Horse of a different color

I started the end of my royal embroidery project today. Granted, the “end” means two full hems that need to be embroidered, but….eh, details.

On the bright side, due to me being unable to math at 0400 this morning, the horse head designs that I’m stitching will have to be spaced out more to make it even….thus making fewer heads to stitch and saving me time in the long run. That wasn’t my intent, but the hems will still look good once they’re finished. Lucky for me I realized my error quickly, before I got too far into the design to take out what I’d done.

Lesson learned: Measure twice, add/subtract/multiply/divide twice, then place the design on the fabric and put on the hoop.

So, instead of stitching two dozen 3.5″ x 4.5″ knotwork horse heads, I’m stitching 16 of them. Thank the Gods for the Tim Gunn method of design: “Make it work.” (At least I didn’t have to use the Bob Ross method and turn my mistakes into birds. Wrong monarchs.)

I should be packing. Or doing laundry. Or something else. I’m of a one-track mind right now, though, so embroidery it is. Writing and the like will have to wait until later.

Oh! Speaking of writing–I’m being interviewed by my publisher, RhetAskew Publishing, on Twitter this evening. They’ve been doing a series of interviews with their authors, but due to my work schedule this is my first time being able to participate. 8PM PST, on the RhetAskew Twitter feed! (Or follow me @AJMullican–I’ll be tagged of course in the interview.) It’s kind of weird getting interviewed when just a couple years ago I was doing the interviewing of people. Strange how things come full circle.

War is coming, but I’m not ready

Next week is Estrella War, the biggest SCA war in this area of the country, and I have a lot to do still before we leave on Wednesday.

I have to repair a couple pieces of garb. I have to keep working on the embroidery for the King and Queen. I have to mentally prepare for the embroidery classes I’m going to teach (the actual physical prep is pretty much done). I have to do laundry. I have to pack my garb and any mundane clothes I want to bring. I have to pick up the Viking coat that my fencing teacher made for me.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of right now. So despite the fact that after today I’m off work until the War is over, I’m still going to be quite busy.

I’m hoping to get a good start on the hem embroidery for Their Majesties by the end of the weekend. It should go quicker than the cuffs did, despite the additional details. I’m hoping. Fingers crossed. Lol

Even with War going on, I’ll have the good ol’ laptop handy to tap-tap-tap away whenever I have some free time. I’m not going to let my early a.m. insomnia go to waste just because I’m at an event! No, I’m going to keep busy with writing and editing in the wee hours while there’s not enough light to embroider by. Y’all can’t get rid of me that easily. 😉

I’ve added a subscription option to this page, as well as a newsletter that will be going out on a semi-regular basis. I’ll have tidbits about the projects I’m working on, links to blog posts, and other fun stuff. Keeping up with that should prove interesting, but I think if I set myself reminders on my Google calendar or something I’ll be okay.

Well, off to do war-like stuff now. Or embroidery. Or loading the dishwasher. Whatever my happy little butt decides to do. Lol

Can’t afford to heal the pains

Healthcare in the U.S. sucks donkey balls.

Here’s the thing: pharmaceutical companies are able to charge out the freakin’ nose for stuff that’s basically essential for physical and mental health. I called my insurance’s compounding pharmacy for a refill of the latest biologic my rheumatologist prescribed for me. They informed me it would be two thousand plus dollars per injection (a monthly injection). That’s almost twice my mortgage! Does the medicine work for the rheumatoid arthritis? Doesn’t matter. Can’t afford twice my mortgage every month, so I’m not getting it.

It’s crazy. Two. Thousand. Dollars. A month. Most people can’t afford that even without mortgage and credit card debt and utilities and gas to-and-from work and medical insurance and… point is, it’s excessive. It’s punitive. It’s the pharmaceutical company saying ,”Fuck you, if you can’t shell out more than minimum wage’s monthly salary, you’ll just have to be in pain.”

Add to that the fact that I need to at some point find a urologist and a nephrologist and see my psychiatrist and call my rheumatologist (do you get the “gist” of it?)…Yeah. Copay city. I could afford it if I tighten up some things, but it’s getting out of hand. Long story short, a person can’t afford to be sick in the U.S. these days unless they’re in the upper tax brackets.

It’s all just another series of stressors that are ripping my psyche apart these days. Work is stressful. SCA life is stressful (at least until my royal embroidery project is done). Work is stressful. I feel work needs an extra mention, because I’m so stressed at work that it’s causing me to burst into tears any time I stop. I mean, I go on break, and the slightest trigger has me crying. I leave work, and again, I’m sobbing. Basically, I’ve been operating at such high stress levels lately that as soon as I release any of it I’m a big ol’ ball of tears. I’m hoping that my upcoming week-long vacation from the office, combined with the surgeon’s upcoming week-long vacation next month, eases enough of the stress that I can get things done. If not, I’ll be back at the psychiatrist’s office before my scheduled follow-up…crying. Again.

