All good things must come to an end…

I’m so close to being done with the current embroidery project… Close enough that, when my back started to ache, I thought I’d get on the laptop for a while. Things were going fine. I checked Facebook, started some music playing, did a few of the Twitter writing hashtag games… and then I decided to open the file for Book 3.

I scrolled maybe halfway down the first page when the above image appeared on my monitor.

Oh, shit.

The restart didn’t really restart anything. I mean, the logo came up and the “waiting” circle was spinning, but after that? Blackness. The keyboard was the only thing lit up.

I took a picture of the blue screen of death to send to my husband when he wakes up (he doesn’t get up until after I’ve left for work on Thursdays) in the hopes that he can work some magic on the laptop and get it up and running. I’m not holding super high hopes, but there’s a smidgen of hope there.

This is a terrible time for this to happen. I’ve had a lot of medical bills between the sleep apnea and the broken foot, and a new laptop is probably several months off for us, financially.

At least I wasn’t very far on Book 3…it could have been worse. I could have written epic gold and lost it all. I will have to be more careful about backing stuff up, though. I’ve been lax lately.

Stardust, Interrupted

Stardust. In astrophysics it means one thing; in the SCA, it means something else entirely.

In the SCA, stardust is the magic of the Dream. It’s that feeling deep inside when you’re with your chosen family enjoying the modern middle ages. It’s the fuel that sustains us through times both joyous and sorrowful.

Yesterday, I witnessed a grievous crime: stardust snatched from the hands of someone who needed it, someone who was losing their faith in the Dream, who had lost their hope and regained it only to have it ripped from their grasp.

The whys of the matter don’t actually matter. I don’t care why the thief did what she did. I don’t care why she decided that indirect and underhanded was the way to go. I don’t care what reason she has squirreled away in her tiny, callous little brain to justify what she did. What I do care about is how it affected someone I care for.

This victim of stardust theft was just climbing out of a deep hole of apathy and creative atrophy when the incident occurred. They had pulled themselves up and worked hard to do something for their Peer, something they’d only ever get this one chance to do. One. Chance. The opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to make their Peer happy at a special time in that Peer’s life.

One chance, stolen. Pulled out from underneath them like a proverbial rug from under their feet.

I don’t know the why of it. Once again, I don’t care. What I care about is the victim.

There’s something special about this victim, though. They were hurt, yes. They were crushed, their heart broken by the betrayal. They left for a while, and they thought about it. They contemplated their part in the Dream.

And then they came back.

They could have succumbed to the sorrow. They could have hidden themselves away. They could have given up…. but no, they came back. They kept their chin up, reentered the festivities, and soldiered on.

Could I have done that if I had been in the same situation? I don’t honestly know. I’d like to think I could be that strong, sure, but odds are I would have put my head in the sand and hidden from the Society until the shame subsided–if it ever did.

My biggest regret about last night? I didn’t act. I didn’t stand up for this person while I still could, while the thief was still around. I should have wrenched that stardust from her hands and returned it to its rightful owner. I should have given her a piece of my mind, out in the open and in front of witnesses.

The worst thing is, the thief is a Peer herself. A supposedly respectable member of the community. I call bullshit on that one. No one who pulls something like that is deserving of that level of respect, at least not in my opinion.

There. I’ve said my piece. Did it change anything? No. Did it give back the stolen stardust? No.

But that’s the amazing thing: though stolen, the stardust is not gone for good. The victim turned victor by getting right back out there and mining fresh stardust. Rebuilding their part of the Dream.

It’s pretty damn inspiring. How did James Bond put it? “Shaken, not stirred.” Yeah, they were shaken up by the whole thing, but their stardust isn’t empty.

It was simply interrupted.

Progressive Regression

I think I might have finally broken through the horrific block I’ve had with Book 3 of the series! Unfortunately, my breakthrough comes at the cost of one of my favorite scenes.

Oh, well. Kill your darlings and all that.

After much consideration, I realized that, while the amount of time passing from Escape the Light to Book 3 was good, the situation I was trying to force on my characters wasn’t. Why were they doing this so far after the end of ETL? Why did they wait? Why why why? Since I couldn’t answer the “whys,” I culled most of the scene and started over. The new starting point is at the same place in the timeline, but the characters are in a different situation that better fits their personalities.

So I’m making forward progress, but I had to backtrack to do it.

