The Cost of Being Healthy

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My mom, my brother, and me, a few weeks before her death.

I don’t get political on this blog generally. But something has been eating at me recently, and I have a story I need to tell.

For most of the last 17 years of her life, my mother didn’t have health insurance.

You see, my father died in 1997. He was the sole breadwinner of the family; my mom hadn’t been in the workforce since before I was born. Funny: he worked as an actuary for a health insurance company. He’d devoted his professional life to the industry. They still kicked my mom, my brother, and me off the rolls before his body was even cold. My brother and I got health insurance coverage through CHIP, a government-subsidized program that provides health insurance to low-income children.

But my mom was a different story.

My mom had rheumatic heart disease, a lifelong side effect of a bout of rheumatic fever as a child. The disease caused damage to her mitral heart valve. She’d had two open-heart surgeries, the first around 1979 to remove scar tissue from around the valve, and the second in 1992 to replace the valve altogether with an artificial one. After the second surgery, she would spend the rest of her life on blood thinners. She had to get blood tests to ensure her blood was the right consistency. (Too thick could cause the artificial valve not to function properly; too thin could cause her to bleed out from a minor wound.)

So my mom was pretty much the walking, talking personification of a preexisting condition. Although she was only in her late 40s when my dad died, she could not qualify for most health insurance plans. The ones she did qualify for were just too expensive–over $1,000 a month, she told me.

When it’s a choice between having health insurance and feeding your kids, or having health insurance and keeping a roof over their heads…I guess you can figure out what choice she made.

As a 50ish woman without a college education, my mom had a difficult time finding jobs. When she did find them, they were mostly either part-time or temporary–and, naturally, didn’t offer insurance.

So she did what she had to do. She paid for her health care out of pocket. Doctor’s appointments, blood tests, medication–it all adds up. She put off unnecessary exams and testing.

The one time she did find a job that offered health benefits was 2003. She got a job at a bank. She was so excited! She finally started getting all the check-ups she’d been putting off. But a few months into the job, she ended up in the hospital. The new medication her cardiologist prescribed to her was too expensive–over $90 a month, even with insurance–and she’d stopped taking it. When she was admitted to the hospital, her resting heart rate was over 200 beats per minute.

Several months later, she slipped and broke her wrist quite badly. She had to have surgery to get it fixed. Having surgery was complicated for my mom. They had to take her off the blood thinners beforehand to make sure she didn’t bleed too much, necessitating around-the-clock monitoring. Then afterwards, they had to keep her in the hospital as they restarted her blood thinners until her levels got back to normal. In total, she was in the hospital about nine days.

While she was in the hospital, she got a letter from her employer. She had exceeded her allotted amount of sick leave–two weeks. Since she had not been at the company for a year, she was not eligible for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

They fired her. Her final termination date was, ironically, the date her surgeon cleared her to go back to work.

 

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My mom in New Orleans, the year before she died.

Thankfully, her insurance from the bank did cover her surgery and hospitalization, since the injury happened while she was still insured, as well as physical therapy afterwards. But when her mobility didn’t return to normal and her surgeon recommended a second surgery, that was not covered. My mom didn’t get the second surgery, and she never did recover full mobility in that wrist.

 

Even with insurance, she amassed a lot of bills from her surgery and hospitalization. I think I remember her telling me that it totaled around $6,000. It took her years to pay off the debt.

My mom was excited when they passed the Obamacare law that prevented insurers from denying coverage just because of a preexisting condition. But she would be eligible for Medicare coverage before Obamacare came into effect. In October 2013, she celebrated her 65th birthday. For years before that, her doctors had been urging her to get an EKG. She’d been putting it off, waiting until it was covered by Medicare.

She never made it that far. She died just two weeks after her birthday. The cause of death was “acute cardiac failure.” I’m still not exactly sure what that means, except that it was her heart and she had heart disease that wasn’t being monitored as much as her doctors recommended.

For the rest of my life, I’ll wonder whether having health insurance could have prevented her death.

So when I hear a comment saying that poor people just need to choose between getting a new [insert luxury item here] and having health care, it pisses me off. Because basically what you’re saying to me is that my mom didn’t deserve to live.

