31 March 2019

I have joined--and left--dozens of writers' groups on Facebook. There tends to be very little discussion of writing on these groups; there tends to be quite a bit of "tell me what happens next in my story" or "name my MC" and my favorite, "I want 2b a writer n I gots a millyon ideas but no one'll by my storys."

I wish I were kidding.

I leave a group when it seems like 99% of the posts are requests for other people to, functionally, do someone else's work, or when it feels like no one in the group truly wants to write--they just want to call themselves a writer. I leave when the same question is asked 50 times a week without the admins doing anything. I can easily overlook issues with language differences or when someone asks a question easily answered by 5 seconds with Google; it's not fair to judge someone struggling with getting their point across in an unfamiliar language, and not everyone has the same level of search skills.

The few groups I've stuck with have many of the same issues, but there are more people participating who genuinely want to write, and who have stories stuck inside that are screaming to get out.

A common question across the board: how do I even get started? I've had this idea for years but every time I try to write it, nothing makes it to paper. I can't get the beginning out. I can't find the inspiration.

The answer, the one no one wants to hear: just sit down and write. Treat it like a job. It is a job. Your dentist doesn't wait for inspiration before filling your cavities. Your grocery store cashier doesn't wait for inspiration before ringing up your Flamin' Hot Cheetos and toilet paper. Your trash man doesn't wait for inspiration before hauling off your garbage.

They show up and do the work.

And that's the answer. Show up. Do the work. It's a job.

I can't get the beginning out. I have the story in my head, but not how to start it.

Just start writing.

It's that easy, and that hard.

However you begin your vomit draft, even carrying over to the first draft, it's not likely to wind up being the beginning of your story in the final draft. That's what the vomit draft is for--pouring out the story with all its awful mistakes, and letting it take form. Some writers don't have a vomit draft; they work from a carefully crafted outline and have the story on paper and jump to the official first draft. Others write by the seat of their pants and have one draft that they tweak. There's no right or wrong way to approach your work.

But all writers proof and edit and rewrite, and things change. Including the first lines.

I start with a vomit draft; it's a royal mess of convoluted thoughts and sentences that would make my fifth grade teacher cry. I know the story; I know what I want it to say. But the vision in my head often starts with very simple things, a relaxed and basic structure only intended to get rolling. By the last draft, I'll have changed 80% of each sentence in the manuscript, at the very least.

My current work, the vomit draft opening:

First & second draft:

This is the version that went to my editor...yet this is not how the final draft begins. This is now the start of chapter two.

When I sat down to start this book, The King of Saint Francis, I had no idea how I wanted to describe the chaos the King walked into. I needed a starting point, so I sat down and started writing, knowing that it might not make it to the final draft. I didn't worry about grammar, style, narrative, or anything other than starting.

I did not wait for inspiration.

There is nothing wrong with writing something so horrible that you won't even read it out loud to your cat. That's what the vomit and/or first draft is for. Just sit down and do the work. Write the words, even if those aren't the words you want to use. Write even if you're not clear on where the story will go; chances are it will tell you. Cough up 100 pages if you have to, but you'll find your beginning somewhere in it.

And to that...there is no writer's block. Write your way through it, and cut the crap out of your manuscript during revisions.

Give yourself permission to suck.

But start, even when you don't know how. Sit down, open your favorite word processor, and if nothing else type out, It were a dark and stormy night...


28 March 2019

Sometime last year, probably August when I was staring at a birthday barreling down on me, I had another enough-is-enough moment and decided that this was it, I was damn well going to lose some weight.

I'd had those moments before. Be all rah-rah about it, lose a few pounds, get less rah-rah, and gain it back. I turned to fad diets because why the hell not, and because I wanted fast results.

I still want fast results, but for once I wanted to approach the whole thing with a realistic bent. And I didn't want to dive in hard, because the Boy's wedding was approaching and I didn't want to buy clothes for it that would end up not fitting on his wedding day.  With his bride's help, I picked out some spiffy things that I liked, and I was damn well going to wear them.

Still, I lost about 6 pounds before the wedding, and promptly gained back 3 because of the food we ate that week...and I was totally cool with that.

When we got home, the Spouse Thingy and I both decided to be sane about this for once. No more fad diets. No Jenny Craig (even though we liked the food), no Nutrisystem, no keto or paleo or Whole30. sensible. Nothing is off the table. But accountability is definitely on the table.