Of course, now I have to weave in the parts of the original scene that are still viable with the new scenes. That’s its own special kind of hellish headache. Like, these paragraphs here need to gtfo, but these can stay because they set the scene/move the story forward/etc. But they have to fit with the previous new scenes, so I have to work from A to B while incorporating the older stuff that I’m keeping. Ugh.

I’m glad to be drilling my way past the block I had, but I still need to keep up my momentum on the embroidery. My deadline is fast approaching, and my fingers aren’t quite so fast moving. I should have loads of time today to work on it, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be as far along as I’d like. As soon as I’m able to turn some lights on and get sewing, Book 3 will be back on the back burner until I get my commission load straightened out.

It’s a bit of a bummer that I won’t have Book 3’s draft done by the end of the year like I’d hoped. I didn’t want to take so long for each book to finish, but I guess since ETL is slugging through the publication process it’s not as huge of an issue. My publisher is growing in leaps and bounds as far as their project list goes, but they’re still a very small staff working with a very large caseload. I have to be patient.

Sometimes I hate being patient.

Jonesing for Answers

There it is. My second Jones fracture. When did the first one happen, you ask? Well, it all started when I was walking across my parents’ land three and a half months ago and I slipped. I felt a kind of tear in the side of my foot and thought “Uh-oh, I think I just sprained it.” It had to be a sprain. I mean, I broke my foot twice in 2017. What are the odds of a third break less than three years after the first? Besides, I was walking–limping quite a bit, but full weight bearing and range of motion and all that–so it couldn’t have been broken. I even had an x-ray done a few days later, which showed no new breaks.

Two weeks ago, I felt that same tear again, this time while I was standing still. I just shifted my weight and r-r-r-r-i-i-i-i-p-p-p-p. Okay. Sprain again, right? Except this time there was a hard, painful lump on the side of my foot. Guess it was time to see my good friend the podiatrist.

Scheduling with him is difficult, because I have to work around my work schedule. He sees clinic patients Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesday and Thursday are surgery days for me–and there’s no one to cover my position–so those are out. Wednesdays are usually busy in clinic, but I guess I can be spared for an hour or so at the end of the day if it’s important–and this new pain was pretty important. So yesterday afternoon, I left work at 4pm to drive across our little town to my 4:15 appointment.

They did the usual. Took a history, asked questions, updated my meds. They did x-rays.

Dear Gods, those x-rays.

As highlighted in the image above, I have a fracture all right. It’s called a Jones fracture, and the podiatrist explained to me that the x-rays are showing calcifications around the break, which means it’s not just a break–it’s a rebreak. Yeah, apparently the injury three and a half months ago was indeed my first Jones fracture, only the x-ray was done too soon for the break to show. It’s a thing that happens, I guess.

Boot is in place, and it’ll pretty much stay there (minus clothing changes and showering) for six weeks–minimum. Yeah, depending on how it heals in the next six weeks, I might have to wear the boot longer. On my right foot. No driving. No rapier practice, even though with the keto diet I was starting to feel up to easing back into it. No strenuous exercise. Just a lot of lumbering around in this stupid, irritating boot.

My problem now, after the initial shock of finding out I have now had four breaks in that foot in less than three years, is that I don’t know what’s causing these breaks. I mean sure, the first Jones was from slipping and the second was apparently a common rebreak, but the crushing fracture I had in early 2017 and the stress fracture I had in the fall of 2017 were mysteries. I still to this day have no clue how I broke off a chunk of bone on the top of my foot, and the theory of the “stepping on a rock wrong” is no more than speculation for the stress fracture.

Because of the risk of fractures and what have you from the rheumatoid arthritis, my rheumatologist ordered a DEXA bone scan in 2017 to rule out osteoporosis. Scan came back clear. Blood work’s fine, everything’s fine–except for these damn breaks.

My husband is angry. Not at me, but at the situation. He wants to know why no one knows why, and he wants to know now. Me? I was a little in shock yesterday when I found out. My exact words when I found out were “Holy frijoles!” (because I didn’t want to be disrespectful and cuss in the doctor’s office), which caused the podiatrist to double over in laughter. I was so out of it that I just couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of it all. Now, though, I’ve had time to think about it and mull it over, and I’m concerned.

I am not the most athletic of individuals. Hell, I’m pretty damn sedentary outside of work, and even at work I sit every chance I get, few those chances may be. I don’t do anything overly exciting as far as physical exertion. But I also don’t tend to stumble into things, drop things on my foot, or otherwise put my foot in danger. The slip on my parents’ land was a fluke. Aside from that slip, I haven’t done anything (to my knowledge) that falls into the risk factor category for these fractures.

