The Stately Writer

I was told that some people enjoy the posts on the state of the writer, which is good because I intended to bless you with one today.  Mostly because I’ve made some interesting observations on how I work, both from the PJM series on organizing your creative life, and from some other stuff.  And some of the observations still puzzle me, and will possibly likewise puzzle you.  Or perhaps not.  I have, after all, got useful advice here before.

The state of the writer is as follows: I realized yesterday, as I was putting up two collections – Crawling Between Heaven And Earth and Wings – that I hadn’t put anything up in over six months. Worse, I hadn’t logged on in over six months, to do things like take stuff off prime, which means I burned two sets of promo without taking it. (Note I’m not putting links to them.  They might not even be up, because of course having been published before, I probably need to confirm they’re mine to put up – even if they always were.  Dark Regions never bought e-rights – at any rate, I intend to have them free and at 2.99 – being long collections and holding to my policy of having shorts IN COLLECTION at a little less than 99c each, Crawling will be 7.99 and Wings 9.99 – for the Human Wave Garage Sale first week of August.  Since I love you guys, I’ll like when they’re free/cheap.)

I have had an account with Kobo for three months now and not put anything up.  I have not put up at Smashwords things that have rolled off prime.

The problem is that, as my poor subscribers know, I also haven’t done much in writing.  Oh, three short stories last month and one due in two days, but that’s not exactly a full work load for six months.

I haven’t even done much in the way of editing Witchfinder.  I started, got discouraged, and didn’t get into it again until this last weekend.

So, what on Earth has been going on?

There are people who talk of the bees sting theory of poverty.  Poor people might not have anything big wrong with them, but they have a multitude of little things.  The idea is if you’re bee-stung often enough, your life will come to a standstill.

I don’t doubt this is the case with some poor people, though the times I’ve been in that situation, in a monetary way, there was underlying issues (health, mostly) beneath.  Like right after Robert was born, I think I went into hibernation mentally and emotionally for about a year and a half, and things accumulated, like clothes that needed just a stitch to be usable again.  And yes, we were desperately poor through that time.  Robert was born on COBRA and cost us 20k out of pocket. But the way I was also meant that I couldn’t get off my behind and do something to alleviate the poverty, like attempt to sell some of our stuff, or make crafts for sale, or something.  I’ve since found this isn’t unusual for people who are recovering from severe pre-eclampsia and being bed-ridden for six months.  Radical de-conditioning and all that.  I didn’t become myself again till we’d moved here and I made it a point of taking Robert for daily walks.

Interestingly, the latest symptom in the “Sarah isn’t doing anything” saga has been that I stopped daily walks for almost three weeks.  Yes, I was sick and out of breath, but I should – and normally do – walk, even if slower.

So, what is going on?

It is my theory that I was already full-up as a writer.  What I mean is that about two years ago, except for being terribly depressed about my prospects, I was writing four to six novels and some short stories a year and a blog almost every day, and that’s my full complement of work.  Or at least, it was.

Then I started doing a blog every day.  That’s fine, but I need to make an alteration (which I’ll explain) on my methods.

Then I started trying to do publishing.

Then I added the gig at PJM.

You know about the straw that broke the camel’s back?  (There is a similar proverb in Portuguese which I can’t now remember about the grain of sand that broke the horse.)

Like that.  The things added onto the writing are smaller each time, but the sum total of it is for me to sit here most of the time, feeling like I have so much to do I don’t know where to start.

Except, of course, I always knew where to start.  I mean when I was fourteen/fifteen and desperately shy (I put up a good front online and I have a persona at cons, but as much as it would shock most of you I was the classical introvert growing up and to an extent still am) I would hide from large gatherings (which for some reason became very common for my family at this time of my life) by going to the kitchen and starting to “make neat” while the party was in progress.  This also kept me out of my mom critiquing my social manners because she was so grateful that she could finish the party with the kitchen clean.  (In a society with no paper plates/cups, often you washed the same dishes four times while the party was in progress.)  Later, my friends started coming over from across the street to help and the kitchen party was as merry or more than the party-party.

Anyway, for really big parties, like my brother’s wedding, when I went into the kitchen, even right after it had started, it was mind boggling.  There would be dishes, pots and pans piled on every surface and you just stared around and didn’t know where to start.

What I learned then is that you started anywhere at all.  After you cleared the sink enough to start washing, you washed enough to clear a portion near you, covered that in towels (so you could invert dishes on it without water dripping onto the floor) and then started piling the clean dishes there, till you cleared and cleaned and covered in towels the next nearest area, by which time the first set was dry and could be put away.  (My mom only got a dishwasher when I moved out – she has an instinctive dislike of machinery.)

It’s the same when you’re contemplating a mess in your schedule, of course, but the thing is that it’s not… as immediately obvious.  It never occurred to me that I was overwhelmed, only that I always felt tired and vaguely ill (more on that later) and that what I really wanted to do was go away and work elsewhere (which I do at the undisclosed location known as officeish, though the last two or three times haven’t been very productive because I was so tired.)

Three things have happened to alter that.  First, I went away to an undisclosed location over the weekend.  Despite the fact that celebrating our anniversary took quite a bit of time – shut up wretches! I mean we went to dinner somewhere nice! Okay, okay, there was also the walk in the park with the geese (I love it this time of year because there are half-grown goslings.) – I took the print out of Witchfinder up, did about half of it and did not get discouraged by how many times I changed names of minor characters or such.

Also, I came back feeling very relaxed, which made me go “um.” And suddenly I was able to face publishing again.