I'd been using MyFitnessPal for years (1449 day streak, woohoo!) but not as seriously as I could have. He downloaded it, and we started paying attention. Since I also have a Fitbit scale, I was able to look back and track when I'd gained and when I'd lost, and go back and see how and what I was eating. It was a little disheartening at first, because I really haven't been overeating in the last few years.

I just hadn't accounted for a dead slow metabolism. By every metric I could find online, I should have been losing about a pound a week. I kept my intake to 1300-1400 calories most days, rarely going over 1500. I didn't allow for the things that set me apart from most people: zero--and I mean zero--growth hormone, which even at my age would give me a bit of a boost in terms of lean muscle mass, which aids in how much energy you burn; hormones out of whack because of the pituitary tumor, and a host of other things.

The answer, the same as it is for anyone, is to burn more calories than I take in. Common sense. No one is immune to the laws of thermodynamics; if you burn more than you take in, you're going to lose weight. The problem is figuring out where the tipping point is. Just because the average person of your height, weight, and gender can eat 1500 calories a day and lose a pound a week doesn't mean you will, as well.

And I had to get that into my head.

I dropped my calories bit by bit until I figured out where I needed to be to lose. I wasn't happy about it because it's not a lot of food. I like food. When I dropped to 1100 a day--less than the minimum recommended for women--I started to lose. And while I didn't feel hungry, I knew I needed more.

So I started riding the hell out of my pretty electric bike. It was my favorite toy, so that wasn't a problem. I wore a heart rate monitor, tracked the calories I burned, increased my mileage, and ate back less than half those calories. It was enough to get the scale to move, and I got to eat a little more. Win-win.

But eventually, it took seriously long rides to get to the calorie burn I wanted. I love my pink bike, but 20 miles takes a while, and this town is small and riding the same streets 10 times a day gets old. My heart rate wasn't getting as high as it had, and while it was technically still in the burn zone for my age, I didn't feel like I was getting a good enough workout.

I've been following this one guy online for a while now, reading posts he's made about his journey to fitness. Last year around this time, he was over 400 pounds and had also had enough. He has kids, he wants to play with them with the energy they deserve. So he sat down, did the math, figured out how much he was taking in every day and how much he needed to cut to lose...and then bought a bike.

He started with a cheap bike from a big box store, and hated it. He hated it so much that after a few weeks it wound up in his shed, and he started asking online about why other people seemed to ride so easily, even heavy, and he couldn't. The answer--get properly fit for a bike. Then get a better bike. It didn't have to be expensive, but it needed to fit his body and riding style.

So he did, the ride was easier, and a couple weeks ago he did his first century ride. 100 miles.

He weighed himself the morning of the ride and was 190 pounds.

I'd already gone to a local bike shop and had a casual fitting, and bought a road bike. Riding it was a hell of a lot easier than I expected, though I honestly don't think I could have taken off on it the way I have if not for all the miles on the electric bike. But reading about his victory and how he got from 400+ to riding 100 miles in a day, and knowing how much happier he is, made me a bit more determined.

No one said I couldn't take Starbucks breaks...
 This isn't just about weight. It's about being healthy. Having energy. I have a goal weight in mind but if I get to where I feel fantastic and am happy with where I am, I'll work for maintenance.

I'd be lying if I said I don't care what I look like. I don't like being fat. I really hate my turkey-waddle-multiple chins. And along with my weight goal, I want to be able to wear a tight t-shirt and feel great about it.

Mostly, I want to be okay.

And just as much...I want to be able to get on the not-pink bike and ride for hours at a time. Maybe not a century ride, but a half century would be aces.

No more fad diets. No torturing myself over food, no telling myself that I'm cheating for eating pizza, that I'm being bad if I have a cookie. attention to what I'm eating, keep moving, and for once, don't give up.

No more dieting at all.

Eat. Move. Be well. And bike, like, a hell of a lot.


24 March 2019

After last year's miserable failure to hit 1500 miles, I decided to shoot for 2000 this year.

March is almost over, and I'm 750 miles deep into the year--way better than last. If not for the rain we keep getting, I'm pretty sure I would be close to 1000 already.

