First Friday Update, and it’s a Long One

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2 on Kickstarter, Friday February 21st 2020:

It took most of the day to kick in, for some reason, but the price of the Mornnovin eBook on Amazon has finally adjusted to 99¢. It will remain at that deeply discounted price at least until February 26th. I may or may not be persuadable on the subject of extending the sale for an additional week.

So now that the stress of that unexpected snafu has lifted, I can do a proper update.

It’s Friday, five days in, and as of posting this the fundraiser is sitting pretty at $821 or 22% funded. We’re nicely on track. The next big goal, obviously, is getting to 25% ($925) and I’m confident we can hit that mark easy-peasy before the end of the weekend. Please, keep talking up this series and sharing the link with your friends, family, and followers.

Trajelon is a special book not just because it’s mine and I have to say that, but because it explores issues and themes that I don’t think we see often enough in fiction – especially not in the sparkly elf magic genre.

I’m going to get real with you for a minute.

I’ve talked before about how the version of Mornnovin that is now published is the culmination of thirty years and four versions of telling that particular story. What people may not know is that I’d also written Trajelon once before.

In late 1997, I was 18 years old and I’d made some terrible decisions that I was locked into living with for the foreseeable future, both because of the nature of responsibility but also because of pride. People had tried to warn me, and of course being the age I was, I knew everything. I’d been downright insolent about my conviction that I knew what I was doing.

So there I was, miserable, bridges burned, everything to prove, struggling under the load of several massive responsibilities all taken on at once, knowing that I’d made the bed I now had to lie in. I was also trying to pass my first semester of college as an English major. I can’t remember now precisely which combination of events led me to come to this conclusion, but I started to feel that although I was reasonably good at academic writing, my creative writing was a clear waste of my time. I actually went as far as deciding to give it up.

I think, now, that I might have been trying to punish myself.

That take makes sense in hindsight because as soon as I’d grounded myself from the sort of writing I actually enjoy doing, two things happened.

One, at odd moments I started doodling scenes that weren’t supposed to be part of anything, so I was free from the feeling that they had to be any good or make any kind of sense or fit within a larger narrative. This would come to be important later.

And two, the scenes I was scribbling down without any commitment to story or quality were all about bad things happening to Loríen.

Because writers have to write, even if they’ve made bullshit nonsense declarations about how they’ve given it up, a story idea did eventually coalesce out of all of these snippets. And because of where I was, the story was dark. The finished product was horrible, but it was genuine – a savage cry of pain from someone who believed she had no right to it.

Fast forward ten years. Now it’s 2007. I’m still living in that hell of my own making, but it’s different because I’m ten years older and time does change things, for better or worse. Now I’m working a crappy retail job and it’s killing me. To save my sanity, one day, I pull some blank receipt paper out of the cash register and in tiny, cramped letters I start scribbling some scenes that aren’t supposed to be part of anything. They’re just junk for my brain, something to keep me alive. Because they’re not for anything real, I don’t worry about them being any good or fitting within whatever other arbitrary writing rules I have for myself. At night, while the household is asleep, I transfer the cramped letters from cash register paper to computer file.

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One of the receipt paper scraps miraculously survived to be found during a deep clean of my writing space in 2013.

After a while, I realize they are actually starting to make a coherent story, but it’s not canon, I tell myself. It’s just some cracky Asrellion fanfiction. Just some mindless entertainment. I keep giving myself permission to tell a different kind of story from whatever I imagine canon to be.

By the time I leave that crappy retail job, I find that in my time there I’ve managed to scribble onto bits and pieces of receipt paper what amounts to roughly twenty typed pages of… something.

Then I realize that what I have on my hands isn’t just something, it’s the seed of a new version of Book 2. One that actually has something to say besides screaming in wordless agony. The only problem is, this new book that I can see laid out before me is far too good for the terrible most-recent draft of Book 1 that would precede it.

Then I realize that I’m going to have to write this book, which means that I’m also going to have to rewrite the first book in the series in order to lay the necessary groundwork.

That’s the story of how I came to begin my ground-up re-imagining of Mornnovin in 2008.

