Surya

Today we honored the sun, even as it insisted on hiding behind a thick blanket of soggy, grey clouds. Yep, it’s gone again after three blissful days of warmth and light and dryness; this morning was dark and wet and the cold just clings onto you, heavy and sad. Still, the sun must be up there, somewhere, otherwise we couldn’t even see the clouds at all, so that’s something!

I’m excited for spring lately. I used to kind of roll my eyes at the thought of spring springing because in Florida that just means it becomes unbearably hot all at once and everything is sweaty and blinding for the next nine months, but here in Georgia, if I remember correctly, we had a few months of pleasant weather that straddled the warm/cold line and actually qualified as spring. I’m looking forward to a little less rain and a little more sun, leaves on trees instead of piled up in wet, decomposing heaps, and the opportunity to sit outside and just feel the earth.

For now, though, sun salutations will do. And, in fact, they might be necessary–it might be easier to appreciate the sun when it’s gone than when it’s here.

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Flow and Core

When I said I’d had the worst day of the year way back on the third, well, I was right, but somehow I’ve experienced it again already…so far. Yesterday was awful. The sickness I’ve been fighting off since early November (that Husband has suffered with for the past two months) came at me full force. I’ll spare you the details, but it was a day of me laying on the couch in my leopard-print-iest of pajamas, taking cough medicine, and lazily watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. Beauty gurus just have some of the most soothing voices.

So that meant today I had to make up for yesterday. I started the morning with Flow, and it felt great. It was a slightly more active session, but that was welcome. We had another lovely day today, so I took a long walk in the afternoon, and another with Husband in the evening, and I just finished up Core under the soft glow of my salt lamp.

A day that starts and ends with yoga is a pretty good day, I have to say, even if it comes on the heels of sickness, though my throat is raw again, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to medicate to sleep, which is right on the horizon for me. But more interesting than that, a friend posted something on Facebook that hit me like a sack of Harry Potter and Order Of The Phoenix…s. I hope, if she ever sees this, she doesn’t mind me quoting her, it was just she said something so utterly true to my thought process lately:

I’m torn between wanting to be reproachful and wanting to feel hurt, and wanting to move on and be kind without looking back on the past.

I’ll spare you the details, though they are interesting and blog worthy, I’m just not up for that tonight. The gist is: when you own a feeling, it’s hard to let it go, and is letting it go really the right move to make? I’ve wanted for a while to write a blog on “forgiveness” and how it’s such a fucked up concept, how it’s really only for other people, but I don’t want to muddy those thoughts with the addictiveness of anger, and I know I’m all too often at anger’s mercy.

While I worked on flowing and connecting parts of myself this morning and ended my day focusing on my core, my I am chakra, I realized just how far away I actually am from knowing who I am. Maybe that’s okay, and maybe the truth is knowing that I’ll never know. Maybe the most important thing is just being willing to look inward and shine a light into the darkest places. Maybe it’s most important to not worry about yourself, and just focus on what your words and actions will do to everyone else. I guess it just matters what your end goal is.

Feel

I’m not saying I definitively can feel everyone else doing these practices at the same time as me, but I am saying my brain certainly thinks it can.

Today’s practice was perfect for early morning (even though I did it in, like, late morning). Husband and I had matcha lattes after sleeping in, and the caffeine gave me the kinda buzz that makes one do this dance around the living room, so I chased Rutherford for a few minutes, then got on the mat.

I practice in front of an open window, and the tree pose at the end of the session afforded me a pleasant view of the first sunny day in what feels like three months here in Atlanta. So Husband and I found a local place to take a hike and actually went out and did it, and it was glorious. Muddy, chilly, a little dangerous, but glorious.

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I’m sure we’ll return to rain and cold and grey come Monday that will last through to March, but at least for today it was nice to feel the sun on my face and the mud under my shoes.

Observe

Sometimes Bart tolerates Rutherford. Yeah, his ears are back, but they’re not flattened in that “when-I-get-into-a-fight-with-this-beast-I-don’t-want-them-torn-off” sorta way, but more like an “ugh-this-guy-again” southward jaunt. Sometimes he doesn’t hiss and he just deals. And sometimes he even lets him lay next to him. Today wasn’t one of those days.