Decal I got for my bike LOL
The legs hurt. Not constantly, but man, when I was riding today, I felt every rotation of the pedals and somewhere around mile 7 I'm pretty sure I head sobbing sounds coming from my quads.

Still haven't started running, though, and if I want to manage the Hot Chocolate in January, I really ought to get to it.

My feet can start crying right along with my quads.


22 March 2019

I have a little bit of hair now; 11 days out and it's nice and soft and looks more like hair than stubble.


My head is still freaking cold. Even with temps in the 60s, it's cold.

I don't remember being this cold in previous years. I probably was, but you know, I'm getting older and the details fade quicker than they used to. Or it's brain freeze.

Another week and I'll probably feel comfortable going outside without a hat.

Which means in another week, I'll need to rub sunscreen on my head. Lesson learned the hard was a few years ago.


16 March 2019

File under stupid chit that makes me happy.

I needed bike shorts. Real bike shorts, with the padding, not just Lycra shorts (which, honestly, I already have somewhere around 20 pair of, because I wear them under jeans and shorts, a habit picked up from 3 Day training to reduce chafing, and now it feels awkward and weird without them.)

Because I've been hitting up a lot of bike things online, I get a lot of bike things in my FB ads...and these shorts were one of them. So I popped over to Amazon to look, the reviews were decent, but the sizes were not. Still, I ordered the largest size available, because...goal shorts.

After they shipped, though, I realized I'd ordered the next size down, not the largest (which was a 14...not exactly large.)

I was annoyed with myself.

I popped back over to Amazon...and the 14s were gone. So I resigned myself to getting a pair of 12s and hanging onto them longer than I'd initially expected before I fit into them.


They fit.

I'm under no illusions--this is vanity sizing. I am not a size 12. I'm smack in between 14 and 16 in women's wear right now, probably a 16 in regularly sized clothing. But I'll take this tiny victory, because these shorts would not have fit 2 months ago.

The biking is paying off.

The downside...just before the Boy's wedding I bought *a lot* of clothing. Several blazers and several pairs of slacks. A few dressy sleeveless shirts. None of them fit now. I tried on a blazer I've been saving for a meeting with my editor, and it looks sloppy. So someone is getting a few never-worn things.

Editor Battleaxe has assured me that when she gets to SF (ahem, lady, it was supposed to be last month) there will be no dress code. But still. I had a nice blazer and I wanted to wear it and look all professional and chit. Instead, she's gonna get Thumper in a ball cap, jeans, and a t-shirt that says I CAN'T ADULT TODAY.

But, yeah...I am oddly pleased that the shorts fit. Now I want to go see if they have other colors...


15 March 2019

Instead of doing real work, even housework, Max and I (shuddup, he's helping) have been setting up a site for The Wick Chronicles. It's bare bones right now, with links that probably go nowhere, and one that leads to my Amazon author page, but eventually we want it to be comprehensive, interactive, and we'll occasionally offer freebies.

This is how he's helping...
The original idea was to set up a Patreon page, but I keep reading horror stories from both the creators and their supporters, and I don't need any new headaches. I'm not totally dismissing the idea, but if we can offer up the same things without committing people to something every month, all the better.

I have no idea how this will play out, really. At the very least I'd like to be able to offer moderately tech savvy people discounted first reads on Max's books as they come out--you'd only need to know how to side-load a file onto your Kindle or other reading device--but I also need to figure out how to implement that without the books winding up for sale under someone else's name before we get to print. Or even after.

I've never had DRM on my books; I believe in trusting people with the things they purchased and presume they'll be fair about it. The only time I know for sure that I've been burned was by a publisher who offered my entire first novel online instead of the first 20% as intended. There were, the publisher estimated, 25,000 downloads before they caught the mistake.

No, I was never compensated.

We'll figure it out.

Since we're not going down the Patreon path, there might be--I stress might be--a tipjar* at some point. It depends on how much content we can generate. The tipjar would function as royalties do when you buy a book online--the money Max earns is used to purchase toys at Christmas for either Toys for Tots or the local foster kids program, and once in a while it's used for other charitable donations.

There will be more than Wick content available, eventually. If you haven't read any of his books, they'll be offered at discounts, and on random days, perhaps even for free. My books will show up there at some point.

