Category Archives: musings

Seventeen for 2017

2017image

Following up from the “Sixteen in 2016” post I did a year ago, I decided to go ahead and do the same for 2017, with a plus-one. So in no particular order, here are the things I hope to accomplish in the coming year:

  1. Pay off my remaining student loan. The last payment is scheduled for June, but the balance is so low that I’ll probably pay it off sooner.  DONE
  2. Pay off another credit card. I’m down to two with balances, so I might manage both. DONE
  3. Increase my retirement savings. I’m currently at 7% and want to be at least 10% by the end of the year. UPDATE: Just increased to 9% (July).
  4. Set up monthly charitable donations, focusing on social justice/civil rights organizations. UPDATE: I haven’t done this monthly, but I have been doing periodic donations.
  5. Wean myself back off soda. I drink wayyyyy too much sugar these days. UPDATE: In progress. I stopped buying/drinking Sprite all the time, anyway.
  6. Do more major purging before I move, especially books, CDs, and DVDs that never leave their shelves. DONE
  7. Move. I’ll have my own place again for the first time in a decade! DONE
  8. Actually finish unpacking this time. Goal: by Memorial Day weekend (~2.5 months). UPDATE: Not done, but getting there…
  9. Take my parents to Walt Disney World (planned for February).
  10. Finish publishing Hands On novella set.
  11. Write/finish writing and submit/publish three new stories. UPDATE: Two submissions down!
  12. Start submitting to agents.
  13. Attend the RT Booklovers’ convention in Atlanta.
  14. Attend the Council of Science Editors meeting in San Diego (for the day job).
  15. Attend at least one other romance writing conference.
  16. Plan and execute publication of the Daily Dragon for Dragon Con 2017.
  17. Finally get together the Seekrit Project I’ve been wanting to do for my mom for years. (Shhhhh!)

There. That ought to give me plenty to focus on. Happy New Year, everyone!

Out with the Old…

At the beginning of 2016, I posted a list of 16 goals of sorts for the year. Now that we’re coming up on New Year’s Eve, it’s time to check in and see how I did:

  1. Pay off at least two credit card balances. I’ve let these creep up after being free of credit card debt about five years ago. Two balances are low enough that I can pay them off quickly, though. DONE! Card #2 was paid off in August, and I’ve kept those cards paid off since.
  2. Stop adding to credit card balances. They’ve been mostly steady this year, but I’d like to get them all headed consistently toward zero. DONE! As of mid-December, still on track with the remaining balanaces.
  3. Set up an office space. I’m planning to buy a desk and chair this weekend, and getting those assembled and in place will be about 75% of this goal. Things kind of fell apart on this one later in the year, and now I’ll be moving soon, so I’d say this one was about 50% accomplished.
  4. Get a massage at least once a month. I have a monthly membership that I’m not using often enough. If I’m not going to, I should just cancel it—after I use up the extra credits! I’m calling this one DONE! I got a massage a month through October, when I put the account on suspension for a few months. I’ll probably still get one this week, which will be 11 out of 12 months.
  5. Start doing stretches/yoga regularly for my neck and back problems. More reliance on movement, less on painkillers and heating pads. I haven’t managed much of this, though I’m a little bit better at maintaining my posture and not slumping over the computer.
  6. Get a mammogram. I’m way overdue. DONE! Including follow-up ultrasound with an all-clear.
  7. Weed out and donate clothes/shoes I never wear. Pretty much everything that isn’t used is gone. I’ll get the rest as I pack to move.
  8. Buy new clothes, especially tops and dress pants. About a third of new clothes I buy end up not working when I actually start wearing them, so the wardrobe turnover is an ongoing issue. DONE! A few rounds of purchases means my wardrobe is in pretty good shape now. Until spring, that is!
  9. Finish unpacking and get the last boxes out of my space. I plan to accomplish a good part of this by getting rid of more stuff. How the heck did I end up with this much STUFF?? I made some progress here, and will make more before I move, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped.
  10. Finish and submit/publish three new stories. I’m shooting for three novels, but I do have a germ of an idea for a short novella for Christmas, so we’ll go with three total. DONE! I self-pubbed three novellas and have a fourth coming in early 2017.
  11. Republish two stories after rights reversions (and on more than just Amazon this time). DONE! Story #1 self-pubbed in August, story #2 published with Dreamspinner in September.
  12. Go to Walt Disney World. Planned for the week of the Dreamspinner author workshop. DONE! Went to Animal Kingdom for the first time in March, and hit the other three parks over Memorial Day weekend. 😀
  13. Attend the Dreamspinner author workshop. DONE!
  14. Attend the RT Booklovers’ Convention. DONE!
  15. Attend the Council of Science Editors meeting (for the day job). DONE!
  16. Plan and execute publication of the Daily Dragon for Dragon Con 2016. DONE!