Today when I sat on the mat and closed my eyes to settle in, I heard the familiar tippy-taps that only Bart’s 25 pounds of bulk can illicit from my wooden floors, and I invited him to come sit beside me. He got some scritchy scratches, which I’m sure Adriene would heartily approve of, while I tried to find my breath, but then he let out an ungodly hiss not once but twice in the direction of the doorway.

I looked over to see Rutherford innocently frozen on the threshold, eyes big, paw poised to cross over into the room. All this kitten has ever wanted, it seems, is twofold: to be accepted, and to be feared. Unfortunately these two things are in wild opposition to one another. No, Rutherford, I’m sorry, but you can’t expect Bart—and certainly not Di–to cuddle up with you for a sunlit snuggle on the chaise after you dive-bomb them from the dining room table and proceed to chase and frisk them throughout the entirety of the house twice over. It’s just not gonna happen.

It’s sad because he just wants to play, but Bart and Di are 8 year olds which is like, according to Purina’s UK site which I want to trust because UK, but I know I can’t trust because Purina, 48 human years. A 48 year old should still be playful, frankly, but it’s much more likely that they’ve had enough of your shit before your shit’s even begun.

It also doesn’t help that Husband and I both play with Rutherford this way. We play hide-and-seek, we chase each other, he frisks us by pawing up our legs and running away, and we jump out from behind walls, tap his butt, and run in the other direction. He just wants Bart and Di to join in, but they do not want that.

Ooooor…and I cannot stress enough how much I am squinting and dragging out that “ooooor”…Rutherford wants to be the HBIC of this house, and that ploy for cuddles is really just an attempt at constantly displacing the others from their comfiest spots and ensuring they have a healthy amount of fear of him. I don’t know what’s going on in his mind, and the reality is that I probably don’t want to.

So Bart left with a ragey hiss, and Rutherford proceeded to come into the room and attack every limb I moved. Claws and yoga pants are not a great combination.

Foundation

Today was, as I texted my mother, the worst day of the year…so far. I fell asleep last night with a little ache in my noggin and woke up with an almost blinding pain rattling around my brain. Husband brought me two naproxen (which I’ve been avoiding in lieu of acetaminophen, but this was bad, my dudes), and I forced myself back to sleep (or “back asleep” as I typically say but have been advised is WRONG by Husband). Upon waking again later my head felt even worse, but we had an appointment with a roofer today to fix a hole (fuck off, nature!), and I needed to get up and do something.

So something I did, as in I cleaned the whole house. My plan was to get up, do yoga first thing, go for a short walk, then do a quick clean of everything including laundry and dishes and then break my fast before my noontime appointment, but I knew I wouldn’t make it through yoga or a walk feeling like my brain was fighting to be on the other side of my skull, so instead I meandered through the house at the pace of a centenarian, moving things back to their rightful places, loading laundry, washing dishes, folding laundry, scooping cat poop, and generally making the house feel livable.

The headache didn’t ease up, even after laying in darkness for a bit, and not even after some Costco pizza! (I feel betrayed, is pizza not supposed to heal all wounds??) So when we got back from the store, I decided, it’s now or never, I gotta get on the mat, it’s only day two for crying out loud, and I’m not going to let my own head stop me!

I don’t remember when my head stopped hurting, but by the time I was in shavasana, I forgot I’d even had a headache to begin with. I’m fairly certain it was Adriene’s sweet, sweet voice, so the list of cure-alls (cure-mosts?) is as follows:

  • Costco food court pizza
  • Adriene Mischler telling you to kiss your sweet knee

I also had a bit of a breakthrough with my story today (even with the headache), and resolved a number of issues I was having all at once. This came on the heels of cleaning up and getting moving, and I think that’s my foundation: getting back to what is proven to work for me which is basically walking around the house, keeping my hands busy with tasks, and talking to myself about imaginary people and scenarios. It’s hard to get back on track after the holidays when your schedule is non existent and all of November and December feel like that, but we’re back now, we’re good, and it’s time to go.