I know I’ll get through it. I always do. But just knowing that it’s getting harder and harder to even afford to take care of myself is overwhelming. How am I supposed to get myself well enough to function if I can’t afford the things I need to get well?

This isn’t really a political post. I’m sure there are plenty enough of those out there that are better-informed than I am. This is just a rant, a scream into the nothingness to release that pent-up frustration and get it off my chest.

Hail Mary, Mother of Death

As I trek through the jungle, sweat oozing from every pore, I come upon the most macabre relic I’ve ever seen. Carved from a rose-colored marble, the veins in the stone remind me of rivers of blood, and her sanguine smile sends chills down my spine despite the heat. After years of searching, I’ve found her.

I’ve found the Bloody Mary.

It all began with a local legend that piqued my interest when I was on my last dig, a legend of a Catholic artifact that predated the Mayans who had built the ruins in which I now stood. Madre de los Muertos she was called; Mother of the Dead. The legend, which had been translated by my guide and companion, Jesus Rodriguez, told of a curse that accompanied the Virgin Mary and followed any who laid eyes on her.

The curse hadn’t been what intrigued me, though; what really grabbed my attention, the driving force behind the last decade of my life, was the archaeology of it. Madre de los Muertos, if she was as old as legend claimed, should not exist. She was a mystery, an anachronism, a thing out of place and out of time, and now she was mine.

My white whale stares at me with red-veined eyes, her arms outstretched. She is pristine, immaculate, untouched by the encroaching jungle. My pulse quickens at the sight of her, a virgin statue left unmolested for centuries–millennia, if the legend was true. I reach out with a shaking hand, eager to be the first to claim her as my own.

Before my fingers meet the rouge marble, a rustling from the thick network of vines behind me draws my attention. I turn and peer into the foliage in search of what animal may be lurking–or what form of man. My hand stops, retreats, reaches for the pistol tucked into the waistband of my khakis. If someone has followed me in the hopes of stealing my find, I’ll send them to meet the Mother of the Dead in person.

No movement catches my eye, and once again the jungle falls silent.

I return to my treasure, confident that I am alone, and caress her smooth facade. My hands roam over the whole of her, from top to bottom, and I can find no cracks, no chips, not a single flaw in her smooth, delicate features.

Perhaps the legend was a fake; I find it hard to believe that any statue, no matter how well-constructed, could stand the test of time and face the elements and still come out this intact. There should be cracking and crumbling, degradation and decay. The jungle should have taken her beauty centuries ago.

The thought brings me back to reality, and I look again at the vines that surround, but do not touch, the statue. The surrounding ruins are thick with them, every surface covered, save for a meter-wide berth given to Mary. Upon inspection, I see no trace of blade marks on the undergrowth. Odd. I myself had cut a path to the relic. Now the intertwining leaves and vines make a perfect circle, a fence of dead vegetation trapping me within its branches.

I crouch next to the nearest vine and draw my machete across its surface. A thin white scar appears on the branch for a moment, then vanishes.

A more superstitious person may have theorized that the vines regenerated, but I know that can’t be it. How can dead matter regenerate, after all? I wipe sticky sweat from my brow and stand back up. A drink from my canteen does nothing to sate my sudden thirst, leaving me parched.

As I turn back to my prize, I find myself nose-to-nose with Bloody Mary. I try to take a step back, but the vines, though they have not moved, are somehow closer, higher, thicker, preventing me from retreat. My breath quickens as my heart now thumps in my chest. Mary’s arms stretch out to either side of me, and I am left with nowhere to go.

I press my hand against Mary’s breast, trying to push back and give myself room, and my heart skips a beat before my pulse returns to its rapid-fire palpitations.

The stone, so cold and hard, is now soft, warm, pliable. Alive.

Before I can react, Mary’s arms wrap around me and pull me to her. I look into her bloodshot eyes and see my reflection in their gleam. The red-veined marble blinks once, twice, and the smile twists and deforms into a snarl. She embraces me tighter, and the air is forced from my lungs.

I gasp for breath and push against the woman holding me, but she is as strong as the marble she was carved from. My vision tunnels as I’m squeezed ever tighter, and I realize that the Mother of the Dead has claimed me as one of her children.

Projects aplenty. Time? Not so much.

I’m counting my pending projects in my head, and I’m starting to get a little worried.

Project 1 (a.k.a. the most pressing project): Getting the embroidery done for Their Royal Majesties of Atenveldt before the end of the month. I have a lot to do, but I’m bringing it with to work to do some on my lunch break today, so maybe I’ll catch up a bit?

