Blog posts

Every cloud

This weekend has been nice. Low-key, home alone, and best of all: not sick as fuck.

I made myself retrospect a little too much, though. I was cruising Netflix, looking for something to watch, when I found a good movie. Silver Linings Playbook. Excellent flick, great acting….and maybe a little too real.

Being bipolar, I feel this movie on a visceral level. No, I’m not quite like Pat. Or Tiffany. Not really. I’ve never been hospitalized for my emotional state, never been that far off. But yeah, I’ve missed work over my mental state before. I’ve obsessed over failed relationships, I’ve written nutball letters/texts/emails to my exes, I’ve been the “backup.” I’ve slept around because my depression had me down, or because my mania had me horny. I’ve quit taking my meds more than once. So maybe I’m bits of Pat and Tiffany. I’m Piffany.

I’ve been doing okay for a while now. Well, mostly okay. I mean, I get depressed sometimes. I get manic. I’ve been on an embroidery kick this weekend, and I’m pretty sure it’s not completely deadline-induced. I’m probably manic. I mean, I’m tearing through these embroidery projects, stopping briefly to eat or go to the bathroom or take a catnap. But mainly I’ve been embroidering. To the point of dry skin and calluses on my fingertips.

The whole Pat thing happened to my brother a few years ago. Not the beating-a-man-almost-to-death thing, but the bad ending to a bad relationship that ultimately resulted in him being committed. I won’t go into it too much here, because it’s his story not mine, but it was scary to watch.

It was even scarier knowing that our great-grandfather died of psychosis. “Exhaustion in the progression of psychosis”–that was the CoD on his death certificate. He was so fucking crazy it killed him.

Since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before my brother was, I always assumed that was my eventual fate. Then my brother got diagnosed, and combined with his substance abuse issues he’s way worse off than me. He had his psychotic break in his mid-40s….the same age good ol’ Great-Granddad was when he died.

My brother didn’t die. We’ve got better meds now, better tech, better treatments. But guess what? This year I turn 40. Now, like I said, I’m not as bad off as my brother. So I’m not necessarily on a timeline here. The past doesn’t have to repeat itself. Maybe my brother’s incident was the repetition, and I’ll be passed over. Like the Christian thing. I dunno–I’m not the religious type. But maybe I don’t have to dread my mid-40s. Maybe I don’t have to go go go, to push myself so much, to worry about whether or not I’ll make it long enough to do the things I want to get done.

I want to finish my sci-fi series. I want to finish the collaboration I’m working on. I want to learn more about making garb and clothes and embroidery and get good enough at researching it all to become a Laurel. I want to learn more rapier techniques and practice enough to be good at them. And I want to lose this weight I’ve gained. I want so many things, and I think the back of my brain is telling me “You’ve got a few years left. Five, six max. You need to hurry up. You need to get your shit together while you have the mental capacity to do it.”

I gotta get that out of the back of my head. I gotta tell myself that there’s no deadline to insanity, that it’s not written. It’s not predestined. I don’t have to go crazy. I can stay sane, stay mostly stable, stay me.

I also have a secret weapon: my husband. Even if I do go crazy, I have him to keep me alive, to keep me from going so far down the hole that I can’t crawl back up.

That’s it. That’s my silver lining. That’s my ace in the hole.

Five or six years. I pass that, and I win. I beat history.

Time off from being off

Okay, remember my plan to get some writing done this weekend? Y’know, so I can get my draft finished by Tuesday?

Yeahhhhhh… That didn’t happen.

I’m not upset, though. I’ve had a fun weekend so far. My husband and I took Friday off, we had a leisurely start on our trip to Tucson to visit with friends. We did some window shopping (and some regular shopping), and then we stopped at our friends’ house. A nice dinner out (socially responsibly, of course), and some drinks before bed.

Then yesterday I slept in so much that I didn’t have any time to really get into writing before we went on an adventure to the mall for arts and crafts (with wine).

I painted a sugar skull style design on it. Took me HOURS, but I had a load of fun, and I’m so grateful that my friend recommended the place (and paid for my art time and my drink). Here’s the result:

Not perfect, but I’m happy with how it turned out, so that puppy’s going on my wall when we get home.