But, we're getting things ready. Mostly, I need a better theme, because it's kind of bland right now. I'm not creative enough to write the code for my own, so I'll probably wind up buying something, once I find a reputable site for themes.

*I mention that upfront because many, many years ago, I had a link to a joke tipjar, a link no one clicked on, and got reamed for my crassness in having it. If anyone had followed the breadcrumbs, they would have eventually landed on a "Thanks, but..." page. The max total anyone could have clicked on to donate was 50 cents, and even then they would have wound up at the Thanks, but... page. I expected one person to click on it, someone with whom I had a long running joke about owing me fifty cents for a long forgotten debt...but the whole thing backfired, and after it languishing on my blog for over 3 years, someone noticed it and started yelling...people piled was not pretty.


14 March 2019

Max and I are working on two different things right now: another Wick book, and his interview with Buddah. the former is a week or so from going to the editor for a final look (she's already read it, likes it, and the beta readers have had their way with it, too) and the latter is at the end stage of the first draft.

So, kind of close to two more books hitting the market, and all I could think today was, "Damn, that's really going to screw up my blog header."


I think the bike in the Room of Pain is coming off the trainer and heading into the shed. I keep trying to use it, but the fit is all wrong and I feel so cramped that I don't stay on it long enough.

Sucks, because it's a good bike otherwise. I may pull off all the extras, like the rear rack, and re-home it. Before I do, though, I'll take it for a spin could be how I feel up on a trainer. I dunno. But I have two other bikes in the garage so if it's a matter of fit, there's no point keeping it, not when there's surely someone else out there who would like a good bike but can't afford one.


 My head is really cold.


Buddah's 14th birthday--the one we picked, because we don't know the actual date--is tomorrow. He's getting new nip bananas but not anything else, really. 1) he doesn't like people food so that's not much of a gift and 2) he's a cat, he doesn't care. But mostly 1.

That spastic little demon kitty is an old man now.


12 March 2019

Thanks to your generosity, my head is now cold--no kidding, it's freaking chilly--and St. Baldrick's has $1504 that they otherwise wouldn't have had. Even better...DeVere's, the Irish pub where the event is held, has raised $2.5 million in the last ten years. I don't think that includes this year, either.

Not gonna lie, and I've said it before, I really don't like this. The next two weeks are going to be several levels of uncomfortable; people stare more at the bald than they do when my hair is neon pink, probably because they're trying to figure out if I'm sick, if I'm just weird, or what.

Truthfully, it would be super easy to sign up, raise funds, get my t-shirt, and then duck out without getting my head shaved, but that wasn't the deal (other than 2015 or 2016 when a last minute don't-shave donation of $3500 was offered and I couldn't pass it up...)

Every year I tell myself this is it, after this I'll just donate a few bucks, but I'm not telling myself that this year. This was year 6, and next year I'll move up from the Squire of Hope rank to being a Knight...and guys, I am all about the fake designations. I WILL BE A KNIGHT!

After that...well, the next one is at 10 years, and I told myself before that I didn't need it, ten years was stretching it. But then I thought I would keep doing it until the year I turn 60, and if I do that I might as well do another year...

So, who knows.

But even though I don't have kids in my life going through the horror of diagnoses and treatment, this means as much to me as the events for breast cancer. Mostly because it's kids involved, and the idea that any child has to go through this is so wrong.

Both of my parents had cancer. My dad lost a kidney to it, and my mom had lymphoma. I could (and have) done things to raise money to combat those diseases, but I think they would be just as pleased that this is what I do in their memories. My dad was a very stoic, quiet man, not prone to emotional outbursts, but I know that the idea of a child with cancer would have reddened his eyes and make his voice crack...and then he would excuse himself to another room so that no one else would see what he was feeling.

So, next year for sure, so I can become a Knight, and then y'all will have to address me as Sir Thumper.

You know I'm going to insist on it.


9 March 2019

Thanks to y'all's generosity, I hit my goal for St. Baldrick's, with $4 to spare. So in two days, I will present myself to the people with the noisy clippers, get all the purple hair removed from my head, and hope that there's nothing weird growing on my scalp. After I'm bald and cold, I'm totally going into the bar for a shot or three of Fireball, and maybe a burger.

I can't thank you guys enough. And it would be totally weird if I tried. Like, someone would probably punch me in the face and yell ENOUGH ALREADY and I'm too old to duck quickly enough. I've gotten way too slow in my latter middle aged years.