Discern

Image of Adriene Mischler reaching upward with text reading "I'm In! Dedicate A 30 Day Yoga Journey"

January is yoga month, has been for three years running now. Adriene Mischler’s 30 day yoga series on YouTube this year is called Dedicate and that’s exactly what I need to do to so many things. As blogging is one of those things, I think I’ll write up quick posts everyday based around the daily word. Today’s is “Discern.”

The idea is to recognize why you’re here, doing this, and probably to make you think about why you’re here at all and what motivates you. I got on the mat this morning with an intense desire to reestablish a daily practice and working out in general. I get distracted very easily when my habits are broken, even by one day, and I find it really hard to start up again (as evidenced even here, on these pages), so a re-dedication to a daily practice is exactly what I need. I’ve also started following the Couch to 5k program. There isn’t a 5k I’m interested in running, and there may never be, but I am interested in getting outside and being active regularly, to get my stamina up, and to get some good cardio in for my heart. I want to live a quality life for a long time, and I know exercise is the key to that.

With yoga always comes emotional and mental peace for me, and I’d like to get back to that as well. I’ve let in a number of toxic thoughts in the last six months, and I want to clean those out and fill the space up with positivity or at least more useful musings.

The physical yoga today was very basic (which is a word I do NOT associate with negativity, so you go love your pumpkin spice and fuzzy shoes all you want, girl!) The practice was 50 minutes, but the movements were slow and limited in scope. I can see it as a great practice for both beginners and seasoned yogis because it reminds you to be aware of all parts of your body and teaches you patience. Since I’m in the middle of those, I really tried to blank out my mind, close my eyes, and follow her words as intuitively as possible. No, I didn’t sweat (in fact, I shivered because I had a fan on), but I did get a little shaky in my core when I really focused on engaging all of my muscles. If you do it correctly, yoga is an amazing workout, but you absolutely must engage your whole self, including your mind, to get there.

My favorite moment when I’m following any yoga practice is when I just seem to intuitively know where we’re going next, and I get into the next pose a second before the vocal cues happen. I’m not rushing, but my body is just moving that direction already. Of course, it’s largely probably because the poses naturally flow into one another, and when you sync up your breath and your body you just kind of keep going, but I get a nice wave of belonging and purpose in those moments. There are also moments when I blindly start doing something that’s really way off too, so sometimes my spirit’s a little out of sync with the vibe of the video, but that probably makes those instinctive moments even more magical. I had one of those today, and it just brightened up my whole morning.

So I guess that’s why I’m here, to get a little brightness.

Where Did December And 2018 Go?

In a word, this year has been weird, and in another word, December specifically has been busy. So it all just WENT and here I am, on the brink of January, both glad and sad to see it go.

Moving, in general, was the theme. In fact, “Moving” might be my title for the year. Leaving Florida was especially strange. Husband and I have spent the majority of our relationship and, frankly, the majority of our adult lives in Tampa Bay, and to leave was just so, so odd. It was also exciting and fun, and carved out a very different life for the both of us here in Atlanta which has very much been about moving–into a house, out of our comfort zones. forward on our career and creative paths.

As I’m sure pretty much everyone reading this can attest to, 2018 was full of both bummers and wonders (it took a long time for me to figure out what nouns to use there, and I think I actually nailed it, so you’re welcome), and since it’s about to be a new year, I am feeling that familiar sense of “NEW YEAR, NEW ME” that is also, I think, pretty communal. I watched a couple videos to make 2019 THE BEST YEAR EVER, and a common thread in them is to look back at the previous year to figure out how to be productive in the coming year, and after a little more random googling, I came upon this: YearCompass.

I downloaded the booklet and filled it out this evening, and I have to say, it really felt good, my dudes. Like totally cathartic to let go. I thought the booklet would be more structured and focused on actual goals and hard concepts, but it was softer than that, and while there’s definitely room for planning out your year with concrete ideas, I was pleasantly surprised at how emotional and motivated it made me.

But this isn’t a commercial for that site, I’m just saying it’s what I used, and turned out to be exactly what I needed. I have a lot of plans for 2019, including bringing back this beast. I don’t know what will happen to Vacancy, but I do know there’s a lot of writing in my future. I proved to myself it’s possible to do, now I just need to do it in abundance.