So I’m at 13/16 complete for 2016, and progress on one of the others. Not too shabby. 🙂

Coming up this weekend: Seventeen for 2017!

Sixteen for 2016

HappyNewYear

I decided to make a resolutions/goals list this year. I don’t really expect to fulfill it all, but I figure having something to shoot for is better than wandering around lost and confused. I’m mixing up personal and professional goals because that’s how I roll.

  1. Pay off at least two credit card balances. I’ve let these creep up after being free of credit card debt about five years ago. Two balances are low enough that I can pay them off quickly, though. Update 8/14: Paid off card #2!
  2. Stop adding to credit card balances. They’ve been mostly steady this year, but I’d like to get them all headed consistently toward zero. Update 12/19: Balances continuing to drop. Go me. 😀
  3. Set up an office space. I’m planning to buy a desk and chair this weekend, and getting those assembled and in place will be about 75% of this goal. Update 12/19: Things kind of fell apart later in the year, and now I’ll be moving soon, so I’d say this one was about 50% accomplished.
  4. Get a massage at least once a month. I have a monthly membership that I’m not using often enough. If I’m not going to, I should just cancel it—after I use up the extra credits! Update 12/19: I managed this through October, when I put the account on suspension for a few months. I can still get a massage, though, and I’m planning on one more before the end of the year, which will be 11 out of 12 months.
  5. Start doing stretches/yoga regularly for my neck and back problems. More reliance on movement, less on painkillers and heating pads. Update 12/19: Haven’t managed much of this, though I’m a little bit better at maintaining my posture and not slumping over the computer.
  6. Get a mammogram. I’m way overdue.
  7. Weed out and donate clothes/shoes I never wear. Update 12/19: Pretty much everything that isn’t used is gone. I’ll get the rest as I pack to move.
  8. Buy new clothes, especially tops and dress pants. About a third of new clothes I buy end up not working when I actually start wearing them, so the wardrobe turnover is an ongoing issue. Update 12/19: I bought more new clothes in November, and I’m in pretty good shape now. Until spring, that is!
  9. Finish unpacking and get the last boxes out of my space. I plan to accomplish a good part of this by getting rid of more stuff. How the heck did I end up with this much STUFF?? Update 12/19: I made some progress here, and will make more before I move, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. I never did get all my boxes taken care of.
  10. Finish and submit/publish three new stories. I’m shooting for three novels, but I do have a germ of an idea for a short novella for Christmas, so we’ll go with three total. Update 12/19: I self-pubbed three novellas and have a fourth coming in early 2017.
  11. Republish two stories after rights reversions (and on more than just Amazon this time). Update 10/4: Story #1 self-pubbed this month, on Amazon only so I can try KU. Story #2 published with Dreamspinner in September.
  12. Go to Walt Disney World. Planned for the week of the Dreamspinner author workshop. Update 6/19: Went to Animal Kingdom for the first time in March, and hit the other three parks over Memorial Day weekend. 😀
  13. Attend the Dreamspinner author workshop.
  14. Attend the RT Booklovers’ Convention.
  15. Attend the Council of Science Editors meeting (for the day job).
  16. Plan and execute publication of the Daily Dragon for Dragon Con 2016.

Computer Tools and Sites I Like

keyboardbed_sixninepixelsAfter not having the time and brain power at the same time for much too long, I have finally gotten my new laptop set up and have switched over from the old one. Man, what a difference! No hanging up! No lagtime! No sticky keys from where I spilled lemonade a week after I got the old one!