We were what I’d call “borderline poor.” We never had to water down ketchup and call it tomato soup (although I know people who did). But we were financially insecure. My mom budgeted well enough that our needs were always taken care of, but an unexpected expense–like a $350 car repair or a $175 plumber visit to fix a leaky toilet–could set her back months.

Even with insurance, health care is ridiculously expensive. A visit to a specialist may be a $50 deductible. Blood work might cost $75-$150 above and beyond what insurance will pay. X-rays will probably be about $150. An ultrasound might be something like $200; an EKG could be closer to $400. I know, because I’ve had all of these tests done–all with employer-provided insurance coverage.

I’m in better financial shape now, so I was able to pay all these costs. (I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been in an accident or gotten sick, and I had incurred all these costs and more at the same time.) But not everyone is so lucky.

As long as health care is a for-profit business, our health outcomes will never be as good as other countries. And don’t lie to yourself: our health care outcomes are not good. Take a look at this article from Forbes, published in 2014. Specifically:

Equity: The U.S. ranks clear last on measures of equity. Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick; not getting a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up care; or not filling prescriptions or skipping doses when needed because of costs. On each of these indicators, one-third or more lower-income adults in the U.S. said they went without needed care because of costs in the last year.

One-third. More than 33% of adults are skipping health care because they can’t afford it.

We spend much, much more money than other countries on health care, and we’re still sicker.

One of the main arguments I’ve always heard against a government-subsidized single-payer health care system is that the quality of our health care system would deteriorate. But look at the facts. Among other first-world countries, we’ve got nowhere to go but up.

Every time a discussion about health care or welfare or government aid comes up, I hear someone talk about the people who “abuse the system”–those people they met who were living in the projects, getting food stamps, but still managed to have the nicest clothes and cars and electronics. Hell, it’s even people who have been poor who do it, so quick to point out that they weren’t like other poor people.

Let me add my anecdotal evidence to others’ anecdotal evidence: that has never been my experience. My family was just doing the best it could to get by. And when my mom had the audacity to spend money on “little luxuries”–Christmas presents for my brother and me, a new television to replace the broken one in our family room–those were never the thing preventing her from obtaining health care.

Also, let’s just ignore the fact that many consumer goods–electronics in particular, but also food and clothing–have come down in inflation-adjusted dollars over the last several decades, while the costs of health care have continued to go way, way up.

But I’m going to conclude with this: yes, I realize there are people who abuse the system, who take freebies and handouts wherever and however they can get them. But even if someone is abusing the system, taking advantage, whatever, do they deserve to die?

Because that’s what this comes down to. The widowed mother who can’t afford to buy her medication. The recent college graduate who can’t afford health insurance and then gets into an accident. The minimum wage worker who has two jobs and still can’t afford to go to the doctor to get his stage four cancer treated. The real death panels are when you have to play Russian Roulette with your own health because you can’t afford not to.

That’s the cost of being healthy in America.

Word Constipation

 

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Do you like it?

 

So…Embracing the Demon. Dale, book 2.

I’m frustrated.

The good news is, the book is coming along. I’ve got about 40,000 words right now. I’m not stuck, and I don’t feel like I’ve written myself into a corner. My editor read a good chunk of it, and he’s happy with how it’s coming. This is good news. When we were working on The Demon Within, I basically had to rewrite the book from the original manuscript I submitted to him. Then after his feedback on the rewritten draft, I still had to go back and gut the entire middle section. It was an arduous process, and there were days when I felt like giving up completely. I figured maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a professional writer. For perspective: I signed my contract with California Coldblood in May of 2014. I submitted the final manuscript to my editor in November of 2015. Even after that, there were copy edits and minor changes, but I was mostly out of it by then.

That’s not what’s going on here.

This time, I did a lot of the work up front by writing an extensive outline of the story ahead of time and submitting it to my editor. As much as my pantser heart hated to do it, I have to admit that it is helping considerably, especially now that I’m truly in the middle section of the story (which has always been the hardest part for me). Whenever I get stuck, I just refer back to the outline. I’ve got a map to give me directions.