Project 2 (a.k.a. my latest obsession): Book 3. On chapter 5 now, soon chapter 6, when I had spent months stuck partway through chapter 2. So progress is being made, but it’s still a slow process with the other things going on.

Project 3 (a.k.a. work beckons): Updating and organizing a new laser binder for work, in which I have to make several calls and/or emails in order to figure out which things apply to our office.

Project 4 (a.k.a. they’re really in no particular order): Pending contract on Book 2. Should be coming this week, according to the Editor in Chief. Then, of course, come the edits, and the whole process starts again.

Project 5 (a.k.a. Project Collaboration): The collaborative writing I’m doing with another Askew author, Angelique Jordonna. I’m writing chapter 9 currently, then I hand it back over for her to write chapter 10, then she sends it back and so forth. We’re hoping to finish by the end of the month, but I don’t know….

Project 6 (a.k.a. my own personal made-for-me embroidery project): Yeah, I’d like to get it done by the end of the month, or even before Estrella, but with the royal embroidery still to do that’s not going to happen. 🙁

Project 7 (a.k.a. should probably be Project 2 at this point): Prepping for the beginning embroidery classes I’m teaching at Estrella. I have to print a series of line drawings that people can trace onto stabilizer to embroider on and write up a syllabus/handout to give to the people who show up. I have all the supplies I need, but I have to do the actual prep work now.

Oh yeah, speaking of work….I have to go to that thing today. Again. And tomorrow, and the next day.

Here’s hoping that all the current projects are either done or making progress by, say, the end of March?

Fingers crossed.

Scene Interrupted

So there I was, right in the middle of writing a hot ‘n’ heavy scene in Book 3, when all of a sudden our roommate comes home from work.

Mood effectively killed.

There’s something to be said about writing in the wee hours of the morning, especially when my husband is still asleep and it’s just me awake–mainly that there are no distractions, and I can focus on writing what my characters have to say. Not so much when there’s someone else awake, though, especially not when she wants to chat. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have a problem with chatting when I’m not writing. But if I’m typing along, generally I prefer to be solo…especially with hot ‘n’ heavy scenes.

I can write sex when there are other people in the room; I’ve done it before, and I’ll probably do it again. However, once the mood is gone, I have to stop until I’m alone again and can focus.

One time, while writing Whispers of Death, I must’ve had the weirdest expression on my face as I was writing one of the sex scenes, because my husband asked me if I was okay. I said, “Sure, why?” and he said, “You look sad.” Oops. Not sure how what I was writing translated to “sad” on my face, but whatever. At least I wasn’t blushing or breathing hard or something. Lol

Yeah, my books generally have sex in them. Sex is a thing that happens. Not the kind of sex that happened in Whispers of Death, but there were demons and other extenuating circumstances. I don’t get too gratuitous, I don’t think, and I have toned back considerably. More fade-to-black, less graphic. Not sure how I feel about that, but it’s what my editors prefer.

Slowly but surely, Book 3 is coming along. I have a good, solid start, and as always there will be revisions and edits and what have you to make it more solid. But I’m on Chapter 5 now when I was stuck for months and months on Chapter 2–the beginning of Chapter 2–and things are picking up. I’ve got to watch my time and make sure I get my embroidery projects done, but when it’s the wee hours (and I’m alone…), it’s Writing Time.

I’ve got to dedicate more time to Writing Time–and treat it like a job. This is work that I’m doing, and if I tell myself “X hours of writing” or “Y number of words written” per session, maybe I wouldn’t be so slow. Lol

As far as this particular session, it’s time to take a break and get ready for the day job. That good ol’ 7:30-5 (or whatever the hours end up being on any given day) is calling.

Glimpses of Freedom

Six months. For six months, Clare sat in the Council Tower penthouse, in a secret room with scant amenities, a prison cell with a four-poster canopy bed. Her only connection to the outside world was the pseudoglass window, which overlooked the city she had once called home.

The Tower was a thing of beauty when viewed from below. Sleek lines of TrueSteel and pseudoglass rose from the ground to disappear into the low-hanging smog that permeated the skies of the city. From above, on clear days, she could see out for miles.

Throngs of people crowded the streets below. People of every size, every shape, every color hustled by. Some stopped to take holophotos of the famed Tower, but she knew they’d never see her in those images. The window, like all in the Tower, was mirrored on the outside.

Her breath left steamy clouds on the pane as she leaned against her window. Sometimes she wrote the names of her lost lovers in the steam and watched as they disappeared from her life again. Breathe. Write. Watch. Cry.

Other times, she allowed herself the luxury of letting her imagination run wild, of picturing herself among the throngs, free from confinement and free to do as she pleased. She traversed the streets with strangers from all walks of life, mingled at parties in the building across the way, perused the shops on the far corner of the only intersection in her line of sight.