There was some more shopping (and unnecessary spending of money), but again, it was fun. We came back to our friends’ house, bummed around, had an amazing dinner, and swam in their pool for a bit before playing a card game and having dessert.

So, was this weekend wasted? I don’t think so. In a couple of hours we’ll go run some errands, then it’s home again for laundry and stuff before we go back to work Monday, but overall I think this weekend getaway was a good thing for my mental health. I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time.

So what if I don’t finish my draft Tuesday? I’m enjoying my pre-birthday time, and that’s what matters.

I just gotta remember to let myself be me sometimes.

Deadly Lines

Quarantine is a double-edged blade, it seems.

When I was stuck home, off-work and ordered to “avoid human contact,” my writing was on fire. I knocked out three novellas and a full novel in those five weeks, plus started another novel. Now that I’ve been back to work a couple of months, though…

…I’m still on that second novel, with a little under 10k words left to my 50k draft goal. *Sigh*

Muses can be damned inconvenient. I’ve reset my self-imposed deadline twice now, and each time it ticks closer, rather than pushing to meet, it I freeze and shove it in the corner of my mind. Not productive, that’s for sure.

Part of it is the fact that I am, indeed, back to almost full-time day job work, so that’s 30+ hours less of productive time during the week. When I was stuck at home, I used my ~8 hours of “work” time on weekdays to write. I’ve got a time keeper app that I used to “clock in” and “clock out” every time I started or stopped working on writing. I limited myself to eight hours a day max because my husband was upset that I was spending so much time writing, so out of respect for his concerns I cut reigned it in and did other things when he was off the clock. (My husband works from home, so there was no way to write only when he wasn’t around, except for my usual few stolen hours in the early morning while he sleeps.)

Part of it is just plain writer’s block. It’s like the floodgates were open so long that I drained the levy, and now I’ve gotta wait for a few good monsoon rains to refill it before I siphon off again. Which sucks, but I’ve tried damn near every method that’s been thrown at me to break through, and still I feel like I’m having to physically wrestle this damn draft out of my mind.

I’ve got a three-day weekend this weekend–taking an extra day today in honor of my upcoming birthday–but I’ll be visiting with friends for much of it, so there goes that time. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll be glad to see them and hang out. I just know it’s that much less time that I can spend on this draft.

Despite all this block, I’m still determined to draft, edit, revise, and publish all three novels in this trilogy before the end of the year. Things are looking hairy for the 3rd installment, given that I’ve only gotten 541 tentative words written on that one, but I don’t want to give up. I want to get this writing going, get productive, to push myself and achieve all that I’ve set out to do in the coming years.

Deadlines suck. They’re stressful and maddening, yet I have to set myself some structure if I’m going to do this author thing on a more regular basis.

Will I ever be able to be a full-time author? At this rate, no…but if I can find the magic formula for maintaining focus while working full-time and having a marriage and socially-responsible social life, then maybe, just maybe, I can have the career I want, not just the one I fell into.

Inside and Out

Smiling means you’re okay, right? Being still and quiet means everything’s fine…right? Except when it’s not okay, when it’s not fine.

Oftentimes, for someone with chronic anxiety attacks (in this example, we’ll use me), the outside does not match the inside.

Let’s take right now. I’m sitting here at my laptop, outwardly calm as can be, but inside? Inside, a storm rages. Inside, my heart races. My chest hurts. My mind is in turmoil. Inside, my gut roils with might-bes or could-have-beens or even won’t-ever-happen-but-the-idea-of-it-coming-to-be-terrifies-mes. Inside, I wanna puke. I wanna do something to rid myself of this torture…but aside from taking my anti-anxiety med (which I already did–hours ago), there’s nothing to do…nothing beneficial, anyway. Trying not to think about it isn’t working, trying to distract myself with other activities to keep my mind occupied isn’t working, and y’know what else isn’t working?

Me.

Yeah, I called out. I rarely call out from work, even if I’m not feeling the greatest, but after forcing myself to work through dozens of these attacks, I realized this morning that I just can’t today. I can’t torture myself by dragging my ass into work and sludging through potentially eight or more hours of this nightmare.

Could I put on a “happy face” for the patients? Probably. But that’s not going to take away the inside problem. The core of the issue. All it’s going to do is escalate to the point of–well, I don’t really want to think where it’ll end up if I keep pushing myself.

