Anxiety again

It’s been a rough month.  Lots of family stuff going on in the background: some drama, some tragedy, and some just normal life stuff that just wears a person down hard.  It’s the way life goes, and while I’m not going to post the specifics out of respect for various wishes, I do want to keep you lovely people in the loop as to the State of Your Author as it were.  And honestly?  Lately, Your Author isn’t in great shape.

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I try to keep a positive tone online for a lot of reasons, one of them being the fact that I don’t agree with Calvin and I try to avoid spreading my bad mood around.  Still, it’s difficult to not let my mood bleed through into everything I’m doing, especially since it’s affecting my sleep, my mental processes, and even my vocabulary which let me tell you is a pretty embarrassing thing for a writer.

Anxiety isn’t a lot of fun.  Pretty much the opposite actually, and it’s been hitting me hard lately.  Between the family stuff and the pending move to Japan, stuff with The Boy at school, and tax time (which I don’t usually mind much, especially now that we have a Tax Guy who is awesome,) and… well.  The Anxiety Gnomes found a way to breach the citadel walls and now they’re working like mad to get in and wreak havoc.

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

And it’s starting to seriously affect my work.  I’ve put off contacting my Beta readers who should be almost done with their look over the next Riverton novel.  The same novel that still doesn’t have a title, so I can’t order the cover.  I haven’t sent anything to the new editor I’m looking at, not even an introduction email which is pretty silly.  I’m sleeping very badly at night and reading really trashy, terrible books to keep myself occupied quietly so I don’t wake the whole house.  I’m not getting the plot work done because half the time it feels like I’m trying to think through the heavy fog in my brain, or reading any books I can review for book reports here on the blog and I’ve neglected my end of the month email for my newsletter.  I’m going to have to post an exclusive short story in abject apology to my subscribers, but then that’s another thing I’m not doing because it’s amazing how anxiety can actually stop you from even trying.

I’m trying to take steps, though.  I’m not simply letting myself slide further into this black hole of doom and gloom.  I’m drinking more water and trying to get a bit more exercise.  When it’s not sleeting or anything I’ll go outside and putter in the garden a bit.  I’m looking into doing some meditation in the mornings before things get too insane here with The Boy.  And my friend the massage therapist did some continuing education and needed a guinea pig to practice on the other day which made me think that maybe I should look into getting a massage once a month or so to help me keep myself from losing my mind altogether.  (She also pointed out that I’m wrecking my shoulder while I’m typing, so maybe if I’m not in pain while working will help too.)

So there it is.  I’m a mess right now, but at least I know I’m a mess and I’m working on it.  That should help repel the attacking Gnome army.gnome-garden-decoration-dwarf-little

Brain freeze

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Photo via Visualhunt

My apologies, please see the title of this post.  Except that title isn’t entirely accurate, It’s more like I’ve fallen down and failed at my duties here, and I have to specify.

I seem to be going through an odd period, creatively speaking.  I am actually writing more per day than I have for the past year or so.  However, almost none of that is on the business end of things.  I have failed to get a book cover ordered (although to be fair, it’s tough to order a cover when the book still doesn’t have a title.) I haven’t written to the various professionals I need to talk to to get another project moving forward.  I have failed at getting my newsletter out on time.

I just can’t seem to get my mind settled enough to write the non-fiction portion of my writing.  And it is a problem.  So I apologize.  I am going to spend some time this week buckled down and pull together the next few blog posts, for which I already have ideas.  I’m going to get my tush in gear and contact everyone I should.  I’m going to update the Books page because I have fallen behind somehow.  I…  well, honestly I’ll probably put up a poll on the Facebook group about book titles because I clearly can’t be trusted with that decision.

So there you are.  The State of the Writer for the time being.  On the bright side, I think that Sebastian Russell and the gang at the Village at Rancho San Antonio are on the brink of more interesting times.  Poor things.

Book babies

My husband was in town for a hot second this past weekend.  He lives in Tokyo and is paving the way for The Boy and me to move there this summer.  We’re all really excited, and nervous, and there’s more than a little anxiety and second-guessing involved.  But with him in town, we decided that since it’s springtime now (hint, hint, weather!) I would pack up some winter clothes and send them home to Tokyo in my husband’s luggage.

