Dr. Money’s Flu Remedies

It’s Flu Season, so this week at the SFF Seven we’re talking about our favorite tea, soup, or homeopathic feel-better recipe.

As you all may or may not know, I was clever enough to get myself an in-house physician. My hubs, David Money, is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. As part of his schooling, he learned all about nutrition, herbal formulas, and various supplements.

Really, the best flu remedy is not to succumb to it in the first place. So, if I start feeling under the weather, these are my go-to home remedies. Come on over to find out what they are. 

 

Refilling the Well

I finished THE FIERY CITADEL, book two in my Forgotten Empires trilogy with St. Martins Press, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE. Yeah, it doesn’t come out until 2020 – maybe summer? we don’t know – but I completed the first draft and sent it in to Editor Jennie. There will be more work to come, but that’s the big milestone to pass.

I promised myself this time that I’d take some time off before heading into the next project. More than the weekend. As a full-time author, I write five days a week, going for 3,000 – 3,500 words per day. It takes me an average of 3 – 4 hours to get that, with an overall elapsed time of about 6 hours, including breaks. I usually have a pretty tightly packed schedule, so finishing one book has meant diving right into the next. But I track my productivity pretty carefully – I can’t control my creative process, but I can learn all there is to know about it and plan accordingly (which is part of owning your process) – and I’ve discovered that the week after I finish writing a book draft tends to be unproductive.

Even when I schedule myself for my usual work week, the writing tends to feel like pulling teeth. My word counts are low, I screw around a lot, and I don’t really refill the well.

So this week I’ve been not writing. Yesterday I tackled the garage. We have this one corner with a built in workbench and set of shelves. When we moved in (lo, these ten years ago – sheesh), we stuffed a lot of stuff back in those shelves, especially the lower ones, and back in the deep corner where they form an L. The original plan was one side of the L (the long one) would be for David’s tools and the short side would be my garden bench. My husband, however, while possessing many sterling qualities, is almost pathologically incapable of organizing his stuff. So his workbench has been a mess since day one. In fact, it’s a more ancient mess than that, as he pretty much threw the existing mess of his workbench and garage stuff into bins when we moved and dumped it out here.

I keep a hammer and a few screwdrivers in my office, just so I can find them when I need one.

Not only is his workbench a nightmare, when he has no place to put anything – which is always – he’d stack it on my garden bench. It got so I couldn’t even get to my gardening stuff. So I ceded the field of battle. I moved the baker’s rack from our front patio around to the secret garden and put everything there that can safely weather outside. I’ve also pulled most everything out of that space – discovering numerous rodent nests in the process – and now I’ll organize it for him. I kept a lower shelf for my garden stuff that needs to be out of the weather, but otherwise my garden bench is now for his fishing supplies. I’m kind of excited to do the thing where you hang up the tools and draw Sharpie marker outlines to designate where they go. We’ll see if it works and how long that lasts…

Anyway, it’s been good to disengage my brain and simply lift and organize. I’ve been rearranging the patio and garden, too, and things are looking pretty. Plus, I found some cool garden ornaments I shoved back in that corner and forgot I had! Watch for pics of those as I get them put out.

Really, but No

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! David and I are both from Irish families. You can see it in those smiling eyes, yes?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “I don’t think so. Name a piece of writing advice you do not agree with and explain why.” Come on over for mine. 

 

Certain Social Standards and Choosing the Happy

My two boys, enjoying the new recliners and the lovely sunlight of a winter afternoon. I feel sure if Jackson could make his recline, too, he would. 

 

The recliners were a Christmas gift for David. The family all pitched in and we replaced the couch with them. There’s the Before and After. We actually ended up keeping the couch and moving it to another room, which entailed moving stuff from THAT room to an entirely different room, which meant moving the dresser into the closet, and the Big Closet Reorganization, that you may have seen me posting about the last few days. (Mostly on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s a pic here, too.) 

It’s funny because, when I saw Megan Mulry Monday night (we saw The Favourite and had dinner after – if you want to hear my thoughts on the movie, you can listen here), I showed her the pics of the rearrangement. She’s house-sat for us before, so she was familiar with the previous set up. She agreed the recliners were a great idea – so much easier to swivel to watch movies, so comfy! – and then asked what I’d do about the fact that I have two other armchairs on the other side of the room. I started laughing and said, “Nothing! I’m leaving it as is, but my mother said the SAME THING.” So Megan starts laughing, too, saying “Omigod, me and your mom.” (Who she’s met and they enjoy each other.) And I said, “Yeah, my mom said, ‘but you can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair.'” Megan is still snorting into her beer, and says, “I know – like a meeting!”