I kinda want to cut. Just a little, just enough to bleed and release some of this tension. I’m not gonna. But I want to. I think if I pushed myself today, I might have done just that.

Tomorrow morning, when they open, I’ll probably call my psychiatrist. See if there’s anything that can be done that I’m not already doing. New treatment, maybe? Change of meds? I don’t know. Something.

What brought on this epiphany of self-preservation? What made me break my cycle of just grinning and bearing it and dying a little more inside each time? I think maybe it was the realization that yes, I am killing a piece of myself each time I do that. Each time I put on the happy face (or at least the “I’ll be okay” mask) and trudge on through those doors into eight hours of manic panic.

Not to mention, panic + surgical mask that’s a little claustrophobic + hectic work environment = AAAAAAAAHHH!!!! (<– That’s a scream of terror, btw.)

I don’t plan on doing this often. Calling out, I mean. I have no control–yet–over the panic attacks. They come when they come, and they last how long they last. Going on five or six hours now, if anyone’s keeping count. And it’s barely eight a.m.

Maybe my doc will have some ideas tomorrow. I’m almost half tempted to listen to the CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) crap that I’ve discounted in the past. Y’know, the ol’ “think happy thoughts and you’ll be happy” shtick. I’m still quite skeptical when it comes to that, but desperate times call for crackpot measures sometimes.

Gonna take some time to sit and embroider for a while. Maybe the repetitive, mindless activity will calm me. If not, at least I’ll be sitting still and not raising my already-skyrocketed heart rate.

Why I only use my initials for my “pen name”… and why it’s the only pen name I’ll ever use

”What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Let’s talk pen names, shall we? Some authors don’t have one. Some have several. Me? I technically have a “pen name,” though it’s just my initials instead of my full name, so it’s still my name. I use it because it’s a smidge more professional-sounding, and because it gives my author “persona” a slight delineation from my normal self. Otherwise, though, I don’t really hide who I am when it comes to my writing. I am me, and AJ is me, and that’s that.

Now, as a multi-genre author, that can be a sticky wicket. I mean, the whole reason some authors use different pen names is to delineate the genre they’re writing in. One name for YA, one for romance, hell, sometimes one for each subgenre of romance. Me? I don’t write YA–period. I just can’t be bothered to censor myself that much. LOL It sounds crude, but my characters are adults, and they speak like adults. They’re mostly younger adults, so yeah, they curse and use inappropriate phrasing and what have you. They’re also often in rather adult situations, and I’m not talking about voting or drinking alcohol. Dystopian sci-fi, paranormal romance, rom-com, I don’t care what it is, odds are my books are going to have sex in them. Graphic sex. Anatomically-correct sex. Sometimes violent sex, sometimes sweet sex, often dirty sex. Sorry, pearl-clutchers, but I rarely fade to black.

Now, since I established this from the get-go with Whispers of Death, I’m not too worried about it. I mean, if you can get past the scenes in Whispers of Death, you’ll do just fine with my other books. For the most part…Let’s just say I don’t shy away from any aspect of sex, good or bad.

Most of the sex I write is good, but sometimes the sex is harsh. That’s life; take it or leave it. I’m not going to apologize for it.

Now, sex aside, let’s say I randomly decided to write, oh, a modern-day psychological thriller. No supernatural/paranormal stuff, no sci-fi aspects, just plain ol’ everyday thriller. Am I going to spend hours picking the perfect pen name to go with that? No! I’m just going to keep on truckin’ and get the story down. Who has time for the pen name shenanigans when the Muse has spoken?

I get that, for some authors, they’re afraid of stalkers and the like. They don’t want their real names “outed,” or maybe they don’t want their friends and family to know the kind of stuff they write. Okay. That’s fine–for them. For me? I am who I am as an author, and I’m not going to back down from that. If I get a stalker (ha-ha, like that’s gonna happen), I’ll take the necessary legal measures and move on with life. As for my friends and family? Hell, they’re some of my most staunch supporters! They’ll purchase my new books before any “fans” who don’t know me, regardless of the amount of sex or whatever other content is in there.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned convenience, and I’ve mentioned the sex, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of my pen name: deep down, at my core, I’m a narcissist. I want my name on all of my work. I want people to know that I wrote X, and that I’m damn proud to have written X, and what better way than to slap my own name on it and let it loose upon the world?