She’d never lived in this area of the city. Her upbringing had been humble, quiet, a life lived under the radar because of what she was. Even after the deaths of her mother and stepfather, she tried to adhere to her mother’s teachings, to keep a low profile. Her life was lived in small bars and block parties in the seedy part of town, in places where a single young woman would go unnoticed. She’d never been to the kind of lavish soiree she now watched from her window, but she could imagine.

In her mind, she glided through the crowd of upper-crust Somebodies with a glass of champagne in one hand and a small plate of hors d’oeuvres in the other. She mingled and laughed and conversed, and Eli and Harper were there as well, one on each side, a consort and a courtesan, the two who always ended the evening in her bed, whose warmth kept her safe.

She missed that warmth now. Though the temperature in her room was regulated with the best in thermostatic technology, without Harper and Eli it remained ever cold, always frigid. Goosebumps trailed up and down her arms in the chill.

With a hand on her rigid stomach, she sat in the lone chair and pressed her forehead against the pane. Now she was in the clothier on the corner; she tested the feel of the fabrics: the plush authentic cotton, the sleek NeoSkin, the softest of Truesilk. She tried on pants and corsets and gowns, and her lovers gushed over each outfit.

A glance downward brought her back to reality and reminded her that she wouldn’t fit into a corset again for a while. The baby inside slept while her mother lamented her imprisonment.

Six months without a communique. Six months without word, without knowing if she was remembered fondly or not at all.

In a few months, the baby would be born. Then her captor’s plan would be put into motion. Ezekiel would use her as a brood mare, an incubator, and egg donor for his future child–or children. His grand designs changed from day to day, dependent on how cooperative and compliant Clare behaved. Clare knew she had at least a year before Ezekiel disposed of her–long enough for his heir to be born. If she behaved, maybe a few more.

Until then, Clare had her glimpses of freedom, her gazes out into the city, her imaginary adventures with her lovers.

A Twitch in Time

As work gets more hectic and time ticks away to Estrella War–and with it, deadlines–there has been some other ticking of late…a tic in my right lower lid.

I know it’s likely stress-induced, and I know there’s not a whole lot to be done about it, so I’m tolerating it for now. The tic. Not the stress. I’m not tolerating that well at all. Sure, I hide it…sometimes. Sometimes, though, those who know me notice the pause before my response, the gritting of my teeth, the tension in my shoulders.

I bite my tongue. I choose my words with care. I pick my battles. But it’s starting to nip away at the edges. To fray my nerves. To unravel me.

Intellectually? I know I should make an appointment with my doctor. My psychiatrist. I should go and see him and tell him about the high-octane stress and see what can be done pharmaceutically, if anything, to ease some of it. Emotionally? I am afraid. I’m terrified that for the first time in over a decade I’ll have to be taken off work to readjust to new meds, to destress, to recenter myself.

Note I didn’t say I’d have to take time off work; I have no intention of taking time off voluntarily. But I’ve been removed from work by a psychiatrist in the past, and I fear that may be what’s necessary now.

I can’t afford it. I can’t financially afford it, and I can’t afford to leave my duties right now. There’s too much at risk for me to stop. The house. My job. So. Much.

Too. Much.

It’s all too much. And I don’t know what to do.

Split decisions

My book, our book, my book, our book…which one should I work on more?

Ideally, I’d have enough inspiration for both books. However, right now Book 3 is eluding me, so I have to get my writing fixes in whenever my co-author sends me her latest chapter. Unfortunately, I have so much inspiration for the collaboration book that it takes me at most a day to write and send back my chapter. Then I’m left for days trying to think up how to progress the story on Book 3.

Splitting my creative energy between two books has proven difficult for me. I don’t know how some authors can work on a multitude of projects at once. I can throw in a short story or poem or flash piece while I’m working on a novel-length project, but multiple novels at once? I guess I’m not that talented. Lol

I’m going to try to get at least a few paragraphs written in Book 3 this morning. I’ve gotta regain momentum on that project, because Book 2 is in edits at the moment, and if I don’t write I’ll go nuts.

My problem is this: I have tons of ideas for further on in the book, but the point I’m at now is stalled. I have to write in order, for the most part. Sure, I can go back in revisions and add a chapter here or there out of order, then change things to make it fit, but writing the story out of order in the first draft? That would just be wrong.

Maybe I’ll retcon some of what I’ve already written and restart that part. I could be moving the plot too quickly, and maybe that’s why things don’t feel “right.” And who knows? Maybe I’ll find my groove again if I just go back and start over from the beginning of Chapter 2. (Yes, I’m that badly stalled.) Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Back up and restart in a different direction.

Time to get some more coffee and get typing. 🙂