I suppose I could put a conference table in the middle… 

The thing is – and this is part of why Megan was laughing, because our mothers are very much alike, with Certain Social Standards – the reason I “can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair” because “it looks like a meeting,” is a consideration for entertaining. That’s what Certain Social Standards are all about. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m very glad that my mother taught me the social skills she did. I know a lot about entertaining and putting events together, skills that have come in very useful in my corporate work, my career as an author, and in my volunteer work for organizations like SFWA and RWA. Social skills are critical for careers of all kinds, even largely isolated ones like being a writer. My podcast on Friday has engendered a lot of conversation on the etiquette of thanking authors who provide blurbs. 

But in this case, I draw a line, because David and I very rarely entertain. I do not host the Junior League meetings in my house, nor the Bridge Club. We occasionally have parties, though less often than we used to, mostly because it’s so much effort, but even then we have them outside whenever possible. When we do have a dinner party, we move everything around anyway. So why would we arrange our home with an eye toward having OTHER people like it?

I work from home. David is home a great deal, as he has irregular hours. We have a very pretty house with incredible views that we worked hard and dreamed long to acquire. It’s a place of peace and delight to us – so we set up the furniture in a way that adds to our relaxation and pleasure. 

I think this speaks to a larger point of why we make the choices we do. How many of our choices are made to please other people, or to meet their expectations? How often do we make a conscious choice to go against Certain Social Standards and instead do the thing that people might laugh at, but that makes us happy?

Something to ponder. 

 

 

Stand-up Paddleboard

Keeping My Balance in a Chaotic World

Stand-up Paddleboard

Last Sunday we went to Abiquiu Lake for some fishing (David) and stand-up paddleboarding (me). I know I’m not standing up in this photo – this was when I first got it – but I really can! I wasn’t able to find any pics of me standing and paddling. This is partly because David obviously would be the picture-taker, so I don’t have them on my phone or computer. It’s also because I told him not to take photos of me in my bathing suit because I never look as athletic and gazelle-like as I do in my mind and this is one place I’d rather not deal with crushing reality. 

Just imagine me in a bikini, golden tan, with long, lean thighs and washboard abs, okay? 

So, I’ve been doing the stand-up paddleboarding for two years now and I’m pleased to say I’m getting pretty decent at it. Last summer in San Diego I rented a board and got advice from a very helpful surfer dude that really improved my form. It’s both peaceful and good exercise – why I have those washboard abs! – and excellent for core strength and balance. Plus it’s super cool to glide over the surface of the lake and see the fish swimming by. 

Things that make it more challenging are driving winds – very difficult to make progress standing up because the body creates so much resistance, like a sail-and the wakes from boats.

On Sunday there were several jet boats with water skiers. In fact, my friend told me that she saw on Instagram that Cassidy Freeman was on the lake in one of those boats. She’s likely in the area filming Longmire. I suspect what happened is her fault, because that bitch has always been jealous of me. 

I was paddling along fine, feeling good, the lake lovely and cool, not too choppy yet, though the wind was picking up. Then a big swell from a passing jet boat came rolling in, rocking me massively. I rode it out, though! I kept my balance, eyes up, knees bent and stayed up until the water calmed.

But, you know what? It rattled me. My adrenaline shot up, I got shaky. I got nervous. Even though I tried talking myself through it, I no longer felt serene. 

When it happened again – another swell from a jet boat, probably Cassidy’s, swamping me – I fell.

Now, I should clarify that falling off the paddleboard is seriously No Big Deal. Because you’re on water. Boom, under you go. It’s even refreshing. It’s not like I hurt myself. I’m a good swimmer and NM regulations require the life vest, so I’d float regardless.

But there’s the moment of floundering. I’d forgotten and worn my good sunglasses and those were gone, sacrificed to Lady Abiquiu. And there’s the whole pride thing which apparently doesn’t goeth before a fall, because I still had mine, all bruised and stinging, even though I don’t think anyone even saw. Besides, who cares if they did?

Still. 

Falling rattled me even more. I’ve been thinking about it since then. 

With stand-up paddleboarding, I want to get so I don’t care if I fall. It should be equally fun, in and out of the water. I’m not trying to win a water-gazelle competition. I learn as much – if not more – from falling as from staying on. It’s a weird emotional attachment to some idea of success that I need to weed out of myself.

But it’s also a good metaphor for life. We like it when life is smooth and serene. I know I do! Peaceful orderly days, beauty around us, working at something we feel good about doing. And then the wave comes and swamps us. We’re rattled and sometimes fall. Getting back on that metaphorical board – which isn’t easy, but it’s that, drown or tread water – takes a lot of effort. I want to get so I’m okay with that, too. When things happen in life that upset my balance and topple me, I want to get so I take the dunking philosophically and go back to what I was doing. 

In a world that can feel like a stormy lake full of careless jet boats, it’s a critical skill to acquire. 