Wheeee!

Ahem.

Sooooo, anyway…

In the process of setting up and installing various things, I figured I’d give a tip of the hat to a few tools I find useful. Maybe you will too.

The biggest one is f.lux. This little bitty program does a wonderful thing, at least for people like me who stay on the computer late into the evening: it automatically (and gradually) shifts the color value of your screen from cool (blues) to warm (reds) as evening approaches. You’ve probably seen articles talking about how staring at a screen can affect your sleep, like this recent one? Well, f.lux is the fix. I know I noticed a definite change after I started using it, especially in finding it easier to fall asleep quickly.

Dropbox is a given, of course. I have an external hard drive and used that to back up the old computer completely before doing the transfer, but getting the bulk of my files moved over was as easy as installing Dropbox, signing in, and waiting for everything to sync. All my working files are right where I need them, with automatic online backup so I don’t even have to think about it. Huge help.

Browser of choice is Chrome, though why it imported bookmarks from my phone but not from the old laptop is a mystery. (And dammit, I forgot again to port them over when I was grabbing the last few files from the old machine. Sigh.)

My sister had already installed Office 365 when she got her new computer not long ago, so I’m using a second installation on mine. So far, so good. It looks somewhat different, but the basics are the same, and so far files are opening fine. There’s also cloud backup, and it’s the full Office suite, so if I want to do something crazy like build a database, I’m set. 😉

I haven’t set up Evernote yet because I’m going to try out OneNote first, but if I don’t like it, back to Evernote I’ll go.

I have not yet decided what to do about Adobe software. I had an old installation of Creative Suite 3, which was fine for my needs, so I might reinstall that and go with it. Creative Cloud is probably awesome, but the price is prohibitive for the small amount of use it would get. There’s a chance another project I work on might provide access, so I’ll probably just limp along without it until I know what’s going to happen there.

Things I immediately added to the quick launch bar and/or start menu: Word, Chrome, Spider Solitaire. Priorities: I haz them. 😉

And… I think that’s it. I’m going to add an ad blocker, and the computer came with a McAfee trial but I’ll probably switch back to TrendMicro when that expires. Otherwise? I seem to have a fully operational battlestation on my hands. I’ll try to resist firing the primary weapon in your direction. 😀

Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looking Back, and Forward

newyearSo here’s a little of what happened in the world of Shae in 2014:

  • Attended the Dreamspinner Press Author Workshop
  • Set a goal to complete two novels and two short stories in the coming year
  • Promised Elizabeth a three-book series
  • Published “Clean-Up on Aisle Me!” in the Butt Ninjas from Hell anthology
  • Submitted “Ice Cream Dreams” for the All in a Day’s Work anthology
  • Attended Outlantacon with various other butt-thology authors
  • Agreed to not one, but TWO more butt-thology anthologies
  • Submitted Unfortunate Son (Sons Book 1)
  • Organized a writers’ retreat in the north Georgia mountains
  • Did a whoooooooooooooole bunch of editing for various Dragon Con projects
  • Submitted “The Half-Life of Pumpkin Pie” for the Butt Babes in Boyland anthology
  • Attended Dragon Con, working on the Daily Dragon, as usual
  • Attended that writers’ retreat in the north Georgia mountains
  • Published “Ice Cream Dreams” in the All in a Day’s Work anthology
  • Attended Atlanta Pride
  • Attended GayRomLit
  • Submitted Wayward Son (Sons Book 2)
  • Won a Rainbow Award for the Playing Ball anthology
  • Published “The Half-Life of Pumpkin Pie” in the Butt Babes in Boyland anthology
  • Submitted “Faux Cowboy” for the Butt Riders on the Range anthology
  • Bottom line: completed two novels and three short stories, for a total of 146,000 words submitted for publication

What’s on the horizon for 2015:

  • Publish Unfortunate Son
  • Attend the Dreamspinner Press Author Workshop
  • Complete and submit Nobody’s Son (Sons Book 3)
  • Publish “Faux Cowboy” in the Butt Riders on the Range anthology
  • Attend Outlantacon with other butt-thology authors (and probably plan another anthology)
  • Publish Wayward Son
  • Attend Animazement
  • Attend Romance Writers of America convention
  • Do a whoooooooooooooole bunch of editing for various Dragon Con projects
  • Attend Dragon Con, working on the Daily Dragon, as usual
  • Attend Georgia Romance Writers annual conference
  • Attend Atlanta Pride
  • Publish Nobody’s Son
  • Write two short stories/novellas
  • Write novel trilogy
  • Write at least one Christmas story (possibly a set of three)
  • Bottom line goal: complete at least two novels and two short stories/novellas (submitted/ready to submit for publication)

Any or all of the 2015 plans are subject to change, of course. For one thing, there’s a strong possibility that my sister will be getting married at some point, so that’ll throw a big monkey wrench into everything!

Thanksgiving for One

turkey_nongpimmyFor various reasons, I’m spending Thanksgiving weekend alone this year. I had offers, primarily to go to my parents’ and eat dinner with extended family. But my sister’s off with her boyfriend’s family, and we decided to do our turkey dinner at Christmas this year, so I made the choice to take the long weekend off. After everything that’s been going on the past few months, I think I’ve earned a break.

I did find myself with turkey dinner envy, though, so it looks like I’ll be cooking one anyway (and might even have a guest come over to help me eat it). Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal of the year. After years of experimentation, we’ve finally figured out how to roast a perfect turkey every time, and we have our list of traditional side dishes, both required and optional. Here’s how things usually go around Thankgiving at Casa de Shae…

Appetizers: Varies from year to year. Favorites: smoked egg dip with fresh veggies, cheese and crackers, cream cheese and olive dip, and sparkling grape juice. Just depends on how much trouble we want to go to, and whether or not we have an actual breakfast.

Turkey: Stuffed with wedges of citrus and onion, skin brushed with olive oil, and with chicken broth and ginger ale in the pan. The ginger ale adds a touch of sweetness, and the extra liquid keeps the meat moist.

Other meats: Mom usually insists on having ham. What usually happens is we have ham for dinner the night before and serve the leftovers with the turkey dinner.

Dressing/stuffing: We make both, though neither goes into the bird. Dressing is the Southern cornbread style, made from scratch by a recipe developed by my grandmother. It’s served with giblet gravy. The stuffing is Stove Top out of the box, preferred by my dad, who’s a damn Yankee (born in New Jersey).

Potatoes: Sweet, not white. We usually roast ours (in a pan with a little water in the bottom to keep them soft), but sometimes we’ll have sweet potato casserole, which is my sister’s favorite.

Other sides: These vary from year to year. My favorites are fresh green beans, collard greens, and creamed corn (homemade, not that stuff in a can). Mom likes those too, but she always wants to have an olive tray (black and green olives and sweet and dill pickles) and fruit salad, too. Dad likes creamed onions and creamed lima beans, and my sister’s a fan of green bean casserole.

Cranberry sauce: Jellied straight out of the can for us!

Breads: Crescent rolls, usually. My grandmother could have eaten her weight in those. Real butter, naturally.

Beverages: Iced tea and apple cider.

Desserts: Pumpkin and apple pies. Sometimes pecan too, because Mom likes it. Lots and lots of Cool Whip.

Post-dinner entertainment: Naps, usually. We aren’t football watchers. We do usually record the National Dog Show and watch that later, though!

Image courtesy of nongpimmy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Temporarily Flying Solo

Yesterday morning, I took my sister to the airport for her fifth annual trip to Cambodia. She goes each year with a mission group from her church to visit an orphanage there. (It’s not a proseltizing-type trip; the orphanage is attached to a church already.) They spend a lot of time with the kids, and near the end of the trip, they’ll go to Angkor Wat and some other touristy areas.

What this all means for me (because of course it’s all about ME) is that I have nine long, glorious days without a roommate.

*dances naked*

(Okay, not really.)

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived alone. I moved into my first apartment in 1991, and for most of the next 17 years, I didn’t have a roommate. Then my sister moved to Atlanta to go to graduate school, and she moved in with me to save money. We’ve been roomies ever since.

