27 February 2015

I started writing Charybdis when I was 14 years old; we were getting ready to move from Texas to California, I was bored, and even then writing was what I turned to in order to fill all those adolescent, angsty empty spaces. The bones of that book had been simmering in my head for almost a year, and being moved away from my school and my friends, having a summer where I would know no one and live in strange surroundings, fostered an almost obsessive need to take pen to paper.

Writing, reading, and TV were about the only things I had to get through that summer. I penned a horrible mess of a manuscript—friends who later read it in high school can probably attest to that—but even after shoving it into a drawer, it stuck with me. I was never sure if that was because it was my lifeline to normalcy during that move (which was more than one move, in reality; there was a transient apartment while my parents looked for a house, so I didn’t even bother trying to meet anyone that summer) or just the beginning of what I knew I wanted and needed to do for the rest of my life, but there was one thing I was sure of.

One character in the book, the only one without a first person voice, the character whose storyline had to be told in third person, would be loosely based on an actor I never met and never would, someone whose portrayal of what would become an icon in pop culture. He is who I saw in my head every time I wrote; even as I later peeled way the layers of that character to get a better feel for who he really was, he is who I pictured.

And today he died.

Anyone who knew me in junior high (and remembers me, I never count on that) knows I was a huge Star Trek fan. I never saw it on its original run (we were in Germany) but I lived for the afternoon reruns every day. I was so invested in it that my mother actually gave up trying to peel me way from my 13” black and white TV to come to dinner, and allowed me to eat as soon as it was over.

I loved that show so much that it made me the butt of a few jokes (never really mean spirited, surprisingly) and even my favorite journalism and history teacher noticed it (probably because of all the Star Trek articles I submitted to the school paper) and poked fun at me for it. I don’t even remember what the subject on hand was, but I clearly remember him saying in front of the entire 8th grade history class that I was daydreaming about taking Captain Kirk in hand and skipping into the sunset.

Everyone laughed. I turned beet red, but I laughed, too. He wasn’t being mean and at the time it was freaking funny…and in the back of my head I was thinking he was so, so wrong.

If I was going to skip into the sunset, it was damn well going to be with Mr. Spock.

I still can’t tell you why I loved Spock so much; I loved everything Star Trek, but it was Spock that kept me hooked. It was Spock whom I heard in my head so many nights when I was agonizing over stupid things I’d said and stupid things that had been said to me. It was Spock I thought of when trying to puzzle over why who I was wasn’t good enough for anyone else, why—even those who were supposed to love me unconditionally—people kept telling me if I would just do THIS or I would just do THAT, I would be, you know, normal.

To be anyone other than myself would be…illogical.

I learned a lot about self-acceptance through Spock’s version of logic. As a consequence, I learned a lot about accepting other people for who they were, too.

The logical step after Star Trek, after totally trying to grok Spock, was to follow Leonard Nimoy. After all, he was Spock, no matter what his first memoir said. I started watching Mission Impossible reruns, and when he popped up as Paris, I was overjoyed. I watched the hell out of that, and thusly was the foundation for Ron Gallery formed.

He looked a lot like this guy
And yet…Ron was not the most stellar of characters. He was greatly flawed; he was the bad guy, right? How could I base him on someone I damn near worshiped?

It was easy; I knew things about him no one else did. I knew he wasn’t the horrible person he seemed to be. I knew his motives. I knew just how deeply he loved the people in his life and how hard he was contorting himself to protect them. I couldn’t put all of that into the book, because no one wants to read a 1000 page novel by a first time writer.

But anyone who stuck with the whole series, who read The Flipside of Here, knows who Ron Gallery really was.

And now they know who he looked like.

I was crushed when I got online this morning; the first thing I saw when getting onto Facebook was an RIP Spock update. That I knew Leonard Nimoy had been ill didn’t change that. That he was 83 didn’t change that. All I knew was that someone so fundamental to my adolescence, someone who literally helped form how I would learn to view the world, how to treat other people, and how to be a bit more comfortable with myself, was gone.

He wasn’t Spock. I know that.

He was Spock. I know that, too.

I know that I am nowhere near being alone in how his work affected personal growth, and in my sorrow that he’s gone.

I also know that I’m not the only one who shed a few real tears this morning. He lived long. He prospered. He was 83…and it wasn’t enough.

That was one hell of a final tweet. And I hope he knew that he'll be kept in a million memories for a very, very long time.


25 February 2015

In ten days, this:

will become this:

The big difference? The hair will not be purple when I arrive at the Galleria Mall in Roseville to get my head shaved.

No, it will be green.

Neon green.