The second thing relates to the time away too.  By the second night, I woke up with my airways clear and realized that they hadn’t been for close to two years.  We came back home and that night, I was clogged again and not sleeping very well.

I think I’ve identified the cause.  It’s something that was done to our heating/air-conditioning system about a year after it was installed and which I SAID at the time was a stupid idea, but the workmen insisted was the only way to make the thing work.  It eventually led to our aerostatic cleaner breaking and, well… let’s say the air in the house might as well be feeding from the unfinished crawl space.  Which would be fine, if I didn’t have delicate airways.  My younger son, too, has been “clogged up” for seven years.

So, I had an estimator over on fixing the mess – no, it won’t be cheap.  Yes, I hate to spend the money.  But I think in the long run it will do more for me than getting a cleaning lady, because when I’m not getting enough oxygen, I won’t use the extra time well.  Also, it will make the house easier to keep clean.

The other thing in the same vein is that Havey will have to have a bath every week.  THAT is going to be fun.  However, I noticed when he had a bath at the vets, he was much pleasanter to be around for two weeks, so…  (The other cats are all short hair.) I don’t know how much of this is Havey and how much it is that his fur absorbs household dust like… a duster, so he carries all the allergens around with him.

Okay – so what is the third thing I noticed? – well, last two weeks I put my blogs up ahead of time.  I wrote them all on Sunday, then put them.  This week I couldn’t do that, because Sunday was traveling, catching up on what was going on at home, and dealing with such things.

What I noticed is that if I do the blogs ahead of time this leaves me feeling less stressed and able to get more accomplished during the day.

The problem of course is that I usually conk out after 4 blogs in a day – which means to cover a whole week, I need a guest blog or so.  So… If my delightful commenters want to pitch in, I’ll be grateful.

The other thing I’m doing – having realized everything ground to a TOTAL halt when I got back my backlist and wanted it all up “yesterday” – is paying people to edit my old stuff or for things I have to do myself (The Magical British Empire will take considerable but subtle rewrite.)

Again, as with cleaning the air, it’s something I hate to pay to do, because, well, I do.  We have reason to believe – fingers crossed – our income will be secure for a while now, but still, in the times we live in, I don’t like spending money.  (And writers’ income is always iffy, so…)

But sometimes you have to spend money to make money – and I think it’s criminal to have the books up and not up and pimping their slutty little selves.

Of course part of this is that getting people to do other stuff also inspires me with the desire to do more stuff – like I told Dan over getting someone to edit No Will But His “Now I feel like writing all the dead queens, from Aragon to Parr.  And I could do it relatively easily because of course I know them so well.  Probably a week per book, with maybe another week to research.

The problem is, of course, I still am only one person, I have two books due at Baen (and a third that will go to them too) and five indie books in various stages of writing/revision/editing.  And I promised fans that if I can get all the musketeers up by December I’ll do The Musketeer’s Confessor for Christmas.

I do understand the process.  Just like when faced with the horrible kitchen, if you keep at it, eventually you turn the corner, and then are doing each cup as it comes in, and sending your helpers in to scour the sideboards for abandoned saucers, and finish at the end of the party with a sparkling kitchen, there is a race here.

At a party it’s between your washing and the rate at which people use dishes.  Here, it’s between my available time and the work load, keeping in mind that the more things I have out the more money comes in and the more – eventually – I have to pay people to do things.

Think about it, if I have enough out to bring in a minor salary, I CAN pay someone to clean and not feel guilty about spending the money.  I might even have enough money to “buy time away” which means I get more done (objectively, over the weekend, I did what normally would take me a week.)  Which means I get more stuff up, which means I make more money.  Which will free more time for me to write things.

There is a limit, of course.  Even I – probably – can’t write two books a month.  Probably.  At least not consistently.  But I could do one a month, I think, if I didn’t have all the other responsibilities.

And of course, somewhere along the line, the kids will move out, too.  They’re young men, and they shouldn’t give much work – I mean, they actually try to help – but there’s no denying there is a world of difference between running a household of two accommodating adults who spend most of their time together, and a household of four adults/young adults, which live very complex lives.

But right now I’m in the tough part – the part of getting as much stuff out as fast as I can, while not stinting the job.

And I’ve decided, yes, I’ll need to spend some money.  And I’ll need to learn to trust and delegate.  And I’m going to need to plan ahead. And I’m going to need to blog in advance.

It can be done.  But the state of the writer, as of write now is hopeful if subdued and horrified at having to spend money ;).

Oh, and the thing is, with all this, I wouldn’t even be a bit surprised if having put this out there someone who’s been indie longer comes and tells me “Oh, that’s the year and a half slump.  Like, you put something out, then it’s six months before you put the second piece?  Yeah, a year and a half later, you have this slump and go silent for six months.  Well known.”  There are weird rhythms in these things that we’re just figuring out.

Well, we go on.  And we find out.


164 thoughts on “The Stately Writer

  1. This makes sense, that overwhelmed feeling. It can lead to a cascade effect, too, that winds up leaving you feeling like you have just shut down – your brain doesn’t work any longer.

    Good to hear about the breathing thing, I really hope that fix helps. We’re finding that being away from cats is helping me a lot (sad, but being able to breathe is good, even if I miss the furry little devils) but not 100%.

      1. Unsolicited medical advice, here…

        I had huge problems with breathing, especially at night. One line of my family has particularly poor sinuses, and I’ve struggled all my adult life with being unable to breathe effectively through mine–I’ve probably spent more time with ENT’s than average, by a long shot.