Last night while I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about two different, very old stories I really loved. Past me would just sigh and wistfully remember then and hope someday I could bring them back, but current me realizes I can write them–both of them–COMPLETELY–this year. Like, I can fucking DO THAT, I just have to plan it and execute it! WOAH!

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to bring the blog back alongside everything else, but I really want to get back to blogging about daily things, trying to be funny, and explaining why really stupid, insignificant things piss me the fuck off. So here’s to 2019 being a word-filled, creatively-abundant year. I know the only way forward is to actually plan things, so that’s what January is going to be all about, and that’s where it will go: all down in a planner.

Post NaNo Wrap Up And Planning For 2019

Well, so much for Blogmas!

Actually, I didn’t plan on doing Blogmas, so I’m not behind or anything, but I would like to post regularly on here again. I need to find a way to do so that isn’t as severe as every day, but not as wanting as every week.

I have been writing, though, just finishing up my NaNo work. I got about 10k more words in the last week, but I wasn’t as prolific as I wanted to be. It’s easiest to blame Husband being ridiculously sick, but it ultimately comes down to my own laziness. I did get to just about the end of the story. I have maybe three more chapters to go, but I’m leaving those to be done after the first edit/rewrite because I feel like once this is edited, there’s going to be some major plot doctoring/character changes that would significantly change this last set of scenes, so I’m just leaving the very ending open to whatever happens in the future.

Here’s a look at last week’s writing schedule finishing up The Omega (title likely to be changed):

It’s lackluster, I admit, but like every time I have a dip in my prolificness, it’s due to the outline not being well fleshed out! I reached just over 60k words total in this book’s first draft, which isn’t bad, and I’m guessing the final drafts will be somewhere around 70k and maybe 40 chapters (my goal is actually shorter chapters than I normally write as I’m looking to web-publish and I’ve read that due to the average shorter attention span, shorter chapters are the way to reader’s hearts which is hard for my normally verbose self).

So where do I go from here? Well, first The Omega needs to stew, so the file is being put away for at least a month. Before it gets completely shelved, I’m doing two things: writing out the skeleton, and consolidating my first draft notes.

The Skeleton — This is a new-to-me thing which is basically a bare bones (hence “skeleton,” get it?), post-draft/reverse outline. I’ve been keeping up with it as I go every few chapters and just finished it up today. It basically looks like this:

  1. Single sentence recap of the chapter
    • Important specific thing that may have happened
    • Other important specific thing that may have happened
      • Clarifying thing relating to character or story development if necessary

The numbers on the list relate to chapters, so I have as many header bullets as chapters, and up to three sub bullets each, but hopefully less. I want this to be incredibly brief, unlike the outline I create before writing, because the point of this will be to help me edit later (when did that happen? who was there?), and to help me see if too much or two little is going on in a chapter (I’ve already marked a few chapters that will need to be broken into two), or where I can successfully add or remove information or additional chapters.

First Draft Notes — These are major issues I encountered as I went. I wrote most of them in comments on the actual document using Google Docs, though some I listed on my skeleton. What I’m doing now is just quickly rewriting them at the head of my skeleton so they’re all in one document as their own little list. This way, when I go to do my edit, I can look over the issues I know I already have and be figuring out how to resolve them as I do a future read-through.

For instance, in the last third of the book, I reference and use telepathy pretty heavily. It’s not a major element earlier; however, I feel like it should be established and some ground rules should be laid for it early on so it doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere later. Right now it feels like I’m using it as is convenient for the plot, but there have always been rules, I just haven’t framed them in any way for the reader, so I can see it feeling stupid and plot-holy later. This is something that, if I know about it as an issue when I do my first read-through, I can identify where I should be putting this information.

Beyond these two things, I’m hanging up my hat on phase one of The Omega project, which means tomorrow I enter phase two of the She’s All Thaumaturgy project! I have to say, I so badly miss this band of characters. While The Omega‘s characters are darker and broody (and that can be really self-indulgent and its own kinda fun to write), these guys were goofy as all hell and so much fun! I have so many ideas for that book, my heart is so full!

