On Headspace

Mantra I started using the Headspace app over two weeks ago. So far it’s good–there’s an issue with it not clocking my “run streaks” effectively, but considering that I’m not doing this for app achievements it’s probably okay.

I began seriously pursuing meditation during my treatment for anxiety, and never fell fully out of the habit. Nowadays, I continue because it makes for interesting brain changes, and one of the things I fear most is losing my mental acuity. (Frankly, my brain’s all I’ve got going for me, so I want it kept in shape.) I like that the Headspace stuff is open-ended, and the guide (Andy Puddicombe) has a very soothing voice and a gentle way of not commanding you to do things.

I work well with invitation, but not so well with commanding.

Anyway, I have a subscription; even if you don’t want to purchase one the first ten guided meditations are free and I highly recommend them. I am slightly less happy about Headspace’s tweeting in support of Westin Hotels, but I guess even meditators gotta get paid, right? And every subscription also provides a comparable free subscription to someone who might not be able to afford it, so that appears to balance it out.

In other news, there’s a short story that needs copyedits eyeballed, revisions on the first Gallow book, incoming proof pages for a YA, and I am experimenting with a Smitten Kitchen recipe for black beans today. First, though, I’d better get my meditate on. I do have a post idea about the philosophy of not putting up with toxic people, but that will have to wait.

In the meantime, deep breath, and let’s rock this Wednesday.

photo by:

Creative Subversion

edwardswife Chapter 9 of the serial proceeds apace. There’s a certain fight scene I want to write, and it requires me to listen to Aerosmith’s Rag Doll over and over again. The cyborg has to fight off a whole hell of a lot of other cyborgs, and things are going to get a little unpleasant for her.

There comes a point, sometimes midway, sometimes a little earlier or later, when stories–even the ones you know the “beats” and the form of pretty thoroughly going in–take on a life of their own. They decide where they’re going, how long it’s going to take them to get there, and all associated things, and all one can do is throw up one’s hands and hope. Submission to the story, and faith that it’s going to turn out all right.

I’d forgotten how fun it is to write serial-structure, too. How tightly it forces one to focus on the “beats” within each scene and chapter, and how one has to arrange all the pieces in order to make them fall the way they need to in the end. Like writing on spec, or writing within a genre with really tight confines, it makes you get creative with subverting your tropes and whatnot.

In other words, hellaciously good fun.

Now I’ve got to get that damn scene finished so I can leave the chapter behind and stop playing that song…

Save Some Trouble

Day 30: Kerplunk! Hachette vs Amazon continues apace. With luminaries such as CE Murphy, Harry Connolly, Scott Turow, James Patterson, and Charlie Stross weighing in, I feel rather as if there’s not much left for me to say. I do want to note a few ancillary things, though.

If my opinions on Amazon enrage you, and you express that rage by threatening not to buy my books, it merely puzzles me slightly. (I’m going to quote from a Twitter thread I posted last night here.) If you don’t like my politics, my feminism, my comment policy, or my opinions on Amazon, my books will probably just upset you more. Your threat to “not read” me just makes me think, well, this person’s saving themselves some grief and ulcer medication, so…good luck? And that’s about it. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or upset me, nor does it change my mind about anything. If you want to change my mind or make me feel bad, first you have to earn my respect. Threats are not a good way to do so.

I also wanted to note something curious I’ve seen in the comments here. Several commenters seem to have landed not understanding that I am also self-pubbed, and that Hachette is not my only publisher. They’re not even my only trad publisher. I have multiple books out with trad presses as well as multiple small presses and my own self-pub LLC. Choosing to lecture me in an ill-tempered and incoherent manner on the publishing industry and book distribution when you do not have a commensurate level of experience stands little to no chance of impressing me, especially if such lecture is full of fuzzy, also-incoherent talking points from people who likewise do not possess much experience. It’s normal to have opinions on things one doesn’t know much about–believe me, I have plenty myself–but trolling on such things is bad form indeed.

Another curious thing I noted was a flood of traffic from a site run by a (quite popular, I suppose?) demagogue of self-publishing whose stock-in-trade seems to be such trolling. While I welcome the new readers–come in, have a drink, tell me about yourselves!–I most emphatically do not welcome trolling (concern or otherwise), rhetorical bad form (strawmen, canards, misrepresentation), personal insults or mansplaining. Consider this a gentle warning, mostly because I don’t have time to engage with such nonsense. I do, however, often screencap and save such things, even if I don’t keep them in the mod queue.

Now, many new commenters behaved themselves, and I welcomed (and still do welcome) their comments. There were a few bad apples, however, who wore out said welcome and are now banned after clear warnings. Banning does not have to be permanent–a good place to start with getting un-banned is an apology, should you have a burning desire to keep playing in this particular internet sandbox.

I am also a little amazed and puzzled by the attitude that I am somehow a huge tentacled Goliath picking on the plucky David of Amazon.

Quite a few of those leaping to defend poor, helpless Amazon against mighty incredible me focused on the same talking points and rhetorical strategies. It is frankly incredible–the most bizarre thing was the familiar pattern of typos. I don’t think it’s a coordinated effort, but I do think there is an echo chamber or five, some run by people who profit financially or (more prosaically) emotionally by feeding an air of publishing grievance, where there is a certain lingua franca that includes said typos and also includes the perception that somehow Amazon is an underdog altruistically doing battle on behalf of geniuses the gatekeepers of trad publishing have snubbed. If that’s your cuppa tea, fine, but don’t expect me to concur or give much shrift to the notion.

The mod queue remains a bit tighter than usual, for all the above reasons and others. If you find yourself about to grab comment threads from previous (closed) posts or about to tell me how if I just self-published (more than I already have, I guess?) I would see Amazon as the underdog, or about to tell me just how much my criticism of Amazon or my comment policy means you’ll never read my books now, please take a deep breath and find another subject.