        Finally got diagnosed with sleep apnea, and the pulmonologist pulled something out of his bag of tricks that I’d never heard of before, which was regularly using a saline nasal rinse. I started doing that, and the quality of life (and, oxygenation…) has gone up immensely. Just getting the allergens out of your sinuses on a regular basis, before the damn things build up to a point where your sinuses shut down helps out a lot.

        Dunno if you’ve ever heard of it, or tried it, but NeilMed has been a godsend, and changed a my life for the better. I wish I’d known about it when I was a teenager, as opposed to finding about it in early middle age…

        1. My sinuses are if anything rather well endowed with room for air. Not sleep apnea — Dan had it for years. It’s just irritable bronchi. I know it’s allergic reactions, because it’s like eating spicy food, but breathing it instead. And I go into extreme reaction when I enter a room with feathers in it anywhere.
          Look — they cut a vent on the side of the heating/airconditioning apparatus, in an unfinished VICTORIAN basement, which communicates with an unexplored crawlspace that contains, visible but never went there, what appears to be a bootlegger’s cache from the Prohibition and heaven knows what else. It was fine before that, it’s been illness after illness since.

          1. Your HVAC contractor was an idiot. That’s something worthy of Holmes on Homes, to be quite honest. That was incredibly stupid for them to do–I wish you were close enough to do a referral to our usual HVAC subcontractor on this, but we’re too far away.

            Even if that’s just a vent, you’re still open to problems because the overpressure in the basement area is going to lead to contaminants getting into the living spaces. Was this done with the idea of conditioning the basement/crawlspace area for some reason? If they did that, they failed in a key area, which would have been isolating the airspace they conditioned from bare soil and anything else down there–At a minimum, the basement walls should have been insulated (including the crawlspace stem walls), and there should have been at least .5-.6 mil plastic put down and sealed against the walls of the bare soil area, right up to the floor joists, whose end cavities should have been also insulated where they meet the exterior of the house.

            What I would have done is insulate the floor of the house, seal the hell out of it, and then had the HVAC area isolated and insulated so that the only air going into your house was either recirculated interior air, or fresh air from the outside, preferably taken from high up on an exterior wall opposite the prevailing wind and/or exterior dust sources. Your basement spaces should have been isolated completely from your new HVAC system.

            I honestly think you’re a victim of contractor stupidity, here. Making your basement a part of the conditioned space of your home is usually done for energy efficiency, but when you’re dealing with an older home like a Victorian one, other interests like isolating it from dust and soil spores should take precedence.

            I bet that you guys also had to remove an old-school coal- or wood-fired “Gravity Furnace”, which would have looked like a huge octopus-style system with ducts and pipes leading everywhere, which used pure convection to move the air. Some of those furnaces were truly massive, and were also connected to air sumps dug into the floor and lined with brick that were generally huge sources of dust and allergens for the old-timers. One of the HVAC guys we work with did some work tracking down where the issues were coming from for a client, found one of those, and was absolutely aghast at what they found, in terms of air quality.

            1. No, it was done because they sold us too big a unit (they were sure they could extend the flow to the attic. They couldn’t.) So there was not enough air flow.

              1. So, they stuck an outlet into your basement to balance the load? Please tell me that they didn’t also put a return in down there, too.

                From what you’re saying, there’s a damn good case to be made for them having screwed up, here. Once they opened up a sealed forced-air system inside a space like your described unfinished basement/crawlspace, they should have been obligated to take the steps I describe to seal that space off. I think you’ve got good grounds to go after them on this count, but I’d bet it would be costly in terms of legal costs.

                The root problem is that that vent is pushing contaminated air up into your living spaces. If it’s just a vent, then the cross-contamination into the HVAC system shouldn’t be as massive as you describe, were there not air moving into your living spaces from the basement. Sealing that up alone would probably not be effective, since you say they sized for a floor they couldn’t actually reach with the ducting. They really should have known better than to spend money on the HVAC guts until they knew what they could actually do inside your home’s living spaces.

                Honestly, you’ve got a mess with this, and the easiest solution I could suggest would be to get hooked in with the local allergy sufferers, and find a local specialist HVAC contractor who knows how to fix these issues. It might be relatively cheap to do, compared to suffering from the allergens and contaminants.

                One way or another, you need to get your living spaces isolated from that crap in the basement. Path one would be to find out which component they over-sized, and then see if you can’t either downgrade it or have it swapped out for an appropriately-sized component, followed by sealing up that vent/return in the basement. Sometimes something like that is as simple as disconnecting one set of coils, depending on the design of the unit.

                Path two would be to seal everything, but that’s not a cheap job, nor is it one I’d recommend to a homeowner to try on their own. If you like, I can point you down some avenues for material sources and sites to learn more about the techniques and technology.

                It’s pretty obvious that your initial contractor did not take any of that into account, which is not surprising. A lot of the trades have this minor little issue with thinking in a vacuum, and fail to look outside their lanes for possible side effects of what they’re doing. See any plumbers, electricians, and HVAC guys for examples of how they can potentially screw up structural stuff by routing and cutting through support structure, or for how the carpenters and builders lay things out to prevent those trades from doing their jobs easily. It’s a two-way street, and what keeps building inspectors in business. Not to mention, endlessly entertained.

                By the way–If you had the HVAC guys in on their own, and there was no permit or inspection done afterwards, you might want to have someone familiar with the codes dealing with structural integrity come in and take a look at the work they did. From your description of their work, I have to wonder if they also might not have had some issues with what they did routing and putting in the rest of the duct system.