The problem I’m facing now is that the story is not coming fast enough, and because of that, I’m looking at the very real possibility that Embracing the Demon won’t be out until 2018.

When I sit down to write, I average about 1,000 words. On a good day, I might be able to push it closer to 1,500 or 2,000. On a bad day, I might only write a few hundred. Some days, I don’t write. I’ve heard so many writers give the advice to “write every day, no matter what,” but that has never worked for me. Writing is a job–on top of my other, full-time job. I love it, but some days, my brain just needs a break. Other days, I just don’t have time to write. Maybe I’m busy at work (the full-time job, the one that currently pays the bills) or I’ve got other appointments that don’t bring me home until late. Most weeks, I’m averaging about 4-5 days of writing time, 2-3 days off.

I know this about myself, though, so I know I should have started sooner. I was very burned out after finishing The Demon Within–and then once I’d recovered enough to write again, I was smack-dab in the middle of buying a house and wedding mania. But even beyond that…I got married in July. I didn’t start working on the outline until October. That’s on me, I know.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m not so great with either time management or focus. I’m distracted easily, and tend to fall down the internet rabbit hole too often.

The first draft of The Demon Within was about 100,000 words; the final was about 85,000. Then you need to factor in time for rewrites–which probably won’t be as extensive as they were on the first book, but there are still going to be scenes where my editor says things like, “Add more cool weapons” or “Be more descriptive.” In order to get Embracing the Demon out this year, my editor would have to upload it sometime in the next couple of months. You don’t have to be great with numbers to see that the math doesn’t work out.

I follow other writers on Facebook and Twitter who says things like, “I wrote 10,000 words today!” or “I only wrote 2,500 words today, I’m so disappointed in myself.” To which I’m like, WTF?!? I don’t even know how it’s physically possible to write 10,000 words in one day, and 2,500 words would be a great day for me!

Mostly, though, I’m just oozing jealousy. I genuinely don’t know how one can manage to be that prolific, especially with a full-time job (or kids, or family obligations, or volunteering, or pets, or whatever).

I wrote faster back when I was living on my own, but back then I had fewer demands on my time and distractions. It’s so much easier to write when you have no life!

But, since I have no intention of giving up my husband, my family, my friends, or my cats anytime soon, some mitigating strategies are in order.

–I’m going to be deactivating my personal Facebook account soon. It’s temporary, and I will reactivate when my draft is done. My public author page will stay up, but it’ll probably be less active. This is both for my mental health as well as time management: ever since the election, Facebook has been a hotbed of political activism and discussion. Which is great, but it’s causing me stress I can’t handle right now.

–Twitter will stay up, but again, I may not be around as much. (Twitter has never been my poison.)

–I’m going to try (emphasis on try) to start getting up early in the morning before work to write. I’m not a morning person, so this will likely be the biggest struggle. But I’ve done it before.

–I’m going to try to get to the gym more. Doesn’t directly have anything to do with writing, but it clears my head and makes me feel better.

–After I finish the draft of Embracing the Demon, I’m going to work on some things that aren’t Dale-related. I love Dale, but I’ve been in her head exclusively for way too long now. (The last non-Dale project I worked on was in 2013.)

–And if it does come down to delaying the publication, I’ll have to think about some things to put out in the meantime. Short stories? A Dale novella? A non-Dale novella? Deleted scenes? (God knows I’ve got plenty of them.)

I know that building a writing career is a long process, and it feels better to have a plan. But right now, I’m still grumpy and frustrated with myself. Damn kids. Get off my lawn!

 

#lifegoals

So the coolest thing happened to me on Facebook tonight…

Some background information first: I keep my personal Facebook page and my author Facebook page separate, partially for privacy reasons and partially because I’m very outspoken and I know book readers might not want to hear my opinions on politics and social issues. I do have a few professional acquaintances on my friends list, mostly people I’ve met through various conventions and people I worked with in my CC2K days. But mostly, the people I know on Facebook are people I’ve met socially, and some of them date all the way back to high school. In other words, I figure most of them haven’t read or heard of my book, nor do they care.