So there’s my story. I am me, I am AJ, and I am not going to become anyone else for the sake of censorship, genre, or anything else. If that pseudonym stuff works for other authors, cool. As for me, I’m gonna stay me.

Wide Open

Well, I’m not sure what kind of effect this will have on sales/etc, but I’ve decided to go “wide” with all my self-published books. What does this mean? It means instead of only being available on Amazon, they’ll be up for purchase (or preorder) on Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Wal-Mart (Kobo) as well.

Why am I doing this? Well, I’ve heard a lot of good things for authors about “going wide.” Also, I’d like to get my books seen by a wider audience. If that means breaking out of my safe little Amazon bubble, then so be it.

As a consequence, however, I have to take my stuff out of the Kindle Unlimited program–which means, for Pact with the Pack, I had to pull the preorder on Amazon. Which means, I lost my preorder privileges on Amazon for, like, a year. Which sucks, but I didn’t want to wait until September to implement this if possible. So, for those two loyal souls who have already preordered, I’m sorry; you’ll have to order again when it goes live. You’ll be refunded and stuff but yeah, it won’t go live on Amazon until it actually goes live-live.

I had to email Amazon to try to get the other two self-published titles, Whispers of Death and The Mage Asylum Trilogy, removed from KU (they’re both in until mid-August or mid-September right now). If I can, they’ll be available on Nook and Kobo soonish. If not, then it’ll be the middle of next month/September, respectively.

I’m still going forward with my writing. I’m still going to do a mix of traditional/small-pub and self-pub. But I’m finding a new way to go about it. And to be honest, I wasn’t getting many page reads on KU, so I don’t think people were purchasing/reading on there anyway. Kind of a waste to keep them exclusive to Amazon when I’m not seeing the return on that.

I’ll keep up with updates here and on social media as they come across. So, for now, be patient with me. I’m trying to do things on my own (with the help of a very supportive author community I’ve fallen into) as much as I can, and this will help me, I think.

Here goes nothing!

Regressive Progression (Or, I can’t stop playing with graphics apps when I should be writing)

Pact with the Pack is at the editor, and it’s up for preorder (release date September 15). So why is the second in the series, Fed by the Fae, sitting stagnant?

It might be that I’m just burned out after churning out three novellas and a novel in such a short time frame for me. Or, it might be that I’m a tad distracted. I’ve been making promotional graphics and cover designs instead of writing, you see, and I think I’m hooked.

Pretty, right? Catchy? But it is not working on Fed by the Fae, which, from looking at the tracker I have set up on StoryOrigin, is only 68% complete. That means I have a full third of the story left to go, and I have no idea where it’s going. Ugh.

I’ve written 612 words in the past week. Week. I just can’t focus. It sucks, because I really want to get this trilogy out this year. Then I can move on to other projects that I have lined up–of which there are plenty to choose from!

I’m hoping I can get in gear soon. Maybe I’m just at a weird place in the plot, and that’s what’s stalling me. I’m hoping it’s not outside stressors that are dragging me down, because I don’t need that mess.

Been a hot minute since I last made a blog post here, too. Just haven’t been “in the mood.” Maybe I’m depressed. I didn’t think I was, but who knows? Maybe my emotions are swinging downward and I need to boost them back up. So….maybe the fact that I’m writing this post now means I’m on the way back?

Oh! I also did a little pick-me-up thing today! Check these out:

Hubs and I got coordinating Gallifreyan tattoos (my name on him, his name on me)! We’d planned to get them as our 6th anniversary present to each other–last year–but it didn’t happen until today. Gods, I love getting a fresh tattoo! Makes me feel great. Now I’m on number forty-something-and-one. Maybe fifty by now? I dunno. Guess I’ll have to take the time to sit and count…one of these days. 😉

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to aim for more writing before the hubby wakes up. I’m going to get as much as I can get down, good or bad, so I have something more to work with. I think I had a semi-decent start with those 612 words yesterday during my lunch break, but I gotta get up the motivation to open that file back up and type.