Okay, well most of it will be green. I still have pinkish/purplish tips, so who knows what color the tips will be. Could be black, could be brown, could be my hair is just going to break off and I'll show up with all these weird patches of mange-like fuzz.

It's for a good cause. And there's still time to donate toward it. And remember, it's tax deductible, so you have that going for you.

Got something embarrassing you want me to do for a donation? Let me know...if the number is high enough, you know I'm game.

Well, other than shave my head, because...kind of defeats the purpose.


16 February 2015

Peoples...wanting me to use your name in a book could potentially end up with you hating me, because I might do terrible things to your namesake somewhere in the storyline.

However, knowing that, one friend really, really wants to be a fictional princess. So in the next manuscript--not sure how long it'll take to write or if it will even be publish-worthy--there shall be a Princess Oz.

So. Who wants to be a prince? Or king*? Queen*? Or the Scottish but not Scottish Emperor of San Francisco?

There's a cat. So far his name is Wick. Or Prints. I haven't decided for sure.

And hey, I never said it was going to be a GOOD manuscript. But the story has been in my head for 2-3 years and it's time to write it, suckage or not.

*minor characters.


14 February 2015

Meet my new friend. I have seen her around town a thousand times, reached for things high on the shelves in the grocery store, but never really talked to her before.

Today I ran into her outside McDonald's--this will teach me to stop for diet sweet tea--and she asked for a ride to CVS.

Not a problem. I even went inside to get her meds; she called the pharmacist from the car and they were fine with letting me pick them up.

Now, I knew I was going to be taking her home; not a problem, either. But then...

"Could you take me to Walmart?"


"I only have two dollars. Can you give me enough to get dinner?"


I took her shopping--and everyone at Walmart seems to know her--and we met lots of people from her church, too.

Groceries for dinner turned into a full cart, which wasn't really a problem other than I have a tiny trunk and needed the back seat of my car for her walker. I put my foot down when she wanted to get a set of $60 lamps (which I heard about several more times..."Oh, I need light, I have no light in my apartment.")

Luckily as I was loading the car, a family came out of the store and while Mom helped me put things in the trunk, her son helped my new friend into the car, because I just didn't have the upper body strength to get her from the scooter-cart into my very low front seat. 

A whole lot of money later, I drove her home, carried 62 bazillion grocery bags halfway across the apartment complex (ok, it felt like that far. Really was just around the back of the building) and when I headed home I looked at my watch...two hours.

Oh yeah, I got played. I don't mind, other than now she knows my name and she knows my car, and she is not shy about asking people for things.

We totally have to move now.

7 February 2015

All right…so I’ve tried a bunch of different wearable tech to track steps and the like. So which did I think was the best?

It depends.

Both Garmin and Fitbit make good, accurate step counters. From there, it’s a matter of what else you want the device to do for you.

Fitbit One: it’s basically just a pedometer, but it also gives you the time, floors climbed, calories burned, distance covered, and activity level. You can clip it to your waistband, bra, or stick it in your pocket. Press a button and you can see what you’ve done for the day. It's simple and it works.

Fitbit Flex: pretty much like the One, except you wear it on your wrist and—as far as I know—you have to synch it to your computer or phone to see how many steps you’ve taken. That part never appealed to me so I never tried it. I want to be able to check where I'm at without using the phone or computer.

Fitbit Charge: does everything the One does, but you wear it on your wrist. It’s a good watch substitute, and you can see your data with a press of a button or tapping it twice. When you hit your step goal for the day, it vibrates. I used it for a while and found it to be pretty accurate.

Fitbit Charge HR: It’s the Charge with a heart rate monitor in it. No personal experience with it, but for someone active who wants to track HR while working out, it seems like a good deal.

Fitbit Surge: this is a powerhouse tech device. It looks like a watch and has a subdued clockface with a subtle backlight when tapped once (which is great for the middle of the night.) Aside from steps counted and all the other above things, it has GPS (I didn’t get around to testing that; I hear it works well but is a huge battery drain), and can be used to track several other exercises, including distance done on a treadmill. It also has a heart rate monitor. I really liked it, but had some issues, and a friend developed a rash and felt the HR monitor was wildly inaccurate. It’s supposed to also give you incoming text and phone notifications when paired with your phone, but it would not stay connected to my phone and the vibration intensity is so weak I couldn’t really feel it, so that was useless to me.

Garmin Vivofit: It’s a lot like the Fitbit One, but worn on your wrist. There’s no backlight, so you can’t see it in the dark…which doesn’t matter unless you also wear it at night and want to use it as a watch. The bonus with this one—the battery lasts for a year. Not having to charge it every 5-7 days gives it major points.