So anyway…

I got into a discussion on a friend’s post, and by discussion I mean “minor, non-heated disagreement.” Yes, those are possible on Facebook, however you’d never know it once politics becomes involved. Thankfully, this one was not political, so the vitriol associated with those kinds of arguments was absent.

Then the person I was going back and forth with said this to me:

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So for the very first time in my life, I got to say, “Yes, I am that Beth Woodward.”

Seriously, this is probably the coolest thing ever. (On a side note: see, reviews really are important!)

And then I thought, “Hmmm, maybe I should have disagreed a bit less vehemently.”

Thankfully, he followed up with this:

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At least I know he didn’t take our argument non-heated disagreement personally!

So, to the person whose name I redacted for privacy: thank you in advance for reading, and I hope you enjoy the book. And you seriously made my night. Hell, maybe my whole week!

It’s definitely good motivation to get my butt back to work on book 2, which is what I’m going to do right…now.

The Good Stuff

It’s been a hard day. I don’t like to get political in this blog, preferring to keep my personal and professional life separate, but that’s a hard thing when you’re a writer–a career that, inherently, requires you to expose so much of yourself. So it’s been a hard day. And I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling that way.

I have a tendency to be very self-deprecating (and even self-defeating) at times. It can take a toll on my confidence. One of the things I’ve done through the years, when I get into that mindset, is write down all the things I like and value about myself–the hell with what everyone else things. Today, though, what I need is a reminder of what I like about the world–all the stuff that brings me joy and strength. So here it is, in no particular order.

  1. My amazing husband, whose joy and optimism and zest for life are just unparalleled. There’s so many sub-bullets I could put under this. Hugging my husband. Spending time just chilling with him. Watching movies. Listening to him talk. How he makes me laugh all the time. The way he’s so good with animals. He’s the coolest person I know, and I adore him.
  2. Our cats, cuddly and goofy and crazy.
  3. I have the same best friends I’ve had since high school.
  4. I have in-laws who actually like me!
  5. I’m closer to my brother than I ever thought I would be.
  6. I have the coolest social media friends ever. Every time I scroll through my Facebook feed, I feel like I’ve found my people, weird and geeky as they are. But they’re also so intelligent, and they challenge me to think about things outside my own experience. Even when things get political–as they often do on Facebook–it never devolves into the kind of name-calling and straw-man arguments that I see elsewhere on the internet.
  7. I am following my dream of being a writer!
  8. J. and I have a cozy, lovely house–and it’s ours, not a rental!
  9. Volunteering at the shelter. Much as I love my own cats, I can’t overlook how much joy it brings me to help other people find their Annabels, their Shays, their Jupiters.
  10. We have the most ridiculously comfortable sectional couch ever made. I spent many hours napping there.
  11. BOOKS! SO MANY BOOKS! All the world of books!
  12. I work in a cool office where intelligent, challenging discussions are par for the course.
  13. Guapos (the Mexican restaurant down the street).
  14. Disney World.
  15. The traveling I’ve done, and the traveling I will do.
  16. Creating new worlds in my imagination.
  17. Starbucks Frappucinos.
  18. The excitement of knowing you have a package on the way.
  19. Streaming video, whether TV shows or movies or whatever. I can watch what I want INSTANTLY! Technology rocks!
  20. My childhood teddy bear, Hugge, which is still sitting on our chest of drawers.
  21. Ghiaradelli’s Milk Chocolate and Caramel Bites.
  22. Going to the gym. I forget it sometimes, but I shouldn’t, because spending a few hours a week sweating just makes me feel better about myself and my body (which I’ve always had a fraught relationship with).
  23. The sci-fi/fantasy-themed artwork we have scattered around the house.
  24. Going to conventions.
  25. Sleeping. There’s nothing like curling up onto a nice, warm bed (or couch) and drifting off to dreamland. I nap often.

That’s not everything, but it’s enough for today.

So that’s my advice to you for today: find your joy. Take care of yourself. Do stuff to make yourself happy, even if it’s just a little, and even if it’s just for the moment. There’s strength in your happy place, and there’s nothing wrong with needing to escape there for a while.

What I did on my summer vacation

A.K.A. the “Where the hell has Beth been?” blog.

