Category Archives: Uncategorized

What Kurtz Taught A Teen

The fabulous writer and person Judith Tarr has been facilitating a read of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels, first published in 1970s. Tarr also wrote this great post on her discovery of Kurtz’s work, and its impact on opening up her own writing directions.

Tarr just happened to choose the writer who had more influence on me, as a reader, than any other.

Kurtz boosted my writing as well in a couple remarkable ways—I’ll get to that in a little bit—but her stories did more for me as a young person growing up odd in a decidedly conformist environment, as an innately curious person being educated mostly by people who judged first the appropriateness of my questions.

Continue reading What Kurtz Taught A Teen

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Once More, Years Later

Originally posted at These Certain Musings, where I tend to put the more personal stuff.  But I think grief and grieving is too little discussed, so I’m doing some extra sharing.

It’s that time of year again, though it seems to have arrived earlier than past years. Usually, by my recollection, I don’t end up feeling quite so sensitive until March, or especially May. Then again, that might be simply my impression.

I’ve been… overly sensitive for the past week or so, even as my writerly self–the one so thrilled and willing with story and character and creation–resurfaced in this new environment of family and encouragement. It’s been like having sunburned feelings: you know the person touching you doesn’t mean to cause pain, but even back-pats of encouragement hurt.

Then yesterday, when my mother was doing nothing more than trying to schedule a birthday dinner for either Sunday or Monday, I just about bit her head off for no reason. Then I tried to do laundry, and ended up stuffing clothes in the washer while tears ran down my face. Then I tried to cook supper, and ended up with the same result. Then I went to apologize to my mother, but what came out of my mouth instead was, “My 40th birthday was when I knew Ron was going to die.”

Until those words spilled out, I really hadn’t aligned past grief with present hurt. But there it is, doncha know, because grief is an unpredictable thing. It isn’t malicious (at least mine isn’t). It is instead almost too polite, apologizing for popping up year after year, and trying to be so subtle it leaves me confused and seemingly unable to identify it for days or weeks.

And the words, while true in an emotional sense, weren’t true in a factual sense. I mean, yes, I spent my fortieth birthday in a VA hospital, helping Ron eat the first meal he’d been permitted in a couple days and arguing with doctors who wanted to put him on blood-thinning medications when he’d almost bled to death internally a few days before. But I didn’t know he was going to die so soon for a few more days. (And I am still bitter and angry that I was the one who, after reading his test results, diagnosed him and told him the diagnosis weeks before a doctor got around to it.)

But the emotions rule, this far removed from the date. And my heart will always link my birthday with losing Ron–even though another four months passed before we lost him.

And I thought I had all that under control after figuring this out last night. Then I read this from Kathryn Cramer, and lost my shit all over again.

At the time Ron was diagnosed, we’d been living separately for almost three years, but we never divorced and we did remain close. There are times I still feel as if he’s simply lost, and I’ll find him if I walk into the next room even though he’s been lost for five years now.

So… I think we’re having a family dinner on Sunday. It’ll probably be okay. I’m giving myself permission to leak emotions all over the place if I feel like it. The feels aren’t going away, and though the feels aren’t pleasant, having them is not a bad thing.

They exist. I exist. One cannot miss what one did not love, and love is not a thing to be left behind.

Wedding 1996

Resolutions for a Balanced New Year

playI will choose and understand my life priorities before I entertain, let alone commit to, “measureable” goals. For example, “My son and I will have conversation today” is a much higher priority than “I will write 1000 words every day.”  What I produce will not be deemed of greater value and importance than who I am and the connections I want to preserve with family and friends.

I will give more weight to my mental and physical health, and the needs of the actual human beings in my life, than I do to word counts, bookings, and schedules. Certainly there are those who will assume I’m speaking from a place of privilege, as someone who must be able to set aside Real Life Responsibilities for some squishy emotional goal. Nope. The past almost-ten years haven’t been a stroll down the primrose path, darlings, and frankly, the journey was made more emotionally difficult by production-focused people at the edges of my life who looked down on my decision to invest time in my son and family rather than a monetary venture.  I wasted time feeling bad about their snubs. I won’t do that again.

If a fill-in-the-blank guru tells me I must perform X tasks in order to reach Y goal, or I’m not really ever going to get Y goal, I will merely assume the guru is telling the truth and move on. It’s very, very easy to get caught up in the Secret of Success Rhetoric. The industry is just as savvy as the diet industry when it comes to guilting people into handing over the lives (and money) in order to prove themselves Not A Loser. Many gurus thrive on enforcing methods that in reality force a person to neglect health, friendships, family, and life experiences for the sake of meeting goals, and will insinuate you’re a lazy, unworthy person if you’re not willing to make those sacrifices. There is no success I could achieve that would be worth such neglect.  I will not be shamed into acting otherwise.

I will more loudly rejoice when I do well. I will share my successes rather than humbly swallow them. Screw that Tall Poppy madness. I invite everyone else to do the same.

And above all, I wish everyone a 2016 that has more laughter than fear, more moments worth remembering than days worth forgetting, more tears shared in the company of others than wept alone, more encouragement in times of doubt than doubt in times of difficulty, and more time with people you love than longings for those beyond reach.

#SFWApro

The Mindset That Matters

(The following article originally appeared exclusively for backers for Patreon.)

This is an odd article to write, and not at all what I expected to be writing.  After all, I’ve a fight scene break-down in the works, a post on chokeholds in the wings, and an interview set for after the first of the year.