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So, I pulled a bunch of my sweaters, and my heaviest scarves out of my closet and folded them into a suitcase.  There was still room, and since The Boy is growing like a weed, packing his clothes seems like a slight waste of time.  So instead of clothes, I asked him to go through his stuffed animals and pick a couple to send ahead of us.  He rifled through his mountain of stuffies and came back with all his Murlocs.  What can I say, that’s our boy!

The other thing I asked him to do is pick 5 English language books to send ahead since books in Japanese will be easy enough to come by.  He started pulling books off shelves like he’d forgotten how to count, and frankly, I can’t blame him.  I mean, how do you narrow it down?  I mean, they’re books, people!  It’s like choosing your favorite kid!  (Okay, I only have the one, but you know what I mean.)

My family has always had a book collecting habit.  It honestly can sometimes approach hoarding levels before we have an enforced cull of old textbooks and airport novels we didn’t love so much really.  We have a bookshelf in every room of our house, except the bathroom, because steam + paper is kind of a mess.  In fact, in the house I grew up in the basement was divided up into rooms via bookshelves placed back-to-back!

So I had to take a deep breath and find my inner minimalist and rein my son in a bit.  No doubt I’ll end up getting him a Kindle or some other international-travel-friendly solution, but for now, we have some non-negotiable tomes to transport.  The Star Power books are, apparently, essential to The Boy’s well being.  A couple of My Little Pony books.  Some Ricky Ricotta stories.  He seems content with the selection we settled on, and they all fit nicely between my thick wool sweater and my winter coat.  Now I just need to look at my own bookshelves and make some choices.

I don’t know if I can do this…

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Shut In

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So going to the doctors on Monday made me realize something.  I mean, I’d sort of noticed it in a peripheral sort of way, and made jokes, but I’d never really thought about it much.  I goof around about having to go to such great lengths as “clothes” to take my son to school in the morning. I teased my husband that I’m moving to Japan and planning to become a hikikomori.  I have been known to spend all weekend in my pajamas just because I can.

Basically, I dislike having to leave my house.  I actually kinda resent it.  I mean there are people out there!  Like, people that expect me to do things like have manners and know basic social conventions!  I am not good with real live people, what can I say?

Maybe that’s how I got so hooked on stories?  The people in stories don’t expect me to understand how to react.  I can get into their heads and see what makes them tick and it makes actual sense.  Mostly.  (More on that later, maybe…) I can never seem to think fast enough to deal with people in front of me in real life, but a fictional one on a screen or a stage or a page?  I can get my brain around that person.

I still have to go out to take my son to school though.  And there’s still at least one last show for me to work on before we move, and a few friends here care enough to force me to get out and be social.  And even in Tokyo there will be friends to see and new friends to meet and adventures to be had, so I won’t just stay in my apartment all alone, I promise.

Although, as a writer, I might have to block off a few days every week to live up to the expectations of me, my coffee, and my rickety typewriter. I aim to please, after all.

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Influence

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Photo credit: Bennilover via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

I admit that I was a little shy of posting this one, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot for the past week or so.  You see, nobody writes in a vacuum. Perhaps, more to my point, nobody publishes in a vacuum, and that’s pretty crucial.  As an indie author these days, having a group of people I can as questions of or celebrate with, people who can guide and inspire me.  And I have that, to a degree (thanks, brain, for being all shy and introverted!) in a couple of online writers’ groups.  But before I had that, before I even pulled the trigger on A Demon’s Duty, I had The Guys.

I met these guys back in college when I was convinced that I wasn’t good enough at… well, anything really.  I wasn’t creative enough or interesting enough or what have you.  I was a good technician, but I wasn’t a designer.  I was an avid reader, but writing my own stuff?  Nope, nobody was interested.  I’d had that point driven home very neatly in a creative writing class, thanks.  Not going to try THAT again.

But I still loved creating things and wanted to be a part of that.  That’s half the reason I went into theatre: I could still tell stories, I could work on the shows and be a part of the process, even as a very small cog.  And at the anime conventions I went to, I ended up on the back of the tables in artist’s alley, helping my friends to sell their books and their prints.

