Beams of Heaven, As She Goes

Hoyt and Martha Allen, circa 1970.

“I’ve always loved this picture of my parents. The looks of joy and happiness on their faces is what I imagine today. Gentle souls who enjoyed all that life had to offer together. Always together. Beams of heaven, for sure.” -Susan Allen Grady

I miss you, Mom. Give Daddy a hug from me.

And another hot minute passes…

Wild Horses Statue, Providence, RI

Right, so where was I? Ciaragh was back, I was done with GARF, and life was settling down so I could get ready for my inlaws to come for a visit.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Not even close.

For those that don’t know, my mom had some sort of major neurological event around the 3rd week of June, and she has not been able to recover completely. She is in hospice care now, and we really don’t know what the next step is there.

I’m updating right now from a hotel in Rhode Island because I am attending the RID conference. I had completely let this go to the wayside with everything going on at home. I happened to look at the webi

Nope, let’s start again.

This has been the weirdest summer of my entire 47.5 years of life. I sort of feel like I’m in the middle of that groovy statue I got to photograph in Providence – only the horses are real and in motion, and if I don’t watch out I’m going to get trampled.

Over the summer, I wasn’t watching out, and I was most certainly trampled. Ciaragh was back home, and I was settling into my regular summer routine of freelance interpreting, planning for upcoming faires, and writing as much as I could whenever I could. The final draft of the second Clobberpaws book was starting to sit up and pay attention. The first novel in the Forest Wars saga was being actively edited for the…I don’t know, umpteenth time, and was on track for publication at the end of July.

And then, my sister took my mother up to see my dad’s grave on what would have been his birthday. And then there was the night about four days later that I was talking to my mother on the phone and she was slurring her words and was very confused. I rang my sister who went over there, spent the night there, and then took Mom to Emory the next day to see the doctor.

From there, she was fast-tracked into the unit that treats stroke patients, only she hadn’t had a stroke. There was no evidence at all of a stroke. And then she had a seizure and slept for about five days – as one does when one is 86 and has a massive seizure. Her advance directive said no life-prolonging measures – no feeding tubes, etc. And then she was on the hospice unit for something like three weeks, so because nothing was happening, they discharged her to her home, where she died about two weeks-ish later.

Now, none of that is about me. It’s nothing to do with me. But the aftermath is everything to do with me, my sister, and our families. I spent a good day after Mom died wondering if I was an orphan now. Is that something that only applies to children? More time than was probably necessary was devoted to wondering what would happen to my sister and me – we had been texting all day almost every day since that fateful phone call because I am a state away from them. Now that the crisis time was over, would we fade back into our typical roles, only communicating now and then?

So here I am, a month and two days from waking up to a phone call from my sister that Mom had passed in her sleep, and I’m still wondering. Still waiting. Still an orphan – I decided I wanted to own that, so I did. Still struggling to find someone to talk to on long days at home or long car rides when I usually would call Mom. Still not quite able to listen to the stack of voice mails from her still on my phone – recordings that underscore what a neglectful daughter I am for not visiting her more often.

Here I am, with a book about to launch in a week’s time, a “First Page Critique” away to the folks running the writer’s conference in September that I will be attending (in the hopes that it will be chosen to be anonymously ripped to bits by a panel of literary agents), and a big signing event in the works for November.

Here I am, suddenly winning at being a writer for at least a few minutes, and the number one person I want to tell isn’t here. I hope she knows. I hope she is pleased. I hope she is proud.

My Little Irish Wanderer…and the Aftermath

Well, so it has been a hot minute since I last updated this – or wrote anything if I’m honest, but work and life have not given me a second to breathe, let alone open the laptop.

That little face there is my Ciaragh (Our Cailín Ádh), and she has had a marvelous adventure this week that nearly ended me. She and I were working at the Georgia Renaissance Festival this past Saturday and I completely forgot that there was a cannon shot from the bow of the pirate ship until it went off with us standing right there. She started to vibrate and I tightened up a bit on her leash to make sure she didn’t bolt. My wonderful niece was there with my sister and she tried to comfort Ciaragh, but as soon as she moved away and I slacked up the slightest bit on the leash, C saw her chance and bolted. Now, for the initial escape, I was still holding onto the leash, so I spun around and was dragged behind her (through the gravel) until she could dash through the exit. Sadly I did not make the graceful turn through the S-bend of an exit that she did and instead bounced off the large wooden fence that marks the boundary between onstage and offstage.

Two of my group’s volunteers and a GARF cast member pursued her as a third volunteer and my sister and niece stayed with me. At first, all I could do was make a primal growly sound because gravel+skin=OW but I was (and am) all right. It took a minute to walk up to my car, but that was where I fully expected folks to be waiting with C.

They were not.

She managed to evade capture for three more full days, and I drove back to the site every one of those days to keep looking for her. Finally, on Tuesday night around midnight, I got a phone call from someone in the area – Ciaragh was on his front porch and could I come get her, please?