Garmin Vivosmart: worn on the wrist, it tracks steps, calories, and distance, and has a watch function. It looks like a plain band but turns on with two taps to its face, and also does text and call notifications, and the vibration intensity is very good. It’s also quite accurate.

Now, the thing with all the ones worn on the wrist are that they fail to count steps if you’re holding onto something that causes your arm to not move—like a shopping cart or if you’re wearing a backpack and holding onto the strap. Grocery shop for an hour and you can miss a lot of steps.

For me…I like the Fitbit One for ease of use. It’s simple and does what I need it to do, which is count my steps. But for getting text notifications, I also wear the Garmin Vivosmart band, because I can’t hear my phone in my pocket.

I’ve tried all but the Flex (and Charge HR, but it’s pretty much the same as the Charge.)

For someone wanting text and phone notifications, the Garmin Vivosmart works best.

If I didn’t need the notifications, I would go with the Fitbit One for accuracy and versatility (pocket or waistband or bra), or the Charge if a wristband is preferred. (The only reason the Charge is above the Vivofit on my list is being able to see it in the dark. They’re both excellent. The battery life on the Vivofit makes it a strong contender.)

So...the Fitbit One comes out on top for me After that (presuming one doesn't need text notifications), the Charge, the Vivofit, and the Surge is pretty much last until they work the kinks out of it.

Bonus...the Fitbit One is the least expensive out of those, too.


6 February 2015

Toward the end of last year I helped someone format a book for digital publishing; I was happy to do it for no reason other than she found my work a few years ago and devoured all of my books and emailed me about them, in a totally non-stalkerish way (I also made the mistake of sending her an Amazon gift card for her birthday about 4 years ago, resulting in Amazon pulling every review she'd left for my books. But that's neither here nor there.)

As a thank you, she sent me a new toy, one that had been resting on my Amazon wishlist since it was available for pre-order. I left it there as a reminder to keep checking the reviews on it, and when my current version of said toy croaked or I got tired of it, I would then be able to make an informed choice about its replacement.

It makes sense in my head. I certainly never expected anyone to get it for me.

The new toy? A Fitbit Surge. This sucker does a lot: steps, calories, and floors climbed, as well as having a heart rate monitor, GPS for runs and walks, treadmill tracking, and a bunch of other things. I was most interested in it for the call and text notifications; when my phone is in my pocket I often don't hear it when a text comes in, so something buzzing on my wrist is helpful.

It's the function I like the most on my Garmin Vivosmart; you text me, 90% of the time I'll know. The other 10% is because I'm in the bathroom and my phone is in the living room.

So I had very high hopes for the Surge, because Fitbit makes good stuff. I liked the original Fitbit, I liked the Fitbit One, the Fitbit Force, the Fitboit Charge, and I was sure I would love the Surge.

I sure as hell wasn't going to complain if it fell short, because...GIFT.

But then Oz texted me last night...she's not having a lot of luck with it.  It's missing a huge chunk of her steps, the heart rate monitor is inaccurate, and she's developed a rash from wearing it.

And the silent alarm--responsible for incoming call and text notifications--is weak.

I'd noticed that. I even poked around on the Fitbit forums to see if there was any way to increase the intensity of the alarm, because as it works now, it's pretty useless for me. I'm not the only one complaining about that...there are lots of mentions of not being able to feel it vibrate, an issue especially for those who were using it as a wake-up alarm.

There are also a lot of complaints about the HR monitor being way off.

I'd also noticed some wrist pain, but chalked that up to it being new and me not being used to it...until the pain crept up my arm, in a nice tight line from my wrist to my elbow. No rash for me, but...owies.

It won't stay connected to my phone, so even if the alarm worked, it wouldn't function.

Oz is sending hers back; for now I've just taken mine off and am recharging my older Fitbit One, and I'm wearning the Garmin Vivosmart on mt wrist so that I can get notifications. I'd go it with solely, but I do like using the Fitbit site, where there are friends to inspire me to get off my asterisk and walk more, for no other reason than I MUST WIN.*

The Surge is a great idea, but yeah...they need to iron the kinks out.

*I am so totally not winning because I have family members who I'm pretty sure are walking in their sleep every night...


5 February 2015

Sometimes, it's terrific when someone else can put into words something that's in your head...

Sally Forth, written by Francesco Marciuliano*
It's nice if and when you can make bank with your passion, but it's never really about the money.

It's your voice. Fail to follow that, and you lose...yourself.

*He has a terrific blog, Medium Large, ad wrote a wonderful post about this today...