Why does my right foot keep breaking? I’d be concerned about some sort of degenerative condition, but logically it would seem to me that something like that would show up on all these x-rays I’ve had, not to mention the low probability that it’s just one body part affected. I’d be concerned about my weight being the issue, but I weighed less with the first two injuries, and besides, there are plenty of people who weigh much more than I who don’t randomly break their feet on a regular basis.

My current crackpot theory is that I have some weird, ultra-rare bone disease that is localized to my right foot and doesn’t show up on a standard x-ray. Not likely, I know, but that’s what an author’s mind does: it imagines the fantastical. Another crackpot theory that is at the back of my mind is some kind of genetic disorder. After all, my mom has had random breaks and even a Jones fracture of her own, though the majority of her injuries were apparent at the time. My little sister broke her foot the other day, too, when she fell on Mom and Dad’s land while out with the dogs. (Did Mom and Dad buy an old Indian burial ground?)

I might try to call my podiatrist on my lunch break today and see if I can ask some questions, now that my mind has caught up to the reality of the situation. Find out what might be causing this, or what I can do to possibly try to prevent future breaks. I mean, I can’t just stop walking around. What do you expect me to do, get one of those scooters and tool around on it, avoiding putting my foot down on solid ground? Not gonna happen. Even if I have to give up rapier, even if I can’t exercise in addition to the keto to work on this weight loss, I’m going to keep working and doing the things I want to do. I just may have to take extra precautions.

Why, why, why? Why me, why my foot, why again? I suspect there may be more testing in my future, unless the podiatrist truly isn’t concerned. I mean, he didn’t seem to think that there was anything else going on besides a clumsy patient with a high pain threshold, but maybe he was in as much shock as I was.

I suppose it’s not going to do me any good right now to try to diagnose myself. I don’t have the medical training for it, and Google is no help in narrowing things down for me. I’ll just have to get up, lug the boot around, and keep doing my job until I know more from the professionals.

To Sleep… Perchance to Dream

I’m not quite sure what woke me. I don’t recall hearing anything unusual, but it’s certainly not normal for me to wake in the middle of the night like this.

I stop and listen, my eyes fixed on the ceiling. The sounds all seem normal. The shadows all seem normal… except….

I roll out of bed to see a single, menacing eye staring at me through my window. I try to scream, but a voice that is not my own comes out instead and says, “The pact is sealed.”

Pact? What pact? And who said that? I want to ask the eye who it is, who spoke for me, what’s going on, but I can’t move.

“Excellent, Kiyyah. You have done well.” The giant red eye bobs with its speech, so I can only assume it’s attached to a head of some sort, though from the glowing veins, the black sclera, and the scaly lids I’m not certain what kind of head it belongs to, or if I even want to know.

My body bends at the waist, bowing deep, and it’s then that I notice blood dripping to the floor from my clenched fists. Dark red rivulets ooze down my hot pink sweatpants, staining the leopard print slippers on my feet.

“Is there anything else you require of me, my master?” It’s my mouth moving again, but the words still aren’t mine.

“Just one final thing,” the eye says, and the corners of its lids crinkle a little. Is it… smiling?

I’m not prepared for the entity that was inhabiting me to be wrenched out. I’m not prepared for any of this, but the slow, agonizing ripping sensation is something I can’t much describe, let alone prepare for. Bloody hands aside, my body remains intact, but the scream that wouldn’t come finally finds my lips and fills the room.

A shriveled old woman falls from my body, almost like she’d been living inside and gotten evicted. Foam bubbles from her mouth as she writhes in agony, her screams joining my own for a scant few seconds before she falls still.

My second act back in control of my body, once I’ve screamed my throat raw, is to heave up the remainder of my dinner. The dead old lady doesn’t smell any more appealing than she looks, and I can’t take the stench.

The giant eye blinks a slow, eerie blink before it speaks again. “Hmm. It appears Kiyyah didn’t check your constitution as thoroughly as she should have.” A low rumble sounds, and it takes me a second to realize that the eye is laughing. “Shall I bring her back and punish her properly?”

I wipe the back of my bloody hand across my mouth to clean off the vomit. “N-no…I think she learned her lesson.”

“And what about you, child? What lesson have you learned this night?”

I look at my hands, still bleeding from deep, jagged cuts, and at Kiyyah’s still form. I’m still not sure what’s going on, I’m not even sure this is real, but I somehow know that whatever I’ve gotten into, there’s no getting out. I clear my throat, straighten my back, and look my new master in the eye.