                On the positive side of things, here: You’ve found a pretty likely cause for your health problems, and now have a pretty good idea of the source. All that remains is figuring out how to fix the issue.

                Wish I could do more to alleviate your unfortunate situation, but it’s not easy to figure out fixes without seeing the actual site. Did you guys find this HVAC contractor on your own, or was there a general contractor involved for the on your house?

                1. Yes, we also have an outlet (and an intake) in the basement. It’s a long story, but the company went under shortly after this — 30 years of history in town before that.

                  Anyway, it looks like they can fix it, but dear LORD.

                  1. Quick way to see if it’ll help to seal off the basement – run a duct from the outlet to the intake.

                    Take a cardboard box about the width of the outlet, cut it in half, reinforce it like crazy with duct tape so you have two complete half-boxes, cut a hole the size of the ducting you want to use in each half-box (this ought to provide enough airflow… – though other sizes might be more appropriate) – then solidly tape the duct into the holes on the boxes, and then tape the boxes to the inlet and outlet. Air goes out the outlet, through the duct, and gets sucked back into the inlet without getting contaminated. You might even save a bit on your energy bills.

                    (Modify boxes as needed to fit, of course…)

              2. You know, last summer there were a bunch of houses in Houston that had a rash of plumbing problems during the drought – with the HVAC venting into the crawlspace, it dried out the dirt in the foundation, and the resulting shift/settling cracked a lot of plumbing.

                Had any plumbing problems?

            2. Oh, yeah, and we got rid of the octopus to install this, but weirdly believe it or not, the air was better before idiots did this. And don’t get me started.

              1. For the love of God, tell me they did the full asbestos remediation process, right? Those things used to be put together with enough asbestos insulation to… Err… Simile failure, there. Can’t think of an appropriate one.

                Assuming they might have screwed up the asbestos removal, have you done a test for airborne asbestos contamination when the system is running full-bore? Those usually aren’t that expensive to do–You lay out an adhesive trap for a set period of time, and then send it off to a lab where they look for asbestos fibers with a microscope. Might be worth thinking about doing, just for safety’s sake. If you have asbestos particles in the air, you’d definitely have grounds for a fairly major lawsuit, and one that would pay for fixing the issues right.

                Those old gravity furnaces worked well, they were just inefficient as hell.

          2. Well, this doesn’t have anything to do with allergies, but it does have to do with dumb HVAC stunts: In my house (which, admittedly, isn’t the best thing in the world, being a mobile home on a permanent foundation), they installed an 8-inch vent pipe that fed directly from the roof. Sure, you need fresh air circulating through the house, but this carried in so much hot air that the A/C hardly did anything to cool the place. I finally stuffed a wadded-up pair of socks up there to reduce the air flow from the roof, and it helped immensely.

            1. There are a couple of really scary things about modern housing construction practices.

              First, you have guys out there actually doing the construction work who don’t really have a good understanding of what the hell they’re doing, because they learned how to do things by word of mouth from someone else, and the end state of what their actual understanding and knowledge is when it comes down to it actually borders on voodoo. That’s one thing.

              The other is that there is really nobody in the country who actually focuses on what is termed “building science”. You can’t go to any school in the US that I’ve been able to find, and get a degree focusing on how to do things right in terms of residential-scale construction. It’s one of those areas that isn’t addressed very well, because it covers so many specialties. You’ve got plenty of schools that focus on large-scale building issues, but when it comes down to teaching/studying how to do things on a small scale? Not a damn thing. Europe does it better, I’m told, but we’ve failed to pick up on that.

              Here’s a real-world example: My brother and I are contractors, and we set out to build a new home for my mom, to replace a nightmare of a house that’s been remodeled and added on to at least six identifiable times since it started as a one-room farmhouse back at the turn of the 19th Century. In so doing, we did a bunch of research on “best practices”, before we started. Now, if you pull out a lot of books and research sources, you’ll find that everybody and their uncle advocates something called a “conditioned crawlspace”, where you insulate the crawl from the outside (generally foam on the concrete stem walls), and then isolate it from the soil, and include it in the conditioned spaces of your house. This is done with the theory that it’s more energy-efficient, and better for controlling the flow of moisture throughout the structure. Small problem with this: Most of the testing for it was done in high-humidity regions of the country, while virtually none was done in the climatic regions like where I and Sarah live–high altitude, dry regions where there is a wide variation in temperature. Washington State University actually did some testing, and discovered that there was virtually no advantage to going to the expense of doing the “conditioned crawl” thing around here, as opposed to the usual “insulate the floor and isolate the house structure from the crawl” that is traditional. But, the books and training all still reflect that the conditioned crawl space is the way to go, and that sounds like what the HVAC contractor in Sarah’s case was going for. There are advantages and disadvantages, to all approaches, but a lot of the problem is that the folks doing the actual work are very poorly educated/trained on the whys and wherefores of what they’re executing.

              What makes it even worse is that there’s nowhere for a layman to go, on these issues, and get a quick and accurate answer. Hell, there’s so much contention in the building trades over some of these issues that it’s flat-out disturbing, plus trying to conform to the building codes? Yikes. I really feel for people trying to do this sort of thing on their own, and I pity the average homeowner/contractor as well. Even a reputable contractor can get shafted by fate and circumstance while trying to do the right thing–Some of the guys who were bankrupted by the black mold problem over in the Puget Sound area were following what they thought were the “best practices” for the new materials and techniques, but what they were really doing was running a real-world experiment on how to use the new stuff. Unknowingly, they were gambling, and a bunch of them lost their shirts.