Speaking of slow. I bought a new bike this week, one that's not glaringly bright or pretty, and one that does not have a motor to give me that boost I've fallen in love with on my long rides.

I am so slow on this thing. Like, most runners can pass me up. But once my butt gets used to that seat, I'll be able to do 10 mile rides with no difficulty, I think. Yesterday I rode 4 miles to Starbucks, worked for about 45 minutes, and then 5.5 miles home. I wanted it to be 6, but...yeah, my poor asterisk was screaming at me.

There's still the concern about my blood sugar crashing and once the weather warms up, overheating, as I wont to do. I need to get in the habit of carrying Lifesavers with me, and figure out ways to cool down periodically on a ride. It might mean investing in a few Arctic Cool shirts, which are kinda form fitting and not especially flattering given my nice spare tire, but...not passing out mid-ride trumps discomfort over the flab.

This wouldn't have been possible if not for the thousands of miles on the ebike. Okay, two thousands, but still. More that one. Riding that got me into shape just good enough to know I could make the leap, and while I still worry about my knees and face planting, I can do it. Two years ago, pre-ebike, no way.

This doesn't mean the ebike is going anywhere. It's still my favorite toy and I'll still pile the miles on it. But most days, before I hop on it, the new Thumper-powered bike goes out for an hour. And hopefully I'll get faster.

Also hopefully, that 80 year old lady I sometimes see out riding won't zoom past me. I don't think my ego could take that.


 This was delivered on Feb 26, and the cats are just now jumping on it.

I honestly thought that they would claim it by the end of the day, Buddah especially since it gives him a much better and more comfortable view than the sideboard that was there.

They still won't get on it at the same time, though.

Probably never will.


 Dammit, y'all, I like my hair. IT'S PURPLE.


6 March 2019

"It's kind of early to fundraise for the 3 Day," a friend recently said. "I was surprised to see it pop up on Facebook. Any plans in place for if it doesn't happen?"

Yeah, it does feel early. And I hadn't planned on starting it so early, but I clicked on a thingy at the 3 Day site to connect my page there to my Facebook profile and didn't realize it would propagate...and people started donating. So I posted here, and the ball started rolling, and I'm close to being halfway to goal with that one (Still a bit away from my St. Baldrick's goal...FIVE MORE DAYS!) And I have every intention of being there in San Diego for the walk.

But, we all know I've missed a couple for reasons, and there's never a guarantee.

So I won't be doing much active fundraising until it's closer to the date.

BUT...if we don't go, we'll still earn those donations. If the Spouse Thingy can't get the time off, or something else happens, we'll do the miles.

On the bikes.

And all in one day.

Plus a few.

I won't pin the Spouse Thingy down to ride the miles--he can be my support crew, which I will need--but if I don't walk for the 3 Day, I'll do a minimum of 60 miles on the bike...and shoot for 80-100. In one day. I'll nail it down closer to that weekend, but the promise is this: if I don't walk, I ride 60, period. I will train for more and shoot for 80+ so that I earn every penny of every donation.

I can be bribed to ride outlandishly.

The point is to raise the money for breast cancer research. Ideally I'll do the miles in San Diego with 1300 other people and a whole lot of Fireball, but this is the fall-back plan.

But man, I really want to be in San Diego, whether I walk the whole thing or not.

So add to that...if I go and don't walk the whole thing, I will then bike the miles at home. All of them.

But first is St. Baldrick's on Monday. I am $302 from matching what I raised last year, so I'll be super happy if I can raise $303 before the event. I'm getting the t-shirt, though, so my inner 8 year old is satisfied. The soon-to-be-bald, adult, though, would like to beat last year. Smash it by hitting my goal. For that, I need to raise another $522.

It's tax deductible, y'all.

And if you're in the area, it's being held at a bar...could be 3 or 4 kinds of fun! I damn well better get a shot or two of Fireball...before and after.


5 March 2019

I rode in the rain today.

Like, a total of two miles, but still.

I rode in the rain and did not melt.

If my mom were still alive, I would totally jab my pointy finger in her direction and yell, Oh yeah, take that, I am OBVS not the Wicked Witch of the West.

Or east.

Whichever witch melted...