In the spring, we’ll be splitting up, in one form or another. Sister has a very serious boyfriend, and they’ll likely be getting married some time next year, so we’d been talking about getting separate places when our lease is up in March. I was just starting to think about the possibility of living alone again, and then my good friend J.P. Barnaby said she wanted to move to Atlanta and wondered if I might want to room together.

As it turns out, yes, I did. Sure, I lived alone for a long time and I liked that, but over the past 7 years, I’ve gotten used to having someone around. I’m mostly a homebody, but I like being social too, so having a roommate is the best of both worlds.

(Plus, J.P. says she’ll be in charge of emptying the dishwasher. I hate emptying the dishwasher.)

So over the next few months, I’ll be scoping out possible new places to live, my sister and I will be figuring up how to divide up our things (the fannish collections are going to be tough, man), and the new roomie and I will be deciding what we need to keep, toss, or buy. Spring cleaning will take on a whole new meaning when it consists of clearing out old spaces and settling into new ones.

But for the next week, I’ll enjoy having the place to myself. Maybe I’ll dance naked after all. Or maybe I’ll just drink milk straight from the carton and eat the last of the ice cream.

My life is just full of excitement, isn’t it?

Deadlined

DeadlineTypewriter
So, this is gonna be quick, because I’m on deadline and can barely find time to sleep, much less do anything except write this blasted book. Not that it’s the book’s fault, considering I’m the one who procrastinated and didn’t make myself BICHOK* and get the thing written sooner. I’m also the one who set the deadline and promised it to the publisher by that date, so if I were to miss it, it would be completely and totally my fault. But that doesn’t make me feel any better, because this is the first time I’ve tried writing a novel to a deadline (albeit a long one), and if I fail at it, then it’s gonna drive me nuts, especially when I have another deadline for the next book, and fail me twice, shame on me. I’ve already warned people that it’s likely any free time I have at GayRomLit (where I am now) will be spent writing, so I’ll probably be lugging my laptop and/or notebook around with me, and/or hiding out in my room between events to churn out words. Which makes it sound bad, because it’s not just churning, it’s telling a story that I really want to tell, but when you’re at 46,000 words on October 9 (as I write this) and need a minimum of 60,000 words for a novel (and possibly more to actually finish out the story), and have to have it in decent enough shape to submit no later than October 31, well, it starts to feel like a chore. And I know writing is a job, no matter how much fun it can be, and I know every writer goes through times when things are dragging or frustrating and you forget why you do it. Then your characters start talking to you again, and you find yourself smiling or crying or rolling your eyes at them, or someone reads one of your stories and tells you they love it, or that they can’t wait to read your next one, and then you remember—

Oh. Yeah. That’s why I do this.

(*Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. My mantra for life, really.)

Image courtesy of thaikrit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Losing a Friend: A Tribute to Eugie

Saturday morning, I was devastated to learn that Eugie Foster had died, after a year-long battle with lymphoma.

Paul Bright, Kage Alan, Eugie Foster, Kayelle Allen, Shae Connor

Paul Bright, Kage Alan, Eugie Foster, Kayelle Allen, Shae Connor

Eugie has been a friend since 2007, when I began working for her as a volunteer for the Daily Dragon, the on-site publication for Dragon Con. She was Director/Editor and had been looking for someone to do layout. She’d nearly given up when I emailed her. I’m lucky she gave me a shot, and we hit it off both as “co-workers” and as people. A few years later, I also shared a panel with her at Outlantacon, though we joked about how we never seemed to see each other outside of the convention context.

Eugue held a master’s degree in developmental psychology and a day job as an editor for the Georgia General Assembly, but she was primarily an author. She wrote fantasy and science fiction, much of it based on Asian folklore in honor of her heritage. She won a Nebula in 2009 and was nominated for a Hugo for her novelette Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast and won a number of other awards. Her work has been published in multiple genre magazines as well as in podcast format. She self-published a number of short stories, and her collection Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice was published in 2010.

Her latest story, When it Ends, He Catches Her, was published on Friday by Daily Science Fiction.