It turns out to be a good thing that I took the time to do that first, because I wouldn’t have been ready then to tell the story that I ultimately had in me in 2016 when I wrote Trajelon over the course of six intense months. By then, I had escaped Hell. By then, I was safe. By then, I had some perspective on what it is not just to live through but to survive trauma and depression.

The first incarnation of Trajelon was what I needed it to be when I screamed it up, all those years ago. It was catharsis. I don’t blame it for its darkness or its ugliness any more than you would blame a post-surgical scar for its raw appearance. This iteration of Trajelon is what it needed to be. Almost Athena-like, it sprang fully-formed from the brain of its creator. And it’s no longer a cry of suffering. It’s… a meditation on living with the suffering that inevitably comes along with the triumphs we experience in life. Living with, enduring, growing from. Learning to discard where possible. Drawing into our identity and building off of where necessary.

No doubt this is scary territory for some readers, but that’s exactly why I think it’s so important to tell these stories. They can’t all be about glorious victories on the field of battle. There are more shades to the spectrum of the human (elven?) experience. I so wish this book had existed at a time when I could have drawn strength from it. Now I no longer need to draw on that kind of strength, but others do. I know they do.

So maybe this was a big old heavy update for a Friday evening, but I hope you don’t mind the candor. This book is very personal for me, as you now understand, and that would have become clear anyway as soon as you read it. Because I think that’s actually its truest and purest strength, I wanted to be up front about it in this fundraiser. I am pitching to you a fantasy novel written by a survivor of abuse, trauma, and depression written for survivors of abuse, trauma, and depression.

If you, like I do, think that’s an important thing to have exist in the world, please help me get the word out and bring it into reality.

And thank you for letting me get real.

lazy Sunday afternoon

It’s 42° F and sort of cloudy here today, following a couple of days of the sort of cold where just stepping outside is enough to remind my nose that it was broken once. They were busy days, Friday being what it was in a calendarish sense and Saturday being full up with an excursion into the city for writing critique group (my turn to submit) and location scouting for my husband’s next movie. We brought the husky along, since his separation anxiety sets an immutable stopwatch running any time we leave him home alone. (Five hours to the minute, max. Four and a half is better. Past that, there are… consequences.)

Today, in contrast, is a slower sort of day. And yet.

And yet tomorrow the Kickstarter for Trajelon launches. Because I’ve done this before, I know that means I’m about to step into the whirlwind.

It’s the deep breath before the plunge, as Gandalf the White tells Peregrin Took.

Yatsuhashi

It was September 2001. My husband had only just found employment again after being unexpectedly fired over the summer, and we were deep in the depths of financial stress. Then, that thing happened that happened in September of that year. It was a bleak month.

We got a phone call.

The couple who had bred our Shiba Inu, Kishu, had just overseen the arrival of their final litter of puppies: two feisty females. They were hoping to place them in homes that already had a member of the family. One of them was already spoken for. There was one left. Were we interested?

Oh geez. We were interested, sure, but could we afford it? We’d been talking about getting a friend for Kishu because he was alone much of the day when I was at school and my husband was at work. And this was our last chance to give him a *sister* sister.

In any case, things were pretty grim and we could do with a pick-me-up, so we agreed to at least meet her.

It should be obvious to anyone that this was a trap. I mean, puppies. Of *course* we were charmed by her, and of *course* we went home and talked about how we could make it work.

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Yashi and Stephen in October 2001, puppies together.

A few weeks later, when she was old enough, we brought home our bouncing baby girl. Yashi was a handful from that first car ride onward. But OMG was she cute. Our little Cinnamon Cookie. Just a tiny, spunky ball of fluff and naughtiness.

She belched, she swore (in dog, of course), she murdered (birds), she stole (her brother’s bed and pretty much anything else she wanted), she ate everything she shouldn’t (toys, clothes, shoes, glasses, TIN CANS), she destroyed furniture — she was Trouble. She probably would have flicked cigarettes and guzzled six packs if given the opportunity. I can’t even recall how many times she ran away from home like a rebellious teen. The most notorious of those escapes, we found her five days later, two cities and three freeways away!