Once I got my heart started again, I made some calls and arranged for some folks to go get her and keep her overnight until I could get back on Wednesday. I still don’t know how I did not get a speeding ticket on my way to Atlanta that morning, and yesterday (Thursday) we got her into the vet for a checkup – she is fit as a fiddle. An Irish fiddle.

Aftermath: I have helped out with many lost greyhounds in my two decades of having pets in my life as an adult. I have always just gone where I am needed and done what needs to be done, but I have not until now been on this side of the equation. Sure, my greyhounds occasionally got out, but I never had to spend a night without them back home safely – I sent thoughts and prayers to those that did, joined the search, rejoiced in the eventual recovery, but never really got it, until now.

I have ideas percolating (as does hubs) about non-profits that not only look for lost pets but care for the owners of those pets. I had so much love and support that it was overwhelming, especially since I was convinced that Ciaragh’s loss was my fault, but when it came to trying to pay for gas to keep searching, tracking teams to bring in, other pet recovery specialists who need money for materials and time – it is an expensive prospect to find your pet if they go missing, and mine was only gone for three days! So, I will let that idea keep rolling around. There has to be something that can be created that will harness the talents of EVERYONE that wanted to help rather than narrowing down the field of helpers to only those affordable options. What if we had not had a breed club behind us to help? I already have some ideas that were born from the search for Ciaragh.

So, enough of me. My girl is back, and she has effectively helped me write the last chapter of her Clobberpaws book, and I’m going to go snuggle her on the couch before I get back to writing. Make sure your pets are chipped and tagged, y’all…and loved.

Camp Nanowrimo, April 2019

Taking notes like a boss writer

Oh y’all.

Somehow this month’s nano has been so hard for me. I mean worse than that time that I wrote for two weeks and then completely changed my WIP and still came out a winner.

Worse than last April when I almost abandoned what I was writing because in the aftermath of my dad’s death I just didn’t have anything to say. (Disclaimer: if you have read my upcoming Baskervilles debut as a beta reader, then you KNOW that I had nothing worthwhile to say.)

I have a fantastic character who is technically a ghost, and she is the most three dimensional of all the characters in this story. I have a tremendous MC who is darling and unsure and brave and afraid and everything that you want your MC to be so that she is not a Mary Sue. I have two other characters that I have lived with for four and six years, respectively, who should be able to just write themselves at this point. No real effort required.

And yet I always find myself 1-2K words behind my target. I catch up, and then somehow think it’s okay to take the next day off. I am trying to be the director of the Hounds of East Fairhaven and perform on the weekends at the Georgia Renaissance Festival, but that is really just like hopping from hot mess to hot mess. Oh, did I mention that my school year at my day job is winding down, and I’m looking at expense reports and future planning and scheduling and all that fun stuff? Yeah, it’s a real party around here.

[Here is the file room in my office suite because…well, we have already been over that. Soon here/my office will be the sofa in my sitting room in between bouts of HOLY HOUSE OVERHAUL, BATMAN to be ready for the arrival of some of my British family in July.]

So I have eight more days not counting today to get this manuscript up and moving – two of those days are Renn Fest days, so make that six days. How do you find motivation when the genuine threat that what you’re writing is awful looms? This is not a new piece – this is the last in a series, and it has a lot of eyes on it. It’s like the metal footfalls of the Cybermen are tromping through my head, trailed by the Daleks, Reavers, the Borg, Control, and the entire bloody Empire – and all I can do is sit and wait for it all to arrive.

If you need me, I will be behind the couch. Writing. Maybe.

Qet!

TlhIgan Alphabet

Yeah, some of you didn’t need the caption to know what the image is, did you? It’s okay if you didn’t, I won’t tell anyone. The language-loving Trekkie in me recognizes the language-loving Trekkie in you, friend. Qapla’!

I am hereby outing myself as trying to learn Klingon. Yes, that is the language created for one of the fictional races in Star Trek. Yes, it does have a lot to do with the fact that Lt. Commander Worf is one of my favorite characters from Roddenberry’s creation. But there are two other reasons, one that should be plain if you know me and one that might not be so plain, but will make sense, again, if you know me.

Reason the First: I love languages. When I was little, I had a book – it was called The Book of Knowledge – and the book had listings of most of the nationalities of the world and their languages, and gave a few sample words in each language. It fascinated me to know how you say “Hello!” in Spanish or “Pardon me,” in French. And then there were the languages that did not use the same alphabet that English does – languages that use Cyrillic characters, for example – it was like code! Trying to see similarities that weren’t there between those characters and the Latin script that makes up the languages I understand filled my afternoons as a kid. It was a true tragedy that my school system didn’t teach languages before high school as so many do today, or I would have taken every single one I could fit into my schedule.

It is no wonder that I do what I do for a living – one of my best memories of the time I have been in my current job was a day that my co-interpreter and I were watching music videos in American Sign Language on YouTube and being just overcome with the choices the performer was making. We were out of our first language altogether and just allowing the beauty of our second language to live and breathe on the screen and then on our own hands as we tried to recreate what he had done first – the efficiency of his sign choices and the beauty of the meaning that he conveyed was just more than I could take. ASL to me is like magic – linear language becoming three dimensional and alive.