I’ve lost touch with a lot of those guys in the years since, but not all of them, and they continue to inspire the hell out of me.  I know I’ve mentioned Xero’s work here and over on my Facebook page. He’s incredibly creative, multi-talented, and goddamned relentless.  He and his wife are a Force to be Reckoned With, and I hope I can grow up to be that badass brave someday.  Mookie and I have stayed in touch over the years, and his opinions on heroes have definitely affected my own.  He’s also pretty relentless, and wouldn’t let me talk myself down even when I was being all ‘oh, no.  Nobody would ever want to read my stuff.’  My friend Garth (who now collaborates with Mookie!) is less prominently a writer, but every one of his drawings tells a story and makes me think.  I’m both impressed and jealous of people who can think visually, let alone create something coherent out of line and color like that.  I told him the other day that I have a goal to someday commission a book cover from him. Professional goals, folks.

There are more people who have given me the support and the courage to take that first step, and then to continue to encourage me to keep it up, keep writing and releasing my stories: my husband, my parents, several of you who have emailed me…  It’s all vital to the process, and even though I feel arrogant and snobby to call my books art, it’s true enough.  And art doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

 

Ghost light

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Signature Theatre, waiting between performances of Light Years

There is something special about an empty theatre.  It’s a space that is designed specifically to hold a crowd of people in order to tell a story, but when it’s empty, it seems to me that it’s a space holding its breath.  A place that is waiting and silence.  Of quiet,  but not necessarily a place of peace.  For me, an empty theatre is often more sacred than a church or a temple.

I’m sitting here, typing this, between shows— I am filling in for a friend this weekend as he fulfills a family obligation, and I’m proud to be able to be a part of this show.  It’s a story of a father and a son, and their journey through life, and it’s a little bit character sketch and a little rock and roll.  The script is compelling in a strange way, and the music is beautiful and, well, also a little bit rock and roll.

During the performance the theatre is full of life, even during the few silent moments of the show where everyone in the room seems to be holding their breath (myself included,) and any sound at all seems almost offensive, the space is still a living thing and you can feel that energy even with your eyes shut.

But not right now.  Right now the silence is heavy, but it’s a patient heaviness.  It’s strangely full of the echoes of all the stories told in this room in the past.  Not just the shows performed, but the injuries sustained— of which there have been several I’ve witnessed myself— and of the celebrations held.  (There is just about nothing that can top one cast member proposing to another during curtain call.)  I find both versions of a theatre to be inspiring, but it is this one, the silent, empty one that somehow brings me peace every time.

In theatre everywhere there is a thing called a ghost light.  It’s a simple thing, a night light really— often just a plain light bulb on a stick— to put the stage to sleep at the end of the day.  If you ask around, most theatre people will tell you it’s a safety device.  A light on stage when all the other lights are turned off so that anyone coming in isn’t at risk of tripping over something or falling into a hole.  Some folks will grin and tell you it’s there to keep the ghosts company because every theatre has at least one ghost.

Me?  I think those are both perfectly fine explanations.  But I think mostly a ghost light is there to make sure that the stories of the place can keep echoing.  After all, stories are the breath of a theatre, and when they’re gone, the space truly does go silent.  I think, in that way, a theatre and I are very similar.  We both need stories.

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End of the night for Light Years, and the ghost light shines just before lights out.

I’ve got such a headache…

So I guess this is another post in what seems to have turned into a self-care series.  Hi!  *Waves*

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Photo credit: piermario via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

By the time you’re reading this, the show I’ve been working on for the past few months will have closed.  It’s bittersweet since it was a wonderful show and the cast was fantastic— both in their roles and in rolling with, well, a series of very live theatre events.  I’m just as much a ‘keep on muddling through’ sort as the next theatre person, but sometimes one simply can’t do that and you have to send the audience home halfway through act two.  Sometimes the machinery breaks or everyone gets sick at the same time, or the HVAC system shuts down, or the freaking weather outside swells everything into immobility or lord only knows what else could go wrong.  You’d be amazed.  Still, it was a great time and I’m kind of sad that it’s over.  There was some amazing talent and some of the highs matched the lows we had (parties, friendships, shared meals, a marriage proposal complete with spotlights and a full live orchestra…) and my fellow spot-op and I were laughing in the last show almost as much as we were for opening night.