              It’s the details that kill you: An acquaintance of ours does work over there. He’s been using treated wood for years on his sill plates, where the wood structure of the house connects to the concrete foundation. A few years ago, the EPA mandated a change in the treatment, banning traditional arsenic. The new treatment is mostly copper-based, and what he found when he went to do some work on his own home was that the copper sulfate had reacted with the iron in the j-bolt tie-downs to virtually corrode those 5/8″ j-bolts down to mere pipestems over a period of about ten years. This hasn’t happened over here on the dry side of the Cascades, due to the lower moisture levels, but there a bunch of houses built over on the wet side that probably are going to slide off their foundations come the next big earthquake. And, nobody knows that, or is really paying attention to it.

              There are so many different things going on in even simple construction that it boggles the mind, and the sad fact is that it’s not a widely studied or investigated field. Why? Wish I knew, but there is a lot of really screwed up housing stock out there to show that it’s a very unfortunate reality.

              1. Sarah, you aren’t rich, but you are a famous writer. Why don’t you see if you can get Holmes on Holmes to do an episode on fixing your crawl space?
                Or maybe Mike Rowe could do a show on your dirty space?

                1. Was peripherally involved in litigation a long time ago with respect to a public television tv show on house renovation that did a house in Santa Barbara California. Much disaster, lots of badly done work, lots of sweet sweet attorneys fees …

              2. ” Hell, there’s so much contention in the building trades over some of these issues that it’s flat-out disturbing, plus trying to conform to the building codes? Yikes.”

                Building codes, yep, and they all agree from area to area. When I was building my house my dad was helping me, and when we drywalled the bathroom we put greenboard (water resistant sheetrock) on walls and ceiling, because code says you have to use water resistant sheetrock or another type of vapor barrier in the bathroom, everybody knows this and this is how it is always done (at least where we came from). Come to find out we didn’t read the code all that carefully and when the inspector came he informed us that you can’t use greenboard on the ceiling because a) it is against code and b) “it will fall off.”
                When told it will fall off my dad informed him, “that’s funny, because it’s been on the ceiling of my bathroom for twenty-five years and hasn’t fallen off yet.” The inspector just looked at him and said, “you’re lucky.” Now keep in mind that I am thirty miles from the state line, on the other side of the state line code requires greenboard on bathroom ceilings, while on this side it forbids it. Somehow crossing a line on the map changes the laws of physics?

                1. Didn’t you know that the laws of Physics are written by legislators, same as all other laws? The laws of Physics are what the lawmakers say they are, and don’t you try to tell them differently.

                2. OUR bathroom didn’t have greenboard behind the tiles (when idiots who flipped the house (twice — so, one of them) before us they didn’t put it in) so Robert put his hand out and on the wall — first year in the house — and he went through the wall… GAH.

                  1. That brings back memories. Though it was only a year or two ago for us, and we’d been in the house 8 years or so.

                    On Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 9:15 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                    > ** > accordingtohoyt commented: “OUR bathroom didn’t have greenboard behind > the tiles (when idiots who flipped the house (twice — so, one of them) > before us they didn’t put it in) so Robert put his hand out and on the wall > — first year in the house — and he went through the wall… GA” >

                    1. Ah, yes. It was a knee through a walk-in shower for me at a friend’s house, and my housemate trying to get out of the bath but instead tearing the soap dish/ bath handle and wall attached right off in our own place.

  2. Yes! Organization is life. My art director is constantly sick from stress because he WILL NOT take the time to assess his work load and prioritize. So every job is high-pressure. Whereas, with a putative larger work load, I can make a list of projects and tasks and reduce my stress almost to nothing. Make. A. List. You’ll be surprised at how easy things become.

    On Havey: you may have encountered this and rejected it already, but… Perhaps you could, in the spring, have his coat clipped in what they call a lion cut — short on the body, but long on the feet, tail, and head. It will make his coat less … dust-moppy in allergy season. And he might enjoy it. Our Indo, when he was alive, seemed to welcome the shorter coat in hot weather, even though you might think A/C would obviate that.


    1. “On Havey: you may have encountered this and rejected it already, but… Perhaps you could, in the spring, have his coat clipped in what they call a lion cut — short on the body, but long on the feet, tail, and head.

      Great idea, Mark. It would be a fundraiser, because I know I’d pay to see that. 😉

          1. You know, he’s sitting on the left arm of my desk chair, glaring at the screen! (And his sixteen or seventeen pound fluffy butt balanced on an office chair arm rest proves my “ridiculous enough” point.)

            1. Loki is only 10-12 lbs, but he likes to sit up behind my head on the back of my chair.


        1. Yebbut. The point is comfort over style. Never knew a cat who cared about appearance over comfort. Appearances over embarrassment, maybe, but that’s different.


          1. My coon cat parks in front of the air-conditioner and insists I turn it on. Loudly. (yes she does, who’s the sweet uggums-buggums…)

            1. Loki does that. Sits on the window seat in front of a 12KBTU window unit with the fan on high. He has feathery tufts in the ears. Looks like that Memorex ad fromt he ’70s of the guy sitting in a chair getting his hair blow back. We call it getting his mind blown. Not much of a mind, mind. But it definitely gets blown.


  3. Um, would the Huns, and of course you, Oh Gracious Hostess, be interested in a little post about someone’s experiences trying to write fictionalized history? Not historical fiction per se, or history as fiction (see H. Zinn et al for that), but an ongoing experiment of using historical events and characters as a broad outline for a set of fiction novels?