Off to Market

Publishing is fun. Creating stories, creating people and situations and entire worlds, winding stories together, weaving words….

The business side of publishing, however, sucks.

Okay, maybe there are some business-minded types who enjoy that side of publishing. I, however, am not one of those types. I know how to tweet and post on Instagram and Facebook…but managing the media accounts, interacting with my followers, and garnering new followers? Yeah, I suck at that. Then, on top of all that, you have to maneuver social media while you write your next piece! What the actual hell??

For instance, I just spent the last half hour recording a reading of my new pre-order for an indie art/author show. I could have been writing, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to get the first few pages out there in the wild for others to hear.

I still have other marketing-ish things to do this morning as well. There’s the list-aiming box set that I’m part of…gotta get some fresh promo material made up for a new wave of social media posting, plus find some newsletter swaps for the next month or so. Then there’s my new release from last month, which hasn’t gotten much love lately. Oh, and of course, my new pre-order. Gotta market that, too. Sheesh!

Also have the day job today. Can’t forget that.

I keep telling myself that one of these days I’ll have it all down. I just wish that day would come sooner.

Future’s Tense

Is this really what it’s come to? Are egotistical, bull-headed celebrities the only choices we’re going to be left with?

First, it was the whole sexist-orange-bastard-ruling-the-country scenario that somehow came to be. Then, just when I thought the joke was over, it kept getting worse. Now, with the coming of the Age of the Apocalypse (a.k.a. the shit show that is 2020 A.D.), we’ve got another megalomaniacal rich boy who thinks he can run things. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse than the hell we’ve been living the past 3 1/2 years.

Many of you might not know that the premise of the Council in Abnormal came directly from the Clown-in-Chief. When I was picturing the Old U.S. of the future, I tried to theorize what type of government we might end up with, if things kept along the path they’re on right now. I got to thinking, “What if these rich assholes just keep taking over? What if rich ends up equaling powerful? What if rich equals ruling class?” Thus, the governing oligarchical Council was born.

What’s an oligarchy? Well, good ol’ Miriam Webster has it all laid out for you:

Definition of oligarchy

1: government by the few
The corporation is ruled by oligarchy.
2: a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes
a military oligarchy was established in the country
alsoa group exercising such control
An oligarchy ruled the nation.
3: an organization under oligarchic control
That country is an oligarchy.

Okay, so #3 is kind of one of those definitions-that-use-the-word-in-the-definition, but you get my (and Miriam Webster’s) drift. Small, corrupt group in charge. That’s the Council, and that’s where my mind saw the 2016 election fiasco leading us.

Fast-forward almost four years, and look: another rich idiot wants to take charge. Still just one person, right? Except for some strange reason, Elon Musk is backing him. That’s a slippery slope, because Musk has shittons of money, and he could easily be pulling good ol’ Mr. West’s strings. If that happens, we have a couple of things potentially happening: a second money-driven rule, and a merging of technology and government that could easily lead to a Council-type situation.

It’s like they’re writing the prequel for me.

Do I really think West could win? If you’d asked me four plus years ago, I would’ve laughed in your face. Now? Now, I worry.

For almost four full years now, I’ve been ashamed to be an American. I used to take at least a little bit of pride in my country, a little bit of patriotism, but now? Holy shit, now I wish I had the resources to go buy a private island and create my own little sovereign nation. I couldn’t do much worse, right? I mean, as long as I had electricity, internet access, and Amazon delivery, I’d be golden.

Dreams such as that are fleeting and unattainable, however. I’m stuck here in this back-asswards nation, living in some fucked-up reality show where we’re pretty sure there are hidden cameras but we can’t find them, and where we half expect Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell us we’ve been Punk’d.

Hell, most of us probably are praying that we’ve been Punk’d.

Will this new development become story fodder? Abso-fucking-lutely. I’m not letting a gem like this slip out of my grubby little mitts. My Abnormal prequel story, which has yet to be written, now is churning away in the back of my brain, plots swirling about. I almost wish I hadn’t “jumped forward” as far in time as I did with Abnormal, because I can see the dystopian future rising much faster than my original “timetable” had it. I can still make it work, though. Just gotta get it all straight in the ol’ noggin.