“I live to serve, Master.”

Thinner by the Dozen

Well, I’ve done it! Not only have I broken the double digits on my weight loss, I’ve lost a little over a dozen pounds!

That’s right, since I started the keto diet–with no changes in exercise (yet) due to an injury that I need to get checked out–I have lost 12.2 pounds.

It may not seem like a lot when you consider I need to lose a total of 100 lbs minimum… but that’s over ten percent in less than three weeks. I know there will be ups and downs and plateaus and what have you, but it’s a start. It’s the most progress I’ve made in years.

I don’t know yet if I’ve reached the magic state of ketosis; there are tests you can buy in the drugstores, but I haven’t gotten around to picking any up. I’m building better habits, though, and having fewer cravings. Aside from the dream I had this morning that I was eating all the Christmas chocolate in sight. I think my subconscious was craving pretty hard there.

I still need to up my water intake. That’s a tough one for me, because work gets hectic and I don’t tend to get super thirsty at home. I have to start forcing myself to drink enough water. I’m sure that will help my progress as well.

Once I have my foot injury looked at and find out there plan for that, I’ll be able to make some sort of plan for exercise. My social anxiety still screams at me at the mere mention of going to the gym, and I really don’t like working out alone at home. I’ll figure something out though. If I can lose twelve pounds this fast without exercise, imagine how fast I’ll lose with it.

Things are starting to come together. I just have to keep at it.

Managing Mischief

Now that my embroidery projects are down to a more manageable list, I’m feeling better about the workload I have.

Yeah, it looks like a lot, but it’s actually better than it seems. The first project is almost halfway done, and I have nothing else to interrupt me with it (not taking additional “quickie” projects or anything else until it’s done). The second should be easy enough, the third I negotiated down to something less stressful than what was originally asked, the fourth should be simple, and the final one is too.

Once the above list is pared down, I plan on writing and doing embroidery for myself. Y’know, so I can get some of the benefits of my skills. Lol

My personal embroidery list–wings notwithstanding–is much longer than the above list. I also have a sewing project list that’s pretty hefty, but with the benefit of not having deadlines (Great Western War garb not included). I’d like a wardrobe of garb, not just a few outfits that, well, fit. I also want more authentic garb, which means I need to plan on making more.

I haven’t forgotten the world of ABNORMAL. I just took on a few more projects than I intended…so I’ll have to revisit that world when I catch up. I still have plans for Clare and co. Lots and lots of plans…

Knee-jerking and jerking around

I try to be reliable at work. I show up on time, I rarely call out–sometimes even coming in when I’m probably too sick to work–and if I have to request off for something, I try to make sure it’s not on a busy day or a surgery day. On the rare occasions when I can’t accommodate the latter, such as SCA events whose schedules are beyond my control, I make sure to give plenty of advance notice to my employer. One extremely rare exception was the week I took off for my birthday this year, and if I hadn’t taken that week off I would have eventually ended up with much more time off–possibly physician-mandated–for mental health reasons. My job is high-paced and stressful, even on the best of days, and I was nearing breakdown levels of stress in the past few months.

Enter a former coworker, R., who was the only other COA trained to work in the pre/post-op department as a tech. R. was a pretty good worker, reliable, and he was able to cover for me if I needed a surgery day off. Then, for reasons unknown to me (because my coworkers just don’t talk to me, really), R. up and moved to another town. No more extra body to help with pre/post-op coverage, and no one else trained or willing to train.

Suddenly, I find my time off for Great Western War in California/Caid at risk. No other tech trained for the position, so despite the recent addition of a nurse who is almost off training, I learned that our director of nursing was threatening to revoke my time off. GWW is paid for. Plans are made for the travel/camping/return trip. But because someone else left and no one else is trained, my vacation time was up in the air. That’s right, I did nothing wrong, yet I was about to be punished. Thankfully, one of the nurses pointed out that they had enough nurses to cover me being gone that one surgery day.

Since Estrella War is a longer time span–I’ll need two surgery days off–I made sure to request off now, a little over five months early, in order to give the DON plenty of time to prepare/plan for me being gone.

Yesterday, she told me that I might not get that time off, despite the rapid addition of an experienced tech to the staff. Her reasoning? This new tech might not have her certification reinstated (it had lapsed) by then. She might not be trained by then. Five months. The certification test is a few hours long. She knows the material. She’s smart and hard-working and picks up quickly. But no, she might not be trained and ready by freaking FEBRUARY. (Never mind that, once again, we have enough nurses/RNs to cover if need be.)