      1. Yes, I’d love to hear how it was done, pitfalls and public misconceptions and all.

        While I don’t write history, fictionalized or not, I’ve always liked SF/F that uses history as a template. It adds complexity and oddities that we probably wouldn’t think of, if we were inventing worlds from a blank slate. Sort of an _extremely_ fictionalized history.

        If we have–besides Sarah–any mystery writers, I’d love to hear about that as well. My wretched back brain keeps insisting. And I keep replying that I’m too busy for another learning experience right now . . .

  4. I hear you– I have two novels that are screaming at me. And I have been asked to teach some basic English grammar courses at the community college. Don’t ask me how I fell into that one… I am still overwhelmed. Plus I was sick again for about two weeks (infection). I finally put up my poetry chapbook and maybe I’ll get a few others up too… when I get them written.

    1. Procrastination is so tempting; sure, you can push yourself to keep going so you can get a reward later, but procrastination rewards you right now!

      Just keep pushing ahead. Of course, if real life demands your attention, attend to it first.

  5. My usual solution is to break the jobs up into the parts and try to do the most time consuming and important parts first. That’s so that when facing the inevitable deadline issues the most important stuff is done and you can triage the small stuff.

  6. Re “cleaning the air.” Once when I was back East visiting family, we went out to an Italian restaurant. I found out I could barely breathe in the place: I got all clogged up. Within a minute of being outside again, I could breathe again. They must have had some wicked dirty AC filters.

  7. I have been worried while reading the last little while that you were going to crash and burn– it seemed from this end that you were trying to take on more workload than humanly possible. I’m glad you’ve got some strategies to try and tackle it!

    Now if I could only figure out some useful strategies for my own life…I don’t know, raising five kids might just be a continuously overwhelmed kind of experience (at least for someone like me).

    1. Well, and that’s why the load isn’t more than humanly possible, I just need to make “Spaces of separation” — I raised two kids while breaking into writing and renovating a barely-livable Victorian (the last house) from the ground up and rehabilitating/refinishing enough stuff to furnish it. the only thing I remember is being always tired.

  8. Sarah, have you considered cutting back on blogging? Much as the posts and their discussions are fun, I don’t want you cutting into your fiction writing time by too much blogging. Once a week is sufficient to keep a blog fresh, 2 or 3 times with an occasional guest post or fiction post.

    Take care of yourself.

      1. I don’ know . . . You, Sabrina, me, and a few others publicly challenging the Legions of the Glittering Hoo Haas to a steam-punk pistol duel at the next WorldCon would probably generate a lot of publicity. >:)

            1. Laser tag sounds better. I used to have a set of such toys — and the target vests hilariously responded to television remote signals just like they did to the official guns’ signals.

              The toy was this brand.

              1. If it involves paying money to watch women fighting, the laser target outfits better turn transparent when hit. In fact, allow each participant a 10-point outfit, each hit transparenting another portion of the outfit until the combatant is down to G-string and pasties … now if only we could do it in Zero-G …

                Hmmm, put the combatants in white unlined cotton and use paintballs filled with water … Anyone think Dragon Con would be interested? Or possibly San Diego Comic Con…

                1. Maybe that’s what the invisibility cloaks the military is developing will be used for.

                1. ???? Who the heck reads blog comments? On most blogs the commenters aren’t certified, have no federally approved training and post completely without background checks.

                  1. I will point out EVERY ONE of the Hoyt’s Huns has a folder about their background with one or more government agencies. AND the folder takes a certified fork lift operator to move. So, see? We’re speshul.

                    1. I was a forklift operator once. I wasn’t certified, though, because I couldn’t afford a psychologist. (runs)

                    2. Being certified is highly overrated, being certifiable provides you with all the benefits, and few of the downsides.

                      Another way to put it is that being undocumented is superior to being illegal; without all the restrictions of being legal.

                    3. Re: bearcat’s comment about certified vs. certifiable,

                      Back when I was in high school, we (the Science Bowl team) were on our way from the regionals which we’d just won, and were discussing who on the team would end up being famous for what — e.g., what would we call the new element that _____ would discover later in life, and so on. When it came around to me, someone said, “Hmmm. Robin won’t be famous for anything. (beat) But everybody will know him.”

                      All the benefits of fame, none of the drawbacks? Sounded like a good deal to me!

      2. Right. And you’ve got the backlog of recovered rights books and stories to work through. But sooner or later, you really ought to write a few books _just_ for Indie. Yeah, I know, Witchfinder etc, but those are taking an awfully long time, doing a chapter a week.

        While organizing yourself, make sure you are scheduling time for the “Just because I want to write them” books. Because that is real legitimate work too, not a spare time hobby.

      3. I value your blogging & the comments but wouldn’t want to think that blogging is distracting you from earning a living.

        Hopefully at some point you will move on from WordPress. I just tried to post a vanilla comment four times with no luck. The last time Wp informed me it was a duplicate comment.

          1. Once Ghost is released (probably in November), I plan to switch my long-abandoned blog away from WordPress to Ghost, and use Disqus for comments. Probably won’t make me write any more than I already do (averaging one article per year), but at least I won’t be actively avoiding the blog for fear of the clogged-up masses spam building up in the comments section due to WordPress vulnerabilities…

            Come to think of it, I should probably pop over and do another spam cleanup. Ugh.

          1. Thx for the kind words, but unfortunately it didn’t. It didn’t show up in the Recent Comments column nor does my browser’s search box find it.