I’m not super hopeful for the future. In fact, aside from trying to predict how the future world of Abnormal came to be, I really don’t want to think about it too much, at least not in a national or global sense. Let me have my little microcosm of AJ’s Future and keep The Big Picture out of my mind.

Unless, that is, I’m plotting…

Progression on multiple fronts

So, while Fed by the Fae is still stalled (for the most part), I did make progress on several other projects this morning, and, though minor progress, it’s got my creative gears in motion.

Recently, I was invited to a Facebook group for authors interested in participating in themed box sets. I’ve been in a few boxed sets so far, and they’ve been fun, so I joined to see what all the hubbub was about.

I’m now signed up for nine box sets, only one of which I already have a story for. That means eight novellas to write! Good thing they’re spread out between now and late 2022. Lol I’ve certainly got my work cut out for me, because though novellas don’t take me as long to write as novels, I still have to do all the work.

My little OCD self has already designed covers for the eight unwritten novellas, (the ninth will be an excerpt from Abnormal, with just the first 14 chapters), and I’ve gotten 6 out of 8 started on the planning stage of things. I’ve got a title for each of them as well, so once I get to each novella’s “turn” in the lineup, I’ll be good to go!

Now, all this added work doesn’t mean the Abnormal series is gone by the wayside. No, as soon as I’m done with the Bargains Struck paranormal romance trilogy, I’m going to get back to Book 4 and start that sucker going. I might even end up being one of those authors who has multiple works-in-progress going at once. I may need to become one of those authors, because I keep taking on more and more and more! LOL

Maybe that’s what Fed by the Fae needs–a little break while I dive into something else. Maybe I’ll start Book 3 of Bargains Struck, or maybe I’ll get Abnormal Book 4 going, then go back to FbtF. We’ll see.

I’m excited that I have made progress (even though it’s not on the story I most want to finish). Creativity can be a fickle bitch, so I’m extremely grateful for what little creative energy I can summon in this crazy time.

You’ll definitely be seeing more of my writing in the next couple of years, that much is certain. Most will be paranormal romance, but there will be a prequel novella to Abnormal in among the others, which will have little to no romance in it. That one’s setting up for the Abnormalverse, and though it’s one of the two I haven’t started planning yet, I’ll get to it soon enough.

In order to get organized with my newly-busy author self (and in preparation for the SCA eventually opening back up for events on the weekends), I ordered a bigger planner from Amazon. This one’s standard letter-sized paper, with bigger areas for writing down events/deadlines/notes/etc. Plus, I couldn’t resist the cover:

LOL It certainly fits my transition from pantser to plantser!

Here’s to a great, productive couple of years coming up, and to many more!

Mindset

Okay. I’ve gotten a few hundred words written in the past week. That’s my worst word count rate in probably close to six months, if not more, and it worries me.

I have a lot on my writing plate, between the trilogy I’m currently working on, the ongoing Abnormal series, and the multitude of novellas I’ve signed up to put into anthologies. With all of that, it’s a miracle that I’ve got any creative energy left! I have to keep on trucking, though, and I have to find my pace again.

I’m close to a breakthrough on my current active WIP, but it’s that almost-there-but-not-quite/evasive kind of close. I know what needs to happen, but not the words to get me there.

I wish I could blame it on returning to the workforce, but to be honest, it started a little before that. Maybe I burned myself out on the wolf shifter RH novel I churned out in a little over a month…or maybe it’s just my frame of mind. Either way, I need to get back to it.

Little distractions are hindering me more than they should, too. For instance, I often find myself in a semi-fugue state, scrolling Facebook mindlessly for hours without realizing that I’ve stopped interacting with my WIP–and with reality. That nasty little habit has to be stopped, or at least mitigated somehow, because it’s not helping anything progress.

There! I just fucking did it again! I swear, I was focused on making this blog post, but next thing I know, I’ve been on Facebook for ten minutes. Ugh.

Maybe once I get the planner I ordered in the mail (should be here Wednesday) I’ll be in a better frame of mind because I’ll be better organized. I’ve found that I need some kind of structure when I’m writing, even though I started as a freeballing pantser. I guess this pantser-turned-plantser is evolving and mutating into a hybrid, a pantser with planner tendencies.

Guess I should quit bitching and chase down this ghost of a plot bunny that might get me back on track.

To the Google!