Eugie’s husband, Matthew, is Director of the Dragon Con Independent Film Festival and has also become a friend. In lieu of flowers or gifts, Matthew has requested that we honor Eugie’s legacy by reading and sharing her writing. You can buy many of her published works at Amazon.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this little piece of fluff and posted it to Eugie’s Facebook wall. I hoped so hard for a happy ending to this story. Maybe in some alternate universe, this is how the story went.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Eugie, and she lived in a beautiful land called Fosteria. Fosteria had many beautiful people and places and all sorts of friendly woodland creatures. But Princess Eugie had eyes only for her greatest love, the handsome Prince Matthew.

One day, Princess Eugie was stricken by a terrible curse that left her sound asleep. Prince Matthew rushed to her side, and unable to wake her, he called on Fosteria’s most prestigious healers to assist. The healers worked their magicks well, but in the end, it was the voice of her dearest love, Prince Matthew, that woke Princess Eugie from her slumber.

Rejoicing, Prince Matthew called for a celebration throughout Fosteria in honor of his Princess, and the people danced and sang and made very, very merry. After much enjoyment, Princess Eugie and Prince Matthew retired to their home, where they adopted a tiny woodland creature and, as the story goes, they lived happily ever after.

Free Advice Can Cost You

redpencil_thaikrit“NEVER DO THIS advice about writing style is rarely helpful. Writing is not an exact science. Authorial voice matters.”

I tweeted the above as part of a conversation on Twitter last week, and it got retweeted around a bit. I thought it deserved a little bit of expansion, so I wrote this post as a follow-up. 🙂

One thing that the internet has made easy is the dissemination of advice. Not just in the publishing world, of course, but the internet makes it simple for any random person (like, say, me) to set up a blog and start handing out suggestions, rules, guidelines, or manifestos about anything they want.

The proliferation of free advice is great for lots of things, including, in many cases, the publishing world. It’s easy to get help when you need it on anything from grammar to word use to location research. The problem comes when personal preferences or opinions are presented as facts. The end result is that there’s a lot of writing advice floating around that’s just not all that good.

When it comes to grammar and usage, most things are pretty clear-cut. There are widely agreed-upon rules regarding how to use the language, and even if not every source agrees, you’ll generally find consensus among different guides on things like word meanings, punctuation, and spelling. Where there isn’t a clear “winner,” a preference may emerge—or your publisher will have a house style that will take care of it.

Other issues aren’t so clear-cut. Idiomatic expressions, metaphors and similes, meter and flow… these are questions related to the author’s writing style, and they don’t have easy answers. They are likely to come down to clarity and authorial voice. To go back to that tweet, generally speaking, advice related to writing style that says to “NEVER DO THIS” is not helpful, no matter what “THIS” is.

Considering the collaborative nature of so much in publishing, it can be easy to forget that editing and writing are far different skills. Writing is a creative art, whereas editing is far more of a science. It’s all too easy for editors to get caught up in the science and lose sight of the art.

I think one of the most difficult things for a fiction editor to learn is how to fix problems without damaging the inherent voice of the author. Even when editors have good reasons for their suggested changes, that doesn’t mean they’re right, or what’s best for the story. I’m not advocating starting editorial fights by any means, but authors who feel strongly about the way they’ve written something shouldn’t hesitate to argue in favor of keeping it.

With every set of edits I receive, I go through basically the same process. I make one pass through to accept or fix everything that I immediately agree with: typos, missing words, incorrect words, and so on. Anything that needs more consideration or that I disagree with gets skipped. Most of the time, that first review clears most of the editor’s comments.

On the second trip through, I look at things more closely. If I agree with the editor’s comment, then I figure out a way to fix it. If I don’t, I mark the passage and explain my reasoning in a comment. Most of the second category contains instances where I think the editor has misread something or has corrected something that wasn’t actually wrong. Often, the choice comes down to “I think it reads better this way.” And pretty much every time, my version is what makes it through to the final copy. Not because I’m “right” and the editor is “wrong,” but because there is no right or wrong, only a preference. And my name is the one that’s on the story.

So the lesson? As with anything on the internet, don’t take every piece of writing advice you read at face value. Figure out what works for your story. And most of all, never say “NEVER.”

Image courtesy of thaikrit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net