RSS feeds to getting a bunch of emails from individual blogs, but have not found a replacement for Google Reader. Therefore, I don’t read blogs as much as I used to, and I’d like to get back into it. Neither Facebook nor Twitter a very good substitute, IMO.

Doings, Writings and Readings

Christmas seemed to speed by in a great, big rush this year. I didn’t have any vacation time left by the time Christmas rolled around, which — sigh — seems to be typical for me despite the fact that I have accumulated three weeks of vacation a year. And now that I have a full slate of vacation days once again, my husband has been summoned for jury duty, which means that I have to take at least one day off for that.

Sigh.

And I have been contemplating my plans for 2014. This year, I hope to finish East of Yesterday, lose 10 more pounds, and give up sweets for Lent so I can try to get off this sugar kick I have been stuck on. My goals for work include moving into more of a leadership position (not necessarily resource management) and get published in the field of Business Analysis (articles only–I have no BA books in mind).

My accomplishments for the last year were more modest, but I did publish another book (although I have not mentioned it much), kept off the 13 pounds that I lost the year before, and reduced my stress.

What I’m Reading


I just finished reading The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler, and it was pretty excellent. It is about a girl named Lia who lives at an Abbey called Muirwood, which is a place where learners learn how to read and how to work a force called the Medium, a quasi-religious form of magic. However, Lia is a wretched, or one who has been abandoned, and as such, she is forbidden to learn even though she has great natural ability. Naturally, she wants to learn more than anything else in the world.

Her quiet life at the Abbey is interrupted when a knight drops off an injured squire and tells her that he will return for him in 3 days–all Lia has to do in the meantime is keep the squire hidden from the powerful Sheriff who is after him.

The book did leave a few unanswered questions, especially regarding the knight, but there are two books to go in the series, so hopefully they will provide some answers. I found the first book gripping and engaging, and I’ll get the next book in the next month or so. All the books in the series are available. The cover image links to the book at Amazon.

What I’m Writing

I am up to 81,000 words with East of Yesterday, which definitely means I am rounding home plate. To celebrate 80,000 words, I sat down and wrote my query. I often find it helpful to write a query at some point before I finish writing the novel. It helps me identify any weaknesses in my premise. The same goes for the synopsis, which I did in graphical form a couple of months ago, but which I have yet to do in prose.

The query isn’t quite ready to share, but it did help me fill in a plot hole that I had left open to write at some point. The problem is, it rendered a pivotal scene in Part One as somewhat nonsensical. And so now I have a plot quandary–do I keep that formerly-pivotal scene, or do I trash it? Fortunately I have my graphical outline to consult to see how much I really need it, and I also can use my procedure on removing and replacing a scene (for which I am creating an infographic) if I decide it has to go.

~*~

What about you? Got any resolutions or accomplishments you’d like to share? Read anything good lately?

Nine Tropes I Love

Recently, I started reading a time travel steampunk, and I expected to like it because it seemed to contain two tropes that I love–steampunk (who can resist the blend of science and fancy?) and fish-out-of-water due to time travel. However, I was disappointed when chapter two advanced the clock by about six months, making the character mostly comfortable with the time period by the time the chapter starts. This made me feel slightly disappointed, and while I’m sure I’ll go back to reading it soon, right now I have some rather irresistible books and it was rather easy to set aside.

(What are the irresistible books, you ask? The second Mistborn novel, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith (a #1 Ladies Detective Agency story) and Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (a Maisie Dobbs story).)

Any, my experience with the steampunk novel, which will remain unnamed for now, inspired this post on Tropes I Love. So here are the tropes I almost never tire of reading about:

Fantasy

Warrior Women. I mentioned this in my post, 10 Blurb Elements that Work For Me, so I won’t go into detail again.

Disheartened Nobleman. I love a world-weary young nobleman–preferably a knight–going home after being disappointed by life somehow and expecting things to be familiar and comforting, but finding only trouble instead. Can I think of a novel that meets this rather specific scenario? I suppose Dragons of Autumn Twilight would be an example, but that’s not really what I have in mind. I guess I have not read a novel like this in a while.

Obscure Hero. I guess I’m enjoying the Mistborn novels because the heroine, Vin, is of obscure origins.

Immortal and Otherworldly Race. I admit it. I loved elves. I was disappointed to see that trope become a thing of the past. I thought it was so cool to have this race that was apart and above mortals, yet who yearned to be with mortals nevertheless.

Forbidden Magic. I’m not usually big on magic-using heroes–I prefer a normal hero to overcome insurmountable odds to defeat a magic-using villain–but if they do have magic, I like to to be forbidden. Make the penalty for using magic something horrific and I take note.

Magic Music. I’m a musician, and I love it when an author can make a magic system based on music work. It’s not fantasy, but Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer did this quite well.

Here’s a mystery trope.

Forbidden Love. This seems to work better with mystery series than with fantasies. This is where the man and the woman can’t get together somehow, but they must work together. One reason I want to read the next Maisie Dobbs novel so much is I’m wondering if this book is the one that at last will acknowledge the attraction between Maisie and Detective Inspector Stratton. It’s gotten almost that I expect a forbidden love trope with my mystery series.

And some general purpose tropes

Fish out of Water. As I mentioned above, I just love these, especially in time travel stories. Who could forget George McFly showing Marty how to pop the top off a soda bottle in Back to the Future? But it also works as a clash of cultures, such as in Shogun. Just today on TV, Enemy Mine was playing, which is a classic science fiction clash of cultures. Nobles having to adjust to being common also work with this trope, as do commoners who have to adjust to becoming noble. It’s just fun.

Exploring a New or Forgotten Place. This comes up in all kinds of genres. It was in Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama when they opened the alien ship. It was in every Indiana Jones movie made. It was in The Warded Man, when Arlen finally found the wards. It was in Northanger Abbey when Catherine pretends to be ill so she can sneak around the abbey.

What kind of tropes do you enjoy reading? Have I missed something obvious? (Besides fairy tales, that is?)