But man am I glad I don’t have to go in this week.  Or next.  In fact, I only have a few days where I’m filling in for someone in February, and I’m otherwise free as a bird until the end of May!  Well, free to be a writer and a mom full time again, anyway.  Although… this week, I might take some time off the writing part.  I’m exhausted.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, you name it and it’s tired.

Going in to work at a theatre is both energizing for me and also draining.  I have to use a lot of spoons to beth through all the perfectly normal interacting involved, but at the same time, it’s seriously unhealthy for me to spend my whole life sitting behind my computer not interacting with anyone at all.  I love my characters but they’re not really real people, and they can’t substitute for them.

Also, getting home late after the show and the kind of long drive, then getting up to get The Boy off to school on time has been leeching my sleep away for months now.  I try to grab a bit of a nap in the afternoon before I get him home from school and head out, but lately, I can’t seem to get my eyes shut.  So my body is starting to complain bitterly about all of it.

And then there’s Brian.  Bloody half-demon whiner.  I can’t get him where I need him,

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

and I can’t figure out where else he could go to get him to cooperate.  I’m clearly missing something here, and no matter how hard I try to sort him out, I’m failing miserably.  My creativity is feeling tapped out.

I love working in theatre.  It soothes something inside my soul that I can’t really put into words very well (says the writer…) But at the same time, I need to balance it with time spent away from the drama, both literal and figurative.  It takes a lot of inner strength to be able to go on with the show, and I’m about tapped out.   So.  I’m going to take it easy on myself this week.  With some luck, I’ll have some news for you on Thursday regarding upcoming releases, but mostly I’m going to sleep and read and try to get some non-ladder based exercise.  Maybe even some fresh air!  Self-care.  It’s the thing that keeps the novels flowing.

Assignments

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You might have noticed that I’m not especially organized.  *Ahem*  Yes, well.  As a result of that, I usually forget to activate incognito mode when I’m trolling around Amazon doing research for books and marketing ideas and so on.  Add to that my fairly eclectic reading tastes— everything from the Dresden Files (I broke down and bought the next couple because my local library doesn’t have them) to vampire beat cops fighting semi-sentient books while falling in love, to writing books on technique, to well…  you get the idea.  As a result, Amazon’s algorithms have no idea what to do with me, and just kinda throws things at me to see what sticks.  Sometimes it works and I get to read a Nate Temple novel.  Sometimes, well…

Sometimes I get tossed a book with the title Vampire Claus, and it’s a romance novella where a 200-year-old vampire saves Christmas for at-risk homeless kids and finds the man of his dreams, and you go and show your co-workers in the electrics shop and, well…  They demanded I write a book report.  I’m placing the blame fully on my fellow electricians because I was honestly satisfied just reading the cover copy for this one.  Still, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a few hours, and now you get to reap the benefits!

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Churches should always be viewed from the roof in a paranormal romance.  I think it’s a law.  Photo on Visual hunt

Taviano is feeling rather morose as the story opens, and perches on top of St Stephen’s Catholic Church in Boston, feeling sad and nostalgic for the Christmases of his youth in Italy, where his mother baked things and he celebrated the midnight mass and frolicked happily (and not so innocently) with his best friend.  He was an altar boy or some such and was quite devout, but apparently, that didn’t stop him from dreaming about running away with his buddy to live happily not-so-innocently ever after somewhere else.  This leads into remembering why he’s sitting on top of the church rather than inside it, or, frankly, being dead and buried somewhere for 150 years or so, and we get a little explanation of how vampires work in this world.

Which is actually kind of interesting to me.  Y’all know I’m a sucker (hah!) for vampires, and the setup here is pretty different from anything else I’ve come across. The idea is that rather than becoming a bloodsucking demon, a human is killed in order to host a bloodsucking demon.  A separate consciousness that Taviano is aware of and struggles against every day.  He refuses to simply let the beast loose to feed or fight or what have you and has managed to sate it by feeding every few days off the dregs of humanity: murderers, rapists, violent offenders of all sorts.  It helps him justify his continued existence to himself.