            I mostly posted to say (with drama) that my PowerPoint presentation is finished and ready to pitch to potential partners. The big step was cutting it from ~75 charts to 7; the cut was not possible without creating the 75 charts first. Next: upgrade my 20th Century business wardrobe, then pick up the phone.

            If things knock on wood work out, my social status in my New England town will change from Weird to Eccentric.

              1. Much as I would like to run my concept up the ATH flogpole, prudence commands that it remain proprietary at present.

      4. Then again, I’m pretty sure your other responsibilities run you ragged. Wouldn’t want to neglect those.

            1. Breaks in arms or legs???? [Very Big Evil Grin While Flying Away Very Very Fast]

                    1. Naah, Sarah doesn’t use live carp — just those seven or eight days old, that have been sitting out in an uninsulated, tin-roofed storeroom where the temperature gets almost hot enough to bake ’em. That way they’re soggy, stinky, and totally disgusting — the perfect type of carp to throw at people who post terrible puns, outhouse humor, and similar. I try to keep from being a frequent target — water is expensive in Colorado.

                    2. Well, carp. I thought we’d have some fundamental transformation powers here. But I guess that only applies to successful countries, not fish.

                    3. Lutefisk? Doesn’t that get you into trouble with the Bio-Chemical Warfare Accords?

      5. I hope my last comment didn’t come off as sarcasm because I didn’t mean it that way.

      6. Sarah, as I read this blog, I was also feeling that you should cut back a little on the free writing (blogs) and write for money. Right now I’m unemployed, but several companies are sending me PDs that they think I’m right for, and maybe one of them will pan out with the customer. If I was making money, I believe in paying for my reading ,so I would sign up for the pay part of your site, along with Chaos Manor and the basic PJM.
        I enjoy the blog but feeding the family needs to come first.

  9. Anyway, for really big parties, like my brother’s wedding, when I went into the kitchen, even right after it had started, it was mind boggling. There would be dishes, pots and pans piled on every surface and you just stared around and didn’t know where to start.

    It’s tangential to the greater point of your blog post, but I actually find situations like this sort of liberating: I can turn off my brain, silence the worrying, the plotting, and the strategizing that accompanies most of day to day life and just obsess about one simple project. It’s like hiking 100 miles of the Appalachian trail: you just put one foot in front of the other…until you’re done. In a similar way, kitchen cleanup after a massive festivity (Christmas, Thanksgiving) is just one plate after another, one pot after another, one dishwasher load after another until, and hour or two or three later, you’re 100% done.

    I note that I also enjoy rototilling a garden and hauling out the stones, and stacking a few cords of firewood for winter. All back, zero brain!

  10. With me, it’s about finding time to write at all — and I’ve hit upon a solution that works beautifully for me:

    If I’m at home with a large stretch of free time, I write 120 words at the top of every hour until midnight.

    Sitting and writing for an hour straight is difficult; I get distracted, bored, and tired, so I end up not writing very much with that method. But I can knock out 120 words in six to ten minutes, so this model leaves me with a lot of free time while making my productivity regular and predictable, letting me estimate when I’d finish writing a piece.

    1. @rawlenyanzi

      I write 120 words at the top of every hour until midnight.


      This method wouldn’t work for me, but it’s fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

        1. To be fair, I don’t do it every single day; I only do it when I’ve got a writing project of some kind.

          And I’ve always got a project.

          When it’s done, I take days off.

        2. I need half an hour to settle into a project and accomplish ANYTHING. Sometimes more.

          The system that works for me is get up early, work for an hour before breakfast, cleanup, then work for another two hours. I only get two solid hours out of the three invested, so I’d be better off to work for just one block of 2.5 hrs, but I work around the constraints I have.

          I try to do this seven days a week, which gives me a minimum of 14 hours of writing. Some days (Sundays) I can fit in a bit more.

          1. My system lets me devote 1.5 to 2 hours to writing each day. It’s so handy, too.

            Like Dean Wesley Smith said, every writer is different.

    1. Pugs, pomeranians, poodles, lhasa apsos, afghans, dalmatians, border collies — call it a “dog of the week” post and invite comments about readers’ own dogs.

      Oh – you said “plug“, not “pug.” Never mind.

        1. Um, when don’t we have . . . oh, you mean an official, PG-13, no holes bard pun page? Sounds promising. Could also bring about the end of the world as we know it, but sounds promising none the less.

              1. When I’m playing a bard, my job description tends to run along the lines of “self-absorbed buff-machine”. Unless it’s an orcish bard, then it’s “tone-deaf buff-machine”.

                  1. Armor. Orc maidens don’t fancy orcs who can’t fight. Orcs arduously buff their armor for amour.

                    Orcs who don’t successfully buff their armor spend their nights buffing something else.

                    1. aww….

                      *shows the other folks in the corner his PDF Copy of the MHI Employee Handbook*

                    2. Any of you guys bring any money in here with you? I have a deck of cards, only slightly marked. So long as we’re in this corner …

                    3. Well, harking back to a discussion about Flintlocks vs Caplocks, here, a day or two ago, that means we can use it as a source of Sulfur for black powder…

                    4. No, its all painted up red and white like a rescue helicopter. But with shark teeth on the front.

                    5. Uh, who needs blackpowder when you’ve got a Hind?

                      There is no such thing as to much firepower? Right, sorry, I forgot.

              1. I find that the Carpalest offers superior rate of fire and manueverability. A carp-a-pult is too large for the ammo load, unless you’re using gold-fish grapeshot.