Who is surprised? No one, I’m sure.

Reason the Second: I am a very mousy person. Very few people have experienced truly ANGRY me who is so ANGRY that she expresses that ANGER. I am introverted and shy, and I hate that about myself because it seems that it is NOT THE RIGHT WAY TO BE, according to most of the people in my life. I am more expressive in ASL than I am in English, oddly enough, because ASL lends itself well to that sort of communication. There is no whispering in a visual language.

Klingon is harsh. It is a gutteral language. It is loud. There aren’t words for Hello or please or thank you. I still won’t speak it out loud unless I am asked how to say a particular word. It is a language whose culture is completely opposite of who I am every day, and I love that. But y’all, the best thing that has happened since I started this process has been the ability to understand some of the Klingon used on the different programs in the Star Trek world.

This new understanding of aggressiveness and harshness is helping me with some of the races that I have created in my novels – and it is helping me create languages for those races. While Sath may seem like a pussy cat, he has another side to him that is more rough and animalistic, yet developed – that is how Qatu’anari should be, and to date, it isn’t really. Maybe the Klingon will help me with that, as well as with other races that live on the Dark Side of the World that has yet to be discovered, or with D’leesh spoken by the dark elves, or even Eldyr. This makes my heart so happy.

Conclusion: Am I nerdy? Oh, no question. Most definitely.

Will I be able to fire back at you in Klingon when you call me a nerd, with that derogatory tone in your voice? ‘oH net poQbej Har SoH!

Here I go again, on my own…

It’s another Camp Nano, y’all, and I’m heading out into the metaphorical wilderness with my shiny copy of Scrivener for organization (that I’m not supposed to be doing but since I’m already a panster here we are) and my tried and true Google Docs for actual writing. This month’s foray into madness is the next (and probably last, really) in the Clobberpaws series, and is about our Ciaragh. More wordcounts and general angst can be found over on my Twitter page, but for now, I’m still sorting out the already planned material (which is none) and working on the first chapters (always the hardest).

This will also include a special character, Roxanne, whose mom won the right to have her Bridge Angel included by winning an auction. The funds raised support the Greyhound Health Initiative, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. So far I am loving getting to know Roxanne through her mom and working her into the story. So much fun! Clicking on the picture above will take you to a page where you can follow my wordcount progress if you are so inclined.

In the meantime, an admission:  Yeah, I stole the title from S4Ep10 of the Magicians, “All That Hard, Glossy Armor,” or, as our DVR explained, “Margot hits her step count.” No spoilers but HOLY MOLY that was another amazing musical episode and I only love this show more.

 Speaking of which…

Ongoing Scrivener Saga

So after many hours of struggling with my own lack of patience, I finally cracked the code and got my enormous work in progress into Scrivener. Seems that two things were working against me: 1. My laptop was trying to run the program in a compatibility mode with Windows 8, which -much like Windows Vista – was really pretty and about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. 2. Scrivener is a multi-faceted program that takes a file and manipulates it into several different formats, so when you have a HUGE file like the manuscript I was importing it’s going to take awhile.

By ‘awhile’ I mean ten minutes. I timed it. From clicking on ‘open’ in the import dialog box to the title page appearing on my screen it took ten solid minutes. The fact that I thought to time it is a completely different issue.

This is a good time for me to admit that I had an idea about what Scrivener would do, based on my use of the program for a screenplay several years ago. I had taken a manuscript then and used the formatting in Scrivener to set it up properly for a screenplay. I remembered simply cutting and pasting and poof! Screenplay!

First, I was missing a few steps in between the cut/paste and poof. So when I put my 143,000+ word manuscript into the Scrivener software I spent a few good long minutes looking for the POOF button. What I found instead was a fantastic tutorial that I watched and I did the steps along with it. The result was not a poof, but an almighty ‘oh, that’s how it works’ that was almost as satisfying as the poof I erroneously remembered.

Second, the keyboard shortcut to “split” the huge behemoth into smaller chunks (chapters) was an amazing find. When you have more than 50 chapters, finding anything that speeds up your work is a huge plus. It went on from there – the corkboard, the ability to move chapters around, the outline contained on index cards – and I am sold.

The only thing left is that I feel a bit like I am stepping out on Google Drive. I did find this wonderful article that explained how to sync up my Scrivener data with Drive so that I can work on more than one machine and have a backup that I trust. So I guess I’m not completely leaving Google Drive behind – it is still my weapon of choice for beta reading and editing. And the current work in progress was 3/4 written in Google Drive, but I’m going to work on it in Scrivener and see what the difference will look like. I’m also going to do April’s CampNanoWrimo in Scrivener so we will see how it goes starting from scratch.

The saga continues – just as I was getting excited about working on my novel from my phone. Stay tuned.