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Photo on VisualHunt.com

In this world, vampires must still be invited into private residences.  Sunlight is still fatal, but physical wounds are not such a problem— either for himself or for anyone he chooses to aid— thanks to the substance that has replaced basically every bodily fluid in him, and he has to lose a great deal of it before injuries start to do genuine damage.  He calls it ‘ichor’ and it’s a thick, clear substance that flows through his veins rather than blood.  As we learn it also replaces tears and, er, other stuff.  It’s a handy substance to have since it heals him right up when he gets wounded, and he uses it to heal up bite marks on his victims before he alters their memories and leaves them (usually, mostly) alive.  All this stuff is not only fascinating but important later on!

Moving along.

He is, as one would expect, pounced upon and threatened by a local vampire.  Our Hero tries to explain that he’s just passing through and will be gone by dawn, but she says he has until midnight before she gets her allies and they come after him.  As soon as she leaves he hears the sounds of a mugging in progress!  On Christmas Eve?  He can’t stand for that and also, hey, dinner!

The man being accosted is A: predictably beautiful, B: carrying a whole bunch of bags full of what we learn are presents for the kids in an LGBT+ shelter, and C: (again, predictably) coatless and poor.  Taviano springs into action and rescues the guy, and we are immediately subjected to the worst sort of dudebro dialogue I have come across in years.  “Your name is lit up!  “A scar would be gangsta!” “No, I got this bruh.”

Actual quotes, you guys.

Paul is…  well we can see what he’s supposed to be.  Kind, hardworking, generous, and selfless.  Paul is really supposed to be Cinderella and Bob Cratchett rolled up together in a Studly McHotpants package.  He ends up coming off as painfully, excruciatingly young.  And more than a bit dim.  Sigh. Did I mention the dudebro speak?

Taviano, on the other hand, turned out to be really pretty likable, much to my chagrin.  He’s mostly got a handle on the guilt he feels at being a ‘murderer’ and a ‘monster’ and all that.  I already mentioned the only-feeds-on-bad-guys thing.  He’s also fighting a loneliness that isn’t only born of being effectively immortal.  He’s also struggling with the lingering feelings he had for his bestie back when he was alive, and also the weight of some 200 years of having society tell him that who and how he loved was wrong.  I mean that sort of thing can mess you up after a few months, can you even imagine centuries of it?  Taviano works through it all with grace, which is pretty surprising, since so many character arcs I read about guilt like this end up with the character basically just saying ‘eh, fuckit.’ and Taviano actually seems to get through some of it honestly.

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I am *super realistic and believeable*

Still, Taviano is smitten and is also a bit hung up on being able to hold an actual conversation for the first time in something like 150 years, so he ends up helping Paul (the dudebro) take the presents to the shelter, where they arrive late, after the doors are locked.  Moved by the determination of Paul to not ruin Christmas for these kids, Taviano uses his vampire superpowers to leap to the roof, break in from there, put the presents under the tree, and then wake everyone up and make them all think that Santa has delivered the presents before running like a bat out of…  well out of a shelter, actually.  Like you do.

 

There is an entirely expectable amount of sexytime, which I won’t get into, Paul convinces Taviano to try entering the church for mass which works out surprisingly well for everyone, and afterward, he manages to get completely high off vampire tears, I shit you not.  The local vampires attack and actually do a fair amount of damage to everyone involved, Tavano lets his inner demon out to play, Paul (much like Tiny Tim) does not die due to, um…  reasons involving that ichor I mentioned, and ingesting it in more ways than one and we’re all smart enough here that I don’t need to go into further detail.

Interestingly enough while there is a happily ever after of sorts (a vampire and his boyfriend, sorting out sleeping schedules!) there is also a fairly compelling hook for the author to write more about these characters.  The demon is pretty explicit in explaining that he has his own plans and Taviano is not privy to them.  There’s a bunch of loot that he gets from beating the local vampires, too, and his strong suspicion that Paul is going to want to host a little demon of his own someday which makes him uneasy.

All in all, once I got past the occasionally somewhat clunky prose, the story was reasonably decent.  Several parts were predictable, admittedly, but they weren’t done so badly as to be awful.  The inconsistently dudebro-y dialogue was distracting, and honestly not very smooth.  I’m giving Vampire Claus 3.5 out of 5 rutabagas.  But, if you’re looking for a paranormal romance with a holiday twist you could certainly do much worse.  Heck, there’s a reindeer shifter romance set in a Halloween haunted house out there.