We had many nicknames for her, and I believe they paint quite a picture: Spike, Teeth, Evil, Demon, Furanha, Furricane, Tank, Goat, Weasel, Princess Fizzbitch, Beast, etc. When people saw her, they would inevitably move in to pet her and say, “Oh she’s so cute! Does she bite?” The answer was yes. Yes, she would bite. Though she was but little, she was fierce. Kishu, bless him, did his best with her (and totally loved her,) but at the best of times you could tell that his feelings about her largely consisted of “Ugh,” and “Really?!”

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Yashi (left) and her brother Kishu (right)

As an adult Shiba, she grew to a petite but solid 18 pounds, decidedly cinnamon but with obvious cream in her family makeup. And boy could she EAT. We always said she had a cast iron stomach, because there was nothing too spicy, too bold, too potentially poisonous for her.

Food or not, she ate whatever she wanted. Including, one year, an entire giant dark chocolate Easter bunny. We were certain that was going to be the end of her, but she shrugged it off just like she shrugged off everything else that should have kept her down. (She was up and jumping within three hours after being spayed. Crazy beast!) Not even eventually having a dog brother who was approximately 7x her size and could fit her entire body inside his mouth made her blink. She bullied him just like she bullied everyone else — adorably and with sassy impunity.

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Yashi and her new little brother Jiro, who did not stay little for long.

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Yashi and a much older Jiro — how the tables turned!

As she moved from puppyhood into middle age, she started to lose some of her tankiness but none of her sass. Her appearance was deceptively delicate. When it became clear that she was shrinking, but was also indestructible, I hit upon the Cuteness Singularity Theory. Yashi was immortal, I reasoned. Nothing could harm her. But you know the (totally scientific) principle of how, if you take a normal-sized thing and make a miniature version of that thing, the miniature version is like exponentially cuter, just on principle? If Yashi were to keep shrinking, and keep getting cuter, she would eventually reach a point where her smallness and cuteness were just too much to be supported by the laws of physics, and she would collapse into a Cuteness Singularity like a neutron star, thereby destroying the entire universe.

It seemed more plausible than Yashi ever expiring of natural causes.

When I left Arizona in May of 2015, she stayed behind with my son Stephen, her chosen human. By that time, they had developed a very special bond and separating them was unthinkable. She did not do well while watching us pack up the house for our respective moves. It’s heartbreaking to me that my last memories of Yashi are of watching her sink into panic and despair while her home slowly disappeared around her. I know that she and Stephen were an essential comfort to each other in that chaotic time.

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My last photo with Yashi, May 2015.

It was a difficult transition for everyone, but team YashiStephen pulled through it into a place of some calm. Stephen said at the end of 2019 that it had been a good year for him and he was happy.

But somehow, it turns out, Yashi was not actually immortal. I’m still stunned about that and I’m not sure how to process the information. I was waiting for her to cause the Cuteness Singularity death of the universe. I was not expecting to find out that she was in the late stages of dementia and fading fast. At her last vet weigh-in, she was only 10 pounds. It is a terrible situation to face, but ultimately, human caretakers have to make the compassionate decision about our furry friends’ end-of-life arrangements. I respect Stephen like hell for giving her 18 and 1/3 long years of life, and I respect him for choosing to send her off in love and snuggles.

Yesterday, on January 20th 2020, he said goodbye to his little buddy, his sheeb, his tiny princess.

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Little old lady Yashi with her boy, before the end.

You were a goodbad dog, Princess Yatsuhashi, and we love you. Thank you for taking care of my boy when I couldn’t. Sleep well, sweet beastie.

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A younger Yashi with her boy after a day out — all smiles.

Round and Round

You know that thing where you feel fine all week, but then as soon as you hit the weekend/your time off, you crash hard with some sudden mystery illness? Only you weren’t actually fine before, you were just managing to push through because you didn’t have a choice, and then when you finally have a minute to rest, your body can’t keep pushing anymore?

Yeah, that thing?