I’m sorry for not posting in a very long time. (Seriously, I’m afraid to look at the date of my last entry!) But it’s been a very busy summer for me.

What have I been up to?

Well…I made friends with a sea lion.

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Her name is Cassie. She put her head on my shoulder like that totally spontaneously. I think we’re going to run away together.

I also swam with dolphins…

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This is WAY scarier than it looks on TV or in the movies. At least for me. J’s reaction to this was pretty much, “Yay! Whee!” Whereas mine was, “Oh my God, I’m going to die!!!” Also, I was worried that my contact lenses would fall out. (They didn’t.)

I also fed stingrays.

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All this was part of the Ultimate Trainer for a Day experience at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The experience was pretty expensive–around $400 per person, I think–and that’s on top of your resort costs, which are also pricey. But if you have the money, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Atlantis has got something for everyone. The Trainer for a Day experience combines several of their other experiences into a full-day event. (So by the time you add up what the costs of the other experiences would be, plus the things you get to do on this one that you don’t get to do during any of the others, you come out ahead.)

J and I also went to Disney World, where we simultaneously became the cutest couple in the world and the dorkiest couple in the world by buying these shirts:

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But seriously, how could we resist?

I also became America’s Most Wanted Wizard.

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(Who says Sytherins have all the fun? Ravenclaws can be bad, too!)

This photo was taken at a bookstore called Horray for Books! in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, during a Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt to celebrate the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I hadn’t known the store was there before, but it was fantastic! They had the whole placed decked out with recommendations for Harry Potter fans, as well as tables with recommendations for readers from each of the houses (“Ravenclaw Reads,” “Gryffindor Reads,” etc.)  It’s a big storefront, particularly for that area, and has extensive sections for both children and adults. I’m definitely heading back there as soon as I can.

J and I may have also painted one of our walls TARDIS blue.

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It’s bigger on the inside?

 

In my defense, I didn’t pick the color because it happens to match the time travel device of my favorite Gallifrayian. I picked it because my ideal home is one in which it looks like a Crayola box has thrown up. I like color. Lots of color. BRIGHT colors!

But, unfortunately, our living room is not that big, and we don’t get a whole lot of light. (We’re in a middle-unit townhouse-style condo, so the sliding glass door is the only natural light we get in the living room. We also live in an area with a lot of trees and shade.) So I figured painting the whole room blue might be overwhelming–much to my disappointment. Plus, painting the whole living room/dining room/upstairs hallway (since it’s an open floor plan) would have been an ordeal. So we started with an accent wall.

I love the blue color, but I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it in relation to the rest of the room. The rest of the room is a beigey-brown color, so I’m wondering if it should be a cooler tone? Or should I just be brave and paint the whole room blue? I’m just not sure. But maybe I’m just still adjusting to the change.

But I guess it’s fitting that our wall became TARDIS blue, because we also did this:

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Yes, J and I got our photos taken with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Colman at Awesome Con in June. We also sat through the (very crowded, very late, and unfortunately shortened) Q&A session with them. My impressions: Capaldi seems much more gregarious than his “Doctor Who” character, and Coleman much more reserved. But what really struck me was the chemistry and the easy rapport between them. It’s easy to see why the relationship between the 12th Doctor and Clara seemed much more real than the relationship between Clara and the 11th Doctor. The 11th Doctor was Amy’s Doctor. I believe the 12th, for better or worse, will remain Clara’s.

So that was my summer. But I feel like I’m missing something. What was it? Give me a minute…oh yeah…

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Reader, I married him. Yes, J and I got married back in July. (Our travels were, in fact, our honeymoon.) It was an amazing day. I am so lucky to have the coolest husband on Earth.

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! J (the fiancé) and I have been on vacation since Christmas Eve, and I currently have the world’s crappiest internet connection. But I wanted to wander out for a m-oment to say farewell to 2015, and get my 2016 resolutions down in writing.

In 2016, I resolve to:

–Publish a book! (Okay, so that one’s kind of a gimmie. But I needed an easy one.)

–Be nicer to myself. I tend to be very hard on myself, and my confidence sucks. I don’t deserve it. I will treat myself, and my body, better.