Does Your Family Read Your Books?

We have high winds today and Jackson is feeling the fever – here he is trying to climb the portal post. Spoiler alert: that’s as high as he got.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is whether our spouses or close family read our books. I always find it interesting how widely this answer varies among writers – from those who cowrite with spouses, or rely upon them or close family to critique, to those whose families don’t even know they write. Come on over to find out more!

That Was Awkward

As I mentioned earlier this week, we were up in northern Wyoming with David’s family, laying his mother to rest. Despite the circumstances, wintery weather in Wyoming, and the extensive miles put in over a short time – about 1,600 miles in four days – it was a good trip.

We stopped in Denver on the way and picked up my stepdaughter, Lauren, and her kids, our grandchildren. They rode with us there and back again. Of course, #kidsthesedays have all sorts of electronic devices to keep them entertained in the car on long road trips. So, Aerro and Tobiah had their games and tablets – and also borrowed my phone, my tablet, and their mother’s phone.

Yes, they overran my data usage and I don’t even care. I’m totally a sucker.

I also brought along some books to read to them – some of my very favorites that I’ve kept all this time. One of them was Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. I’d always loved that one, for the wiliness of the fox and how he outwitted everyone. Aerro picked that out for me to read, because foxes. 

So, I’m reading along – and Tobiah was totally drawn into the story, too, despite initial grumpiness – and we get to this scene near the end. Mr. Badger expresses reservations about what they’re doing.

Suddenly Badger said, “Doesn’t this worry you just a tiny bit, Foxy?”

“Worry me?” said Mr. Fox. “What?”

“All this … this stealing.”

And Mr. Fox goes on to explain that they’re taking food they need to live from the farmers who tried to kill them. The animals are just trying to live. On the page below, Mr. Fox explains:

“If they want to be horrible, let them,” said Mr. Fox. “We down here are decent peace-loving creatures.”

Badger laid his head on one side, and smiled at Mr. Fox. “Foxy,” he said, “I love you.”

I might have paused a little at that, I’m not sure. It did kind of read funny. But Aerro spoke right up and said, “Well, that was awkward.”

Which totally cracked me up. I don’t remember ever noticing that before, but Aerro sure knew her boundaries there. I confess it bothered me more that Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Badger were the first to become weak from hunger, while the men folk remained strong and resolute, and even the small badgers and foxes could keep digging. And then Mrs. Fox, so weak from starvation and dehydration that she can’t help dig is still able to muster the energy to cook a feast with all the food the others acquire.

I nearly caustically commented that the females were no doubt weak from popping out so many babies, but I do try not to editorialize. At any rate, so are our expectations and assumptions laid in, yes?

I might not be saving this book any longer, alas. 

Russian Trolls Under Every Bridge

One thing I’ve noticed recently, in sifting through the spam comments on my blog, is how many come from Russians now. And on one post, in particular.

See, I stopped looking at the spam comments after a while. This kind of went along with my overall dip in blogging that I mentioned yesterday. The comments seemed to be always and endlessly spam, and never any legit ones. Always jam yesterday and none today. The White Queen haunts me.

Of course, some of this came as a natural consequence of me not blogging comment-worthy stuff. But then I did say something interesting, and my friend, the lovely Grace Draven, mentioned to me on Facebook that she commented at length–but I didn’t see it. It was in my spam folder, because apparently Grace is actually a troll selling off-brand cross-trainers and possibly nudie webcam dancing. I was able to rescue her comment, and set about housecleaning that bursting folder. 

I’ve been trying to keep up with it better – with the help of wonderful assistant, Carien – and I’ve noticed something very interesting. Most all of the spam comments are on one old post from 2014, called “Taking Guns to the Mall.”  (Note: I’ve since changed the title, in an effort to stop the spam bots.) And the comments come from people with Russian names and often with Cyrillic characters in them. They’re the usual balderdash of jigsaw puzzled paragraphs of technical information with links, both commercial and likely nefarious. What happens here is that bots are crawling the internet looking for search terms and submitting these “comments” to the posts. 

Interesting search terms, huh?

It’s fascinating to me to have my own small intersection with a worldwide plague, one that very likely contaminated the 2016 election. Evidence cited in that article indicates that Russia-backed posts reached as many as 126 million Americans on [Facebook] during and after the 2016 presidential election.  

If you haven’t seen it, this video of Senator Franken grilling the Facebook lawyer is full of awesome. 

At any rate, I considered deleting that post, or changing the title to something less likely to tempt the trolls out from under their bridges. For now I’ve tried turning off comments to the post. It will be interesting to see how that works.

Meanwhile, that’s still one of my favorite photos of David, dressed as a pirate in the big hat. Sail on, me hearties.