This knee-jerk reaction to R.’s sudden departure is extremely offensive to me. I feel like I’m being punished for being reliable. I show up for my shifts, so I can’t be allowed to take time off.

It’s shit like this that has me on high doses of mood stabilizers. It’s shit like this that had me ready to quit and risk losing the house and the car and everything just for some sanity. It’s shit like this that made a week-long hiatus not only desirable but necessary.

Should I stop trying so hard to be a good employee? Should I call out at the last minute or show up late? No, that wouldn’t be fair to my coworkers. I’m needed, yes, but also not so needed that they can’t survive a couple of surgery days without me.

I wish I understood marketing better when it comes to my books. I wish I had pushed harder for bookstores to carry Abnormal and have me for book signings. I wish sales would pick up, and the next book would be released, and I wasn’t stuck on Book 3. In this small town where I live, good jobs are scarce. If I leave the place I’m at now, I might not find anything for months and months.

At this rate, I fear for my ability to have time off for doctor’s appointments. I don’t generally schedule them on surgery days (and I can usually find at least a few hours in clinic where I can be spared), but now that I have to work both surgery days in a week I already have to shift something around. I have to adapt.

Too bad not everyone seems to be able to adapt.

Prose on pause

Sometimes creative choices are tough. You want to do your thing, but you’ve also committed yourself to do things for others. You have to weigh your priorities, evaluate deadlines, and basically triage projects to determine what comes first.

Since my “super secret embroidery project” is done (it was a scroll for an SCA award that my husband received), I now have:

  • A paid embroidery commission, due by the end of the month, in-progress
  • An embroidery project for me, due before the second week in October
  • Two SCA garb outfits, due before the second week in October
  • Another paid embroidery commission, due before December
  • Book 3’s first draft, due…well, I haven’t been given a deadline. I’d like to get it done ASAP, but, well, see above list

I really, really want to work on Book 3. I wanted to do the workshop with my publisher…but I just couldn’t manage it with the other things I have scheduled.

It doesn’t help that my creative mojo is sort of on the fritz when it comes to my writing. I am more than a little stuck after beginning the workshop and finding that I had to rewrite the beginning of the draft. My “hook” just wasn’t hooking. I’ve got a new opening that’s a better hook, but now I don’t know how to transition into what I’ve already had.

Bottom line, I need to step up the speed (while maintaining quality) on the SCA projects and get the ol’ noggin brainstorming on the draft. If I can just finish this September commission and get my October projects done, I think I’ll be able to breathe again for a bit.

Even my Laurel has started to caution me on the number of projects I’m taking on. That’s a sign that I am volunteering/agreeing to too much stuff, and I need to reign myself in before I take on more.

I’ll get Book 3’s draft done…eventually. Probably not by the end of this year at this rate, but I’ll get it done. I just need to buckle down, focus, and get the other things done so my plate is clean.

Made with love

I haven’t been able to post about it until now, but I was given the amazing opportunity to embroider a scroll for an award that my husband received yesterday from our King and Queen.

It was the first scroll I’d embroidered. It was a couple of firsts, actually: first lettering and first freehand shading (without a reference picture to go by). I have to say, the results are pretty stunning. Observe my process:

I started with a printout of the layout and wording of the scroll…

I traced everything in the above image–down to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s–onto some tear-away stabilizer.

I had a boo-boo in the beginning, though luckily I was only three letters in when I caught my error

I started out with the lettering. Never having done lettering before, I didn’t know the “best” way to do it, so teeny tiny satin stitches it was.

About 1/4 of the way through the lettering I got impatient and ripped off most of the stabilizer so I could see how it was turning out
Then I started on the brazier and the shading for the tower…
Always sign your scrolls! (I only stitched through the back layer of the linen so it wouldn’t show through the front)
More shading in progress…
Shading complete, now it just needs the King & Queen’s signatures and the edges trimmed and finished
Trim up the edges, a little blanket stitching to finish it, and voila! A completed scroll! 🙂

It was such an honor to be asked to make this when I hadn’t done anything like it before, and it was such a pleasure to make a scroll for my husband for an award that was so well-deserved. It was especially great to have this opportunity because he loves non-traditional scrolls. He loves to see scrolls that aren’t just paper and paint and ink. Not that he doesn’t appreciate traditional scrolls–he just is fascinated with the many varied ways a scroll can be presented.