–Read books I wouldn’t normally read. Time to expand my mind!

–Write The Demon Within, part 2, which is tentatively titled Embracing the Demon. I need to have it to my editor by about November/December 2016 for a spring 2017 publication date.

James MarstersI can’t believe 2015 is over already. It’s been a big year. I got engaged, bought a house, finished my book, and met James Marsters and David Tennant. I got to tell them both how much their work means to me, which was awesome.

Next year, I will get married, publish my book, and maybe I’ll shell out the cash to get a picture with David Tennant. Worth. It.

Seriously, for reals, almost done this time

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I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for The Demon Within.

It’s been a productive weekend. I’m ironing out the draft, making sure all the transitions are clear, smoothing out scenes. I’m proud of myself, because I managed to work the title of book 2 into one scene 😉

My final deadline is December 1. I’m sure my editor will make tweaks after that, but that’s when I have to get my final in to him. That’s the version that will be going out for review. I’m hoping to be done sooner than that.

Part of my problem is that I’ve been going in the marathon pace for so long, I don’t know if I have the energy to sprint to the finish. Nonetheless, the finish isn’t far away.

After that…I think I’ll need to work on some other stuff, away from the Dale world for a while. Sort of a palate cleanser. I’ve been wanting to write a holiday romance. Obviously, even if I manage to accomplish that, it wouldn’t be out until next year, but I might as well take advantage of the spirit of the season and all the Hallmark movies for inspiration.

Problem is, I don’t know if I can write a straight romance without killing a whole bunch of people.

(Note to any law enforcement entities reading this: I only kill fictional people, I swear.)

(Addendum to note to any law enforcement entities reading this: …but I do kill a lot of fictional people.)

I miss writing for fun. I miss writing with no pressure. I need to do that for a minute before I can give myself back to Dale and company.

As for what comes next as far as The Demon Within goes…I’m not exactly sure. Promotional stuff. Reviews and interviews, I hope. Maybe a release party? This is the first time I’ve done this, folks. I am flying completely blind–and largely panicked.

This is what my next several months look like:

December 16–closing on a house
April 12–my first book gets published
July 2–I am getting married

Excuse me while I go breathe into a paper bag.

Self-Discipline

One of the biggest problems I have, as a writer, is self-discipline.

Part of it is just economy of time/energy. I did not receive an advance for The Demon Within; even if I had, as a first-time, unproven author, it likely wouldn’t have been much. So I maintain a full-time job in order to pay my bills. My ultimate goal, though, is to be able to write full-time.

But between working, wedding planning, cat-wrangling, maintaining some semblance of a social life, trying to get to the gym every so often, and the necessity of food and sleep, sometimes I’m just too exhausted at the end of the day to do much writing.

But that’s just an excuse, really. Here are my main problems.

Inability to focus. I’m ready to sit down and write and then–squirrel!

The internet is evil. I’m a bit of a social media junkie, but it doesn’t matter–I can go down the rabbit hole of the interwebs anytime, anywhere. See above.

First draft vs. revision. I love writing first drafts. They’re new and shiny and exciting. I feel like anything can happen. But I finished the first draft of The Demon Within back in December of 2010. I’ve tinkered with it endlessly since then. There are still moments of excitement and newness and discovery, but they are much fewer and farther between.

I feel like novel revising is like playing Jenga–which I was never very good at! Every time you move one part, you risk the whole rest of the tower falling down around you.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Jenga. Photo source: Wikipedia.

I don’t get those moments of transcendence, that thrill of discovery, the way I do with first drafting because I keep thinking, “But if I change X on page 23, then it’ll screw up Y on page 192. And don’t even talk to me about Z on page 212. There’s no way I’m going to discuss page 212 yet!” Every change means more work, with a deadline that’s beginning to loom scarily close.

Writing is work…and sometimes work sucks. This is something I find very difficult to discuss with my non-writer friends because, for better or worse, they usually just don’t get it. “But you love writing,” they say. Yes, I do. But sometimes I hate it, too. I hate it when I get stuck and I can’t figure out how to get out of it. I hate it when I’ve been working on a particular scene for a long time and I’m bored as hell of it but it has to get done, and I hate not knowing whether my boredom is going to become the readers’ boredom. I hate it when I have a deadline that I’m pushing again, and my fingers are hovering over the keyboard with absolutely nothing coming out of them.