That happened to me in a big way after my rather naïve post about not having anything major on the horizon for the first time in forever. I should have known. I should have known.

The health stuff hit me hard this past June and has not let up.

The truth is, I’ve been doing my best to push through chronic pain and snowballing health issues since *checks watch* oh, about 1997. Back then, doctors told me I was too young for [insert symptoms I definitely actually was experiencing despite their dismissal] and that I just needed to focus on losing my pregnancy weight. That was, of course, total bullshit.

I’m still whirling around on the diagnostic carousel at the moment (and trapped in insurance bureaucracy Purgatory,) but there is mounting evidence that in fact I was right all along about what I tried to tell my doctors I thought was happening and now the matter has come to a head.

So, that’s neat.

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This of course is my way of explaining why I utterly, completely, and in all other ways abjectly failed to do any of the book promotion that I had every intention of doing over the summer. Sorry, Mornnovin. I love you, but you have sort of become the neglected firstborn child. Because now it is time for me to begin thinking about all of the pieces, parts, and processes that will go into bringing Book 2 to life.

While still juggling this health crap.

I do have hope that we’re approaching some answers and a treatment plan that will see me starting to feel more human soon. In the meantime, it’s book-planning season.

Luftpause

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To be blunt about it, the last few years of my life have been crazy. It has often felt like I was caught up in a hurricane — a sense of rushing wind, of not knowing where I was being swept to or how fast or where I would land. Some of that motion has been of my own making, but it has been no less disorienting or tumultuous than the storms that came from elsewhere.

Earlier this month, after finally delivering the last copy of Mornnovin to the last Kickstarter backer who was due one, I found myself suddenly between chaoses long enough to take a much-needed beach vacation with the best man in the world.

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If we look exhausted, it’s because we drove through the night to get there.

As I was sitting on our shady balcony in the nice sea breeze with the soothing crash of the surf in my ears, I realized that for the first time in I-can’t-remember-when, there would be no major thing waiting for me upon our return home. There would just be… life, such as it is.

After swimming dizzily in the void of that realization for a few minutes, I decided it was a good moment to take a breath and have a look behind me. I opened up a Word file on my laptop and started a bullet-point accounting of everything that had led to me being in that moment with that man on that beach.

The resulting list starts with Jiro’s death in December of 2013, ends with leaving for vacation on the 6th of this month, and pared down for brevity is ten pages long. So many things were happening to me or needed to be done that it’s no wonder I felt like my whole world was in the air.

Our return home did not end up being quite as leisurely as I expected, what with an immediate dog crisis and the revelation that there are ongoing issues with the hardcover edition of Mornnovin (ugh), among one or two other annoyances. (Why does the office suddenly smell like vomit?) But once the dust settled even from those issues, it is still true that for the first time maybe ever, I’m getting to just kind of go along and mostly do my own thing for a minute.

I’ve got stable housing, a supportive partner, a great dog, I live in a climate that isn’t killing me, and for the first time in my life I’m more or less earning adequate money to handle my expenses. I have to spend more of my time than I’d like every day running around satisfying the demands of capitalism, but we all have that. It’s pretty much just me, my guy, our doggo, and our art.

In some ways, it feels like my fantasy series and my life are both starting Book 3 at the same time. And maybe that’s why I’m not sure yet where it’s going to go.

It’s going, though. They both are.

Perhaps finally at something like my own pace.

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Great news, and some just news

Photo Oct 13, 4 18 39 PM (1)

photo by Jamie Carey

Two weeks ago, on October 13th 2018, I had the joy and the privilege of exchanging marriage vows with the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. It was a mad, chaotic day, but I came out of it joined to someone whose perfection as a counterpoint, friend, and partner to me cannot be adequately expressed. That’s the great — the greatest! — news.

The just news is this:

With wedding planning and the last of the formal wedding responsibilities now in my rearview mirror, it’s my intention to dive headlong into the work necessary to self-publish Book 1 of my fantasy trilogy (with Book 2 to follow as soon as I’ve paved the way.) Watch this space for more news on that front as it develops!