                  1. So what’s wrong with “carpuchet”? Seems like an easily-solved problem to me.

                    Of course, “carpuchet” does sound a bit too much like “Carpulet”, so you’d be at risk of confusing people. They might think you were referring to the heroine of Sharkspear’s famous play. You know, the silly mermaid who fell in love with Remoreo.

                    1. Now, if you built a Carp Cannon, the barrel would be a Carp-al Tunnel, so you would have to be careful of your hands.

  11. Sounds like you need an executive assistant to keep your calendar for you and inform you what needs to be done today and where it fits in the bigger picture. Those missed deadlines with the publishing really ouched me … an assistant to remind you would make such a difference. I’d volunteer but you don’t know me from Eve. Wish I could help, that’s right up my alley.

    1. Oh, and the guest blogger day sounds great — bet you’d have no lack of volunteers in this group. And how about a weekly “vintage” post? And Foxy’s idea of a plug feature would be great, too, someone else could even manage that one.

  12. When I get blocked or pissed off, I go and do the dishes. Something about working with my hands while organizing a project (no dishwasher, too many dishes, tiny kitchen even for an apartment) helps me work other things out. It’s amazing how skills for one task help with another completely unrelated task.

    Of course, being able to breathe helps, too.

  13. I can commiserate. I had a nasty boxing accident in 1964, when I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy. I spent the last three weeks of the fall semester in the hospital, two of them barely conscious. It took me almost six months to recover enough to go back into the Air Force as an enlisted person. During my Air Force career, I injured myself (or was injured) at least thirty other times — mostly from just pure bad luck. I survived, even prospered, until the late 1980’s. Then things began to gang up on me. Most of the guys injured in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan can trace their injuries to one single incident. Mine just piled up. Today, they’re slowly killing me. If I’m lucky, it’ll take them 20 years or more to succeed. In the meantime, life isn’t always easy, and the OTHER things begin to pile up. Right now, I need to be upstairs washing the dinner dishes, but my head is killing me.

    It IS taking a toll on my writing — that and my reading a few friends’ books. I’m struggling, but I do get in a few words every day. All I can say, Sarah, is use the same method I do — take one day at a time, and do what you can. Don’t worry about the other stuff — as God said, sufficient to the day are the worries thereof. Tomorrow will take care of itself. I know that conflicts with what you WANT to do, but exhausting yourself trying to do everything will also kill you. While I’d like to see 400 books by you, I’d much rather see 100, written over twenty years, than get the few we have and visit you in the hospital where you’ve totally collapsed.

    I’ve been force to be patient, and to learn my physical limits. I think that’s something you might look into, also. I’ve found lists help. Write a list of the things you want to get done, then go back over it and underline the things that it’s essential to do today (not that you WANT to do today, but those essential to surviving — getting food on the table, feeding the cats, maybe a load or two of laundry, although it might be possible to delegate that, and the other essentials.). If you have energy left over after that, write/edit/post. I’ve found some of my best ideas come when I’m sitting in my recliner, waiting for the pain meds to kick in. I have a notebook and pen handy to write them down (if I don’t, I forget them. Pain plays hobs with memory).

    1. There was almost a letter shortage, but fortunately the federal bureau of engraving noticed it coming and ordered type-size rationing until further notice.

      That or the night guy at the NSA NOC threw the wrong browser 0-day switch and they put out the font size shortage story to cover it all up. We can’t tell you the truth about it, or they’d kill us by drowning us in a vat of leftover newspaper ink (now that the ‘papers are all dying).

      Either way, with rationing now in place, we’ll be suffering from long lines to use inferior quality fonts until the people get fed up enough to write-up one of those White House petitions the Administration likes to ignore.

      After that, Rand Paul will filibuster the next debt ceiling bill in the Senate until the Feds stop violating freedom of speech by limiting font-size choice. Happily, by then the NSA will be convinced that everyone bought the letter shortage story and via back-channels let the bureau of engraving know that it’s ok to relax the fake regulations that never actually did anything anyway.

      The Administrations new spokesperson will demonstrate how hip he is by announcing the change on twitter using really big letters in his government-issued blackberry tweet editor, not realizing that everyone else will just see them normal size when they go out.

      And that’s how the NSA and the White House will finally realize that size really does matter to people.

    2. I’m not seeing it. It may just be your browser. Try hitting Ctrl-0 (that’s Ctrl-zero, not the letter O). If that fixes it, then what happened is you were holding down Ctrl at one point while moving the mouse’s scrollwheel — which, at least on Firefox, is a way to “zoom out” (or “zoom in”, depending on which way you turn the scrollwheel) the page. Another way to zoom in and out in Firefox is Ctrl-minus and/or Ctrl-plus. Ctrl-zero resets the page to 100% zoom size no matter which “zoom out” technique you accidentally employed.

      If Ctrl-zero doesn’t work, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the cause.

  14. Re allergy solutions…

    I understand that you have already contacted the HVAC folks to deal with the underlying problem, but even after that is done you, like many of us, live in a dust factory with books &c. tossing particulates into the air. Sherry and I finally invested in additional in-room precipitating filtration for the bedroom, and I have another in my office.

    I admit that finding units which are both affordable AND quiet enough to allow me to sleep was neither cheap nor easy, but the difference in my sinuses and my sleep has been amazing. The other really neat thing is, it’s still useful even after the HVAC folks are done.

  15. Home Depot has a Filtrete unit (their “large room” unit which is nearly silent on low and which is ridiculously efficient at grabbing allergens and dust. For those things, it’s actually substantially more effective than a hepa filter unit. Under $200

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