I’m going to try and follow Chris Fox’s editing technique, but I know VERY little about it right now, so tomorrow morning I’ll be watching his How To Edit videos and put that process to work first thing. December is going to be so busy.

NaNoWriMo 2018 – Winning!

Well, shit, you guys, it finally happened. I’ve been a member of the NaNo website for almost a decade, I used the site to track for the past three years (though I competed more often than that), and finally, last night, I became a winner for the first time in the month of November. I did it!

Of course, the story is not complete, and I didn’t exactly stay on the schedule I’d hoped to, but I got 50k words on the page in 30 days. I DID THE THING!

I had some failures along the way, chiefly among them that I didn’t write every single day. I really did make an effort, even during busy days early in the month, I pulled out the computer and typed up a handful of words if for no other reason than to keep up the habit. Those hundred or so words were not particularly good, and they didn’t even pad the count, but they were a reminder of work to be done, and honestly they made me feel a sense of accomplishment. But I failed that on the first day of vacation! I wanted to hit 50k by the 20th because I knew I’d fall behind while in Ohio, but I fell behind ahead of schedule, so ya know, here we are.

But where we are is winning, so yeay! You can see I dropped back down to 15 minute sprints. Quantitatively, they’re more efficient, and they feel better, so I think I’ll continue this going forward.

Which brings me to where I take this which is through to the first week in December where I’ll just continue sprinting like it’s November to wrap up this story. I have the end plotted out (not as tightly as I’d like, but enough to get me there). When I finally get “the end” on the page, I’m going to finish up my skeleton (a very brief breakdown of the overall story by chapter) and make a short list of the issues I marked for myself to resolve in editing (currently they’re in the form of comments on the story document in Google Docs). This way, when I go to edit in a month or so, I’ll have my tools at the ready, and I won’t have to do a review before I review, if that makes sense.

My plan is the finish this up by December 7th (and if I can bang out 10k words over that time I’m fairly certain I’ll get there), then I’m going to binge Chris Fox’s editing videos before pulling She’s All Thaumaturgy out of hibernation to edit. This will be the first time I’m looking at the story since I wrote the first draft sprint-style back in July, so I’m nervous but excited. I expect it to be trash, but workable trash. That story isn’t complete, so after editing what I have (about 70% complete), I’ll pick up first-drafting the rest of it. I don’t know if this is the smartest way to go, but it’s the best I’ve got for now. I do think She’s All Thaumaturgy (title most likely to be changed) might just be the first book I ever query out to agents, so I get a little twitterpated when I think about it. Hopefully the prose and the story live up to my expectations.

I also bought a boatload of organizational things to keep myself on some kind of track going forward. I’ll probably blog about my planning goals sometime in December as I work through how I want to use these things. I love that false sense of having your life together that holding a planner in your hands gives you. I looked down at all my sticky pads and colored markers and I just said to myself, “Damn, future me, you are fucking organized. I cannot wait to be you, bitch!”

So yeah, NaNoWriMo 2018 has been one of my biggest successes ever, and it feels surreal. I mean, I’m happy about it, but I can barely believe it. What I can believe is how hard I fell behind on Vacancy and blogging in general. This is why I need to get organized: so shit doesn’t slip away from me! But on the flip side, things slipped away in favor of something good, not fucking off, not getting sad, not a fruitless endeavor, but a real project that–despite calling my “Embarrassing” project which is still true–I’m confident I’ll be self publishing possibly here before the end of 2019. And the world needs more stories, even if they are about vampires.

A Tiny NaNo Update At 40k Words

This is the letter you get at 40,000 words. It’s incredibly encouraging, for me at least. What’s especially funny though: I dyed my hair purple today for the first time in like four-ish months and the next scene I’m about the embark on literally is an awkward dinner.

The universe has opened up and screamed, “Ashley, finish this novel!”

I’m writing this on Monday night, but I’ll post on Tuesday. I’m hoping that I can poop out a fairly large number of words that day and possibly get another chunk written out in the car on Wednesday? Maybe I’ll even hand write some stuff and type it up that night. Anyway, we’re getting close, Dear Reader!