But right now…  Well.

On the morning of November 21, I sent messages of encouragement and excitement to a past student of mine preparing to test for her Sandan rank (3rd degree black belt), and exchanged cheerful notes with my own teacher, Shihan, of more than a dozen years, who’d be overseeing the test.

Then all my karate contacts on all social media platforms went quiet for a few hours, as one would expect during a long and demanding test.  But what followed was not the  outpouring of celebratory pictures and comments tempered with tales of hardship.

Instead, I found a smattering of brief comments, then a bunch of longer ones, expressing loss and grief.

Shihan’s sensei of four decades had died unexpectedly, and Shihan had found out ten minutes before bowing onto the mat to evaluate the efforts of almost three dozen students prepared to prove themselves worthy of the black belt.  He made the announcement to students and observers, dedicated the day to Hanshi, and began the test.

Had it been Shihan who’d passed away, he would have wanted the same thing.  And you know what?  So would I.

This is not an article about my loss and grief.  Truly, I met Hanshi only a scant handful of times so my sense of loss is removed, more of an empathetic reaction for those who were close to him.  This writing is instead about continuity and legacy, understanding how those things contribute to the formation of a fighter’s mindset, and how a fully realized mindset creates an authentic fighting character.

**100_2182 Continue reading The Mindset That Matters

Reviewers On the SPFBO

So Fantasy Faction put up its consolidation of responses from reviewers taking part in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. It’s worth reading for the range of responses—from the majority who found good reads to the minority who seem to believe indie writers are arrogant little things who ought to buck up.

As of this moment, my comment is still in moderation,* but I’ve included it here:

Thank you for putting these answers together! It’s interesting to see the numbers–the majority–in line with others in the field. (As in, the six out of seven SFWA members who consider indie publishing on the same professional footing as trade publishing.)

We talk often about self-publishing being a revolution. In truth, it’s an evolution, and the entire ecosystem will eventually evolve with it. As a reader and a writer, I greatly appreciate those who are taking part in the transition rather than waiting for it to be over. 🙂

I believe that truly, because we’re not talking solely about business opportunities here. We’re talking about a cultural and sociological shift as well. When business opportunities broaden, when consumers gain more control over purchasing decisions—and when those two things combine to alter the level of influence enjoyed by primary and secondary players—there will of course be resistance from some.  Few people like change, especially when it affects their foundational expectations.  And of those who don’t like change, very few will set that dislike aside in order to explore the opportunities of the new.

Three years ago, I told folks who asked me about the changes in publishing that it’d likely take three to five years to integrate. The three-year notion turns out to have been optimistic in terms of the most entrenched. But it’s about right for the majority. We have a little bit of time to go, but pros in the field who gain their news and information from diverse sources know things are changing beneath the feet of those who wish to stand still.

In the meantime, readers are enjoying their expanded options, and don’t much care who approves.

It’ll be interesting to see the readership and influence of different reviewers in the coming years. Will the most-read and oft-citied be those who opt now to stick solely to trade-published works most favored by marketing departments? Or will it be those whose diverse reading pool matches that available to readers?

If you’re a reviewer who’d like to see professional indie offerings, and would be willing to give SFWA some feedback, please drop me a line via my contact information.

And, once again, I really really wish I could find those old discussions about whether online markets should be considered professional, or if they were simply a dumping ground for stories that couldn’t cut it in the print mags.

In the meantime, I’m off again to Sirens for the evening!

*I moderate my comments as well, so the observation shouldn’t be taken as a criticism.

#SFWApro

On the Move…

On this big con weekend, I will be transporting my son, my dogs, myself, and all our belongings from Indiana to Colorado.  It’s been a rough couple weeks of packing, prepping, and saying a great many goodbyes.  My dojo and students have been successfully introduced to new instructors.  Other business obligations have been concluded.

I am incredibly excited to move forward in a new place and to build new relationships.  And I’m doubly thrilled I’ll again have the time to get back to SheyKhala so y’all can find out what Syrina, Pyrius, Ehren, and Raskah are up to.

So… I’ll see you after the move is complete!

And Then I Stared In Shock

100_2182As most of you know, I’ve spent the last year or so dealing with the fallout of deteriorating hip dysplasia.  For the most part, daily life isn’t deeply affected–evening stiffness, a bit of a limp when I’m tired, and an occasional wince-worthy pinch if I step wrong. It’s my martial arts training that took the biggest hit. Multi-hour sessions of intense training are a thing of the past, as are sharp sparring matches, most kicks above the knee, and anything that requires lots of torque or pressure on that joint.

Considering all that, I’d pretty much given up on testing for my Sandan rank (aka third-degree black belt). Yes, I could perform the material… if I could spread my demonstration out over a few days. But an hours-long high-intensity test? Erm, no. Not only was it doubtful I could get my hip to hold up for that long, I was certain I didn’t want to create more damage than I could properly recover from.

And it totally bummed be out–even moreso because I’d been on the verge of testing way back when my elbow dislocated. The complete healing of those ligaments overlapped with the decline of my hip and… well. That was that.

Thus you can imagine my shock and my weepiness when, after I ran the belt promotion for my own students, my teacher announced my promotion to Sandan.

And, unbeknownst to me, my adult students had put together a little celebration for it, too. Cake, drinks, everything for all the students and parents. I came home with little red-icing fingerprints on the back of my gi from kids hugging me after cake. 🙂

So. There it is. Sandan.  Me.  Whoa.