Think of it this way. You have a job. You may like your job. If you’re lucky, you even love your job. But no matter how much you like or love your job, it’s still work, and even work you love is not the same as sipping margaritas on the beach. Sometimes it’s just easier to browse the latest cute cat videos on Facebook, and that, unlike writing, is not work, and the dopamine hit is instant gratification.

Some days, writing can be amazing. Other days, it can be difficult, exhausting, and frustrating as hell. Which actually segues pretty nicely into my next thought.

Performance anxiety. The Demon Within will be my first published novel. Twenty-five years of writing are culminating in this little book. And that is…stressful. I think I’m having the writer’s equivalent of stage fright, and it’s manifesting in an inability to focus as much as I want to and produce as much as I need to.

I’m writing this down in my blog because I know I can’t be the only writer with this problem. Yet it seems like when I read other writers’ social media pages, it’s all “I wrote 9,000 words today,” and “I just finished my 14th book while working a full-time job and raising eight children and also pursuing my other dream of becoming a rock star.” Yikes. I mean…great for them, but I’m crazy envious. I can barely manage to come home, feed my cats, and turn my computer on without passing out on my keyboard.

The book will get done. But man, I’d be thankful to any suggestions on how to get it done faster and with less stress. Any programs to deactivate social media sites. (I had one once upon a time, but it screwed up my computer so badly that my computer geek fiancé took one look at it and said he had no idea why I’d ever downloaded the thing.) Cutting off social media won’t cure the problem, but it might help. Musical cures? Environmental suggestions? Scheduling changes? Getting up earlier is not an option; I’ve tried this, but I work an early shift and I’m just too damn incoherent before 6am to do something as finely tuned as revision. Besides, I’m not getting enough sleep anyway–I’m not kidding about the passing out on my keyboard thing–so methinks this will just exacerbate the problem.

I’d also like to hear from anyone else who has experienced these feelings, whether it’s to offer suggestions or just to commiserate. I know I must not be the only one.

Just One of Those Weeks

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I’ve been pretty busy over the last week or so, and I’ve been exhausted. Some quick updates:

–“Doctor Who” series 9 is amazing, and I’m glad that many of my pre-season wishes have already started to come true. This looks like it’s going to be Capaldi’s season, and Michelle Gomez has, in the first two episodes, stolen every scene she’s in. With news of Jenna Coleman’s upcoming departure, I’m starting to read a lot more into her interactions with the Doctor. So Clara died, again. Foreshadowing, or just coincidence?

–Part of my hectic week was dealing with kitty illnesses. Our elder cat, Annabel, has had kidney disease for the last 2 1/2 years. Last week, she stopped eating, became lethargic, and was hiding under the bed. We took her to the vet and they found out her kidney values had spiked to double what they were a few months ago. After two days at the emergency vet/vet hospital, a day of fluids, and some appetite stimulant, she’s gotten back to normal. They discovered her blood pressure was high, and we have her on meds now, which has also seemed to help. But otherwise, they don’t know why her values spiked, or what caused her illness, whether it’s just a part of her disease or if something else triggered it. That’s the bitch of kidney disease: it’s degenerative, so you’re always just waiting for that other shoe to drop. But Annabel is doing much better now, so we’re just taking things day by day.

–Speaking of, one of the things that makes me happy is that my fiancé feels the same way about animals–and specifically, about our animals–as I do, that they are part of our family. Volunteering at the animal shelter teaches you very quickly that not everyone feels that way. But J. does, and I don’t think I could marry anyone who treated them otherwise.

–Had a very lively discussion on my Facebook author page the other day about what movies/TV shows/books should be “required viewing” to have more of a cultural consciousness/awareness. One I forgot to mention on the page: the Harry Potter series. Certainly they’re not my favorite books, but you’re really living in another universe if you don’t get all the Muggle references that you hear nowadays.