Told you I get some weird stuff sometimes.

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Photo credit: akseabird via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

No business like it…

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Actually, I sit up in the catwalks, not under the stage, but otherwise…    Photo credit: piermario via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

I’m so behind on everything you guys.  I haven’t started my Christmas shopping.  I am WAY behind on my edits for Sarah’s Inheritance.  I haven’t even finalized the book cover.  In a lot of ways, it’s my own fault— time management when I’m starting to fray has never been one of my finer qualities, and oh boy am I starting to fray.

I’ve been, you might recall, moonlighting at my old job as a theatre electrician.  I’m running followspot for a show at a theatre nearby and as a result, I have to leave my house in the afternoon to get there on time for the evening performances thanks to the nutballs rush hour here in the DC area.  That takes a pretty tidy chunk of time out of my day, but I listen to podcasts or turn up a Pandora station and daydream and plan, so it’s not the worst.

On the other hand, live theatre is a tricky beast, and lately, it’s been trickier than usual.  I know that the standard tagline is that the show must go on, and on the whole theatre, people are an amazing, resilient, creative bunch of people who can power through damn near any disaster.  Prop breaks?  Eh, fake it till intermission/curtain call.  Costume snags or tears?  Crack a joke about shoddy materials and keep on rolling while holding it together.  Part of the scenery pops off?  Flip it over or around or out of the way and carry on.  I’ve seen china dishes smash all over the stage and light bulbs explode and even then the show was merely held for a few minutes to get a broom out to deal with it.  Hell, once recently it was done in character mid-scene by the ‘bartender!’  Didn’t even hold up the show!

One thing that can bring a production to a stop, though, is injuries.  Depending on who gets hurt and how badly, it’s possible to just tag in the understudy and keep rolling, but not always.  Last year I watched a dancer fall mid-number and the guy dancing next to her scooped her up and carried her offstage without breaking stride, and it was so neatly done that I’m pretty sure the audience didn’t even notice.  Fortunately, we could manage the rest of the show without her, albeit slightly lopsidedly.  But when something more dramatic happens it’s really dramatic, and the fall out is long and complicated.  So this week was spent at the theatre, reworking things and speed-rehearsing understudies, and I’m exhausted.  Still, the good humor and determination and professionalism of everyone involved makes me incredibly proud to be a part of that community.  We all immediately pulled together not only to support our injured compatriot but to bring our new castmate up to speed and still keep up with the regular show schedule and the holiday fancy fun stuff schedule (like secret Santa and whatnot!)

And after all the drama and work and craziness, we ended the week by watching a cowboy pull up a floor tile with a plunger.  Can’t beat live theatre.

Panic

 

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This method is so much more reliable.

 

I had a really decent post for today.  It was actually about writing and what I’m reading right now, and a little bit about what I’ve been working on.

You guys, my computer ate my blog post.

Actually, it ate all my blog posts- published and unpublished- all the way back to mid-July.  You see, I write these posts in Scrivener before putting them up on the blog here, so that I have an easy way to remember what I’ve written about, and can go back to refer to things and basically it’s made my life a ton easier.  Until today, when I sat down to finish writing my post and the whole damned program froze, forcing me to close it all out and restart Scrivener.

Now I know god damned well that I’ve saved many times since July.  Mostly to prevent this exact thing from happening, so I’m not really sure what’s going on here.  I’m hoping that I have everything in my backup files and that all is really okay and all, but I don’t have time to sort it out right this moment.  I’ve got to head out the door to my ‘day job’ in a minute.

So instead of a thrilling and riveting look at how bad I am at planning out my books and so forth (I’m working on it!) you get this lame excuse instead.  I apologize and throw myself at your feet to beg your kind patience while I force my computer to do its job.  On the schedule?  Some percussive maintenance.

P.S.  If you want something more amusing to read, check out this blog!  Not only was my book reviewed over there but so are a bunch of others, and there is some travel blogging and a few cute kid pics for good measure. Personally, I can never get enough book recommendations.