Thank you.

photo by: Dusty J

On Snow Leopards

Snow Leopard in the Altai Mountain region Let me tell you a story. It involves my ex, but it’s not that kind of story. He’s not a bad person, and there were several years of things working as they should in our relationship.

During one of those years, we had a conversation about snow leopards.

“In Tibet,” he told me, “there’s snow leopards, and there’s dogs. The difference is when you throw a rock at them.”

“You shouldn’t throw rocks at animals anyway,” I objected.

“Shhh, this is about why I love you. So they say, you throw a rock at a dog, it runs away.”

“You still shouldn’t throw–” I was getting a little miffed on behalf of these poor animals.

“I know, bear with me, okay? A dog runs away. But you throw a rock at a snow leopard, you know what it does? It vectors the trajectory and comes for where the rock originated, figuring there’s food there one way or another.”

“As well they should. People shouldn’t throw rocks at animals.”

“See, THIS is why I love you.”

Which just puzzled me more. “Because I don’t throw rocks?”

“Because you’re a snow leopard. People can’t tell that from a distance, but if they throw a rock, they fucking find out.”

“…that’s one of the nicest things you’ve ever said to me.”

He grinned. “I aim to please.”

Yeah, there were reasons I married him, even if things ended up where they did.

Anyway, the whole point of this trip down Memory Lane: be a snow leopard, chickadees. When a rock hits you, figure out where where it comes from, and if there’s food there, kill it and eat its still-steaming body…

Crap. I think the metaphor broke down. I need more coffee.

Over and out.

Finite Willpower

Storm in Southern Kansas Torrential rain. Strong winds. Soaked earth. Flood advisories, and the yard looks like a war zone. I am endlessly glad we’re in this house, and not the old one.

I finished the weekend-weekend (today extends yon weekend for the kids, but not for me) by slapping parental controls on my Warcraft account.

No, not for one of the kids.

For me.

Because the shortcut is there on my desktop, the game is built to be addicting, and OMG it’s so tempting to think “just 20 minutes of grinding a little more Golden Lotus rep, it can’t hurt,” and then I realise an entire day has gone. I’d be angry at myself for lack of discipline, but that doesn’t really solve the problem, right? The time spent making myself feel miserable can be used far more productively.

It’s important to have discipline, and the other half of discipline is setting things up, as far as you can, to make it easy to do what you should. Willpower is a finite resource, after all, and it just makes sense to structure everything around writing, as far as I can, to make it easier on me. Practice makes discipline easier, yes, I’ve said that a million times. I also say: try to arrange things reasonably, as far as possible, so you don’t have to struggle more than one already does with the task.

So: parental controls. The Freedom app. Closing the office door, if you have one, if you can. I can work despite incredible distractions, but I often find I don’t want to.

I often quote the old adage “Habit is the best of servants, but the worst of masters”. Nipping a bad habit (playing WoW all damn day) in the bud is easier than wrenching a long-established habit (my writing schedule) around. It’s easier to make the decision to put the damn controls on despite feeling like a morally-reprehensible addict (yes, that’s exactly how I felt) when one already has the habit of writing time burned into one’s synapses and daily decision-making. (The fact that the mortgage needs to be paid is also a wonderful concentration aid.)

I’m sure I’ll click over to sign on into WoW several times today and be reminded that no, that’s not what I need to be doing with my writing time. That’s okay. Falling off is not a bad thing, it doesn’t make you weak or a terrible person. It does, however, require you to dust yourself off and get back on, and it’s easier to do that if you don’t spend a long time beating yourself up. Calling yourself nasty names, engaging in negative self-talk or cognitive distortions, takes up energy I could be using for writing. Stopping and redirecting is hard, but it’s worth it to build the new habit of shortening the time between falling, shaking the dazed noise out of your head, and getting back up into the saddle.

photo by: rsaxvc

Spring Planning

Genesis Yesterday I took a ramble with Miss B, mostly because we had both been trapped in the house that damn flu. (Side note: this morning I woke up to my nose tingling so much my teeth almost hurt while my body decided to flush vestiges of the sickness out. FUN.) It wasn’t until we were halfway through the woods that I put my finger on what was nagging at me: the ferns were back, and new-lush green. Not only that, but the trees are bearing tiny buds, preparing for spring. This led to me checking around the house when I got home, and yes, crocuses and snowdrops are beginning to sprout. A bit early, but I’m sure they know their business. If it means winter’s grip is loosening, well then. I’m just hoping no late frost kills all the bulbs and the trees, but they can’t both be wrong, can they?

Which means it’s time to start thinking about this year’s vegetable garden. Some kale overwintered from last year, and the garlic I planted in fall is coming up too. It will be nice to dig a bulb or three up and do an actual garlic braid eventually. Tomatoes, sugar snap peas, beans, chard and more kale, and maybe some cabbage. Sauerkraut made from one’s own cabbage, wouldn’t that be a treat? Plus I should probably get some mason bees. Since the neighbors have very small children, a honeybee hive is not a good idea yet. Plus, bees are technically another pet, and I’m not allowed any more unless one of the ones we already have shuffles off to Animal Heaven.

Also, yesterday, we took the Yule tree down. The holidays were calm and quiet, but I was still twitchy all the way through them. That’s one thing about trauma: getting better involves processing, and you don’t have the energy to process if you’re drowning in stress. Lowering stress tolerance means less stress, and that means more energy for processing–so even if things are going well and you’re still jumpy, it doesn’t necessarily mean bad things.

There, that’s my deep thought for the start of the year. Time to go get some writing done, while spring tiptoes closer.

photo by: Indy Charlie