–Speaking of required viewing, I am very much looking forward to the “Jessica Jones” television series that will be debuting on Netflix in November. The premise reminds me of my beloved “Veronica Mars,” but it looks like it’ll be even more badass than that. And hey, I do know a thing or two about violent, eff-ed up heroines. Plus, David Tennant. Need I say more?

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

So…it’s been a while since I’ve written.

Yeah. Sorry about that.

But in fairness, I’ve been pretty crazy busy…and I do have a “Doctor Who”-themed post in the hopper that I just have to get off my lazy butt and post. But it’s probably going to be formatting/photo intensive, so I haven’t. Formatting and photo posting aren’t difficult in WordPress, but tracking down the photos I want to use can be.

And as I said, it’s been a very busy summer.

So here’s what I’ve been doing…

1) I got engaged!!!!!! My then-boyfriend/now-fiancé proposed at Disney World, at the Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant. There was a glass slipper and everything! How friggin’ cool is that???

A glass. Friggin'. Slipper.

A glass. Friggin’. Slipper.

I took my time with the whole relationship/engagement/marriage thing. I spent my 20s dating all the Mr. Wrongs, and I’m glad I did it, because now I know, without a doubt, what an amazing and wonderful guy my fiancé is. I also know that I’ll never wonder about that “greener grass” on the other side. Been there, done that, not sorry.

My parents were similar: my mom was in her mid-30s, and my dad nearly 40, before they got married. They had both been married and divorced before. (In this case, my fiancé has, but I have not.) But after they met, they were engaged after one month, married after five, and I popped out almost exactly nine months after their wedding, a honeymoon baby if ever there was one. I asked my mom a few years ago how she would know, after such a short time, that my dad was the one. She gave me this sort of wistful smile and said, “I just knew.” She clarified that they had talked about marriage and life and their outlooks and whether they wanted to have children, etc., all that important stuff married couples should know about each other before they walk down the aisle, but her first, gut reaction was straight intuition. And that’s how I feel about my fiancé: I just knew. He’s not perfect: I am neither blind nor willfully ignorant to his faults. But I see him, and I still know. And I don’t think I could have had this experience, or this conviction, if I’d gotten married young and not had the life experiences that I did.

2) I went to Disney World. Because that’s what everyone does when they get engaged, right? Right? I went to Universal Studios, too. Although the technology and rides are more sleek and cutting-edge at Universal, the customer service experience is still vastly better at Disney. I also highly suggest you wait to visit the “Harry Potter” attractions until some of the hype has passed. Sometime around 2018 should be great.

3) I went to a wedding. Uhhh…not mine. C’mon guys. Give me a little time to breathe here, all right??? I just got engaged! My fiancé was the best man for a friend’s wedding in Natural Bridge, Virginia. Beautiful wedding, beautiful location, and I had a great time. I had met the bride and groom before, but it was great to meet so many of my fiancé’s other friends and acquaintances.

4) I found my history. My fiancé and I decided that we needed some time to ourselves, so we went to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the long weekend. We went to Montpelier, the home of the 4th President, James Madison. Very cool experience, especially since I have lived in the DC area for 10 years now and I’m a total American history geek. We tried to go to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, but when we got there we found out that the earliest house tour we could get was over three hours later! So we spent about an hour or so hanging out in the museum instead. In the Battle of the Founding Fathers, James Madison takes this round, but when push comes to shove, I’ll always pick John Adams for the win. I do so love an underdog.

 So yeah, my breather didn’t last too long. So to close out the long holiday weekend, we booked a wedding venue and a caterer. (The best part: taste testing! Yum!) Now that we have a date, a venue, and a caterer, the hard stuff is over with. Right? Right? (Please don’t tell me otherwise; I love living in my happy fantasy world DON’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME!!!!!!!!)

I am still working on The Demon Within–though, I’ll admit, with everything else going on, not as much as I should have been recently–and we’re still on track for an April 12 release. Now that I’m settled at home for a while, and we’ve got some of the big wedding stuff out of the way (and it’s still 10 months away), I should be able to concentrate more on my real job.

That is, in between looking at photographer websites and TheKnot.com. I’m sure I’ll be able to squeeze the whole “writing” thing in somewhere.