Monday, February 29, 2016

February Round-Up

Here's looking back on February 2016 - how is it almost March already??

Words written: 7,655 on one project (Paranormal Investigations)

Things accomplished in fiction: Alison and Richard both realize that not only is something a little strange about Shawn, but the fact that they both notice it is a little odd, as well. Alison gets a talking-to about the dangers of involving a Muggle in her new role in a super-sekrit organization.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Forward momentum is being made, with some new wrinkles getting thrown up as I go. I love it when that happens.

New books read: I Work at a Public Library (light non-fiction, tales from the library - thoroughly meh); City of Stairs (started in October, highly recommended by Eric - fantasy procedural, and GLORIOUS); The Sandman Overtures (graphic novel prequel series, which is gorgeous and fits in with the main series beautifully); Swamp Bromeliad (Incryptid short story by Seanan McGuire, gearing up for the new release); A Natural History of Dragons (fantasy memoir from an older woman who is officially out of damns to give with regards to how people will react to her life's work with dragons - it's beautiful, and I'm glad it's a series).

Old books re-read: Soul Music (part of the epic Discworld re-read); Magic Study, Fire Study and Power Study (re-reading so as to be ready to read the new books in the series); Codex Born (book two of Magic Ex Libris, and the last in the series that's a re-read).

Friday, February 26, 2016

Coping mechanisms

I've been pretty fortunate lately, in that my anxiety has been on the low-grade, constantly running side, as opposed to leaking into full-on panic attacks. That was not so much the case this morning. It's been several months since I've woken up having a hard time breathing, much less focusing on getting myself together and getting out the door.

I'm very lucky, in that my office has quiet rooms available when needed. I spent a couple of hours in one yesterday, and revelled in having a (small) room to myself, that I could keep as dark as I needed, and couldn't hear the conversations of people around me. It gave me a chance to pull myself together, and deal with the headache that had been brewing for the entire morning at the same time. I just needed to get there today, and I knew I would be all right.

In order to get to work, I (or my husband) drive to the train station, and I then take a light-rail train to downtown, walk a couple of blocks, and end up in my building. On a good day, this isn't a problem. On a bad day, there are far too many people on the road and on the train, and I have no way of getting off the train (or so it seems) if anything should happen. It's very easy for my brain to start catastrophizing all the ways in which my personal world will end, and I freeze up. I froze up this morning.

Eric, bless him, managed to help me thaw out. He got what clothing I needed, and then talked me through getting everything on. Once I get dressed for the day, the momentum starts going toward "getting out the door" as opposed to "curling up in bed". He also made sure that Daisy was available for cuddles, which is always helpful. She's a very intuitive cat, and will come to you if something's wrong.

At the time, I almost resented his pushing, not letting me collapse on myself and wallow in my panic. Then I remembered something that I've been trying to focus on - I need to be useful. If I give myself a purpose, I know I can pull myself along until the momentum kicks in. Having something that needs to be done, being useful to other people - they're what kick-starts the engine when it's stalled out by panic.

I'm mostly writing this to remind myself of what worked for me. I know it won't always work - I know that there are times when the engine will just stay stalled, and I'll need to turn it off and give it a moment before trying to start again. But for today, at least, it's worked. I'll take what I can get.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Audiobooks and Crafting

If I'm not actively reading, I'm probably listening to an audiobook. The advent of headphones and portable media devices has been, in my opinion, the single greatest technological advance for introverts in the history of the world. It allows me to not only ignore the people around me, but also listen to some of my favorite books! It does, however, mean that I will occasionally burst out laughing at seemingly nothing, but I'm used to the strange looks by now.

The other important thing for me while on my daily commute by public transit is to have something to do with my hands. If I'm reading, well, that takes care of things; however, many mornings I'd rather do something else, while listening to a book. And lo, the power of crochet kicks in.

I spend a fair amount of time making things for people other than myself, mostly because I will actually finish something I'm making for someone else. I may still have a blanket that I started working on when my husband and I were first dating...twelve years ago. It's maybe a third of the way done.

At any rate, the combination of a good book on audio and something useful for my hands to be doing makes that first and last part of the work day something that helps me deal with the anxiety levels. There are days, of course, when just leaving the house is too much for me, but on those borderline days, being able to focus on the world of a book and the yarn and hook in my hands is enough.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Series Review - The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Lo these many moons ago, when I was in college, I was fortunate enough to have friends that led me to a wonderful resource my school had. It's called the MLLL (it used to stand for Multimedia Listening and Learning Library), or the Comic Books Reading Room. Such is the beauty of going to a college populated by geeks.

The MLLL was a tiny, windowless room, and you could only get in if somone gave you the code to the lockbox on the door. Once inside, however, you were surrounded by comics. Graphic novels, single issues, multiple single issues bound together on-site - it was the kind of thing to make a comic book lovers' heart leap for joy. And it was here that I discovered The Sandman.

I'll be perfectly honest - I was never much of a comic book geek. Superheroes have never really been my thing, and for a long time, that was the only kind of comic book I knew about. I wish I could remember who introduced me to Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, because it was truly a life-changing exxperience. I didn't know that stories like that could be told with such artistry. I was led to the MLLL at just the right time, too, as I was going through a major depressive episode and needed someplace to hide for long stretches of time. Being able to sit scrunched up in a beanbag chair and read through the stories of Dream of the Endless as he tries to rebuild his world after being away for long felt like a true escape.

Since those nights in the MLLL, I've found some other graphic novels and comics that I enjoy. None of them, however, hit me the way that the Sandman did. I own them myself now, and will occasionally reach for them when things are getting bleak. It's not just a matter of the story itself helping me out of the dark, it's the circumstances in which I first read them that remind me that I've hit rock bottom before, and managed to get my way out.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Music and Memory

I usually have some kind of music going on in the background, pretty much continuously. I have always been the kind of person who operates better with some kind of background noise, rather than complete silence. I'm also a big fan of putting together thematic playlists, usually on my iPod. By 'thematic', I mean things like 'Chair dancing' or 'Sleepy time' or 'I hate everyone/Stompy music'. Once I find a playlist I like, I can put it on shuffle and repeat and listen to it for quite some time.

Unfortunately, I have a terrible memory for names and song titles, so half the time, I don't actually know what I'm listening to. It means that a song will come on the radio, for example, and I'll suddenly have memories of studying Spanish in the library stacks while I was in college, but I won't necessarily be able to place why. A lot of people have this same phenomenon with scents, in that a scent they don't consciously notice will bring up memories out of nowhere. For me, music does the same thing.

There are plenty of times, though, when a song comes on and a memory comes through that just makes me happy. A lot of oldies remind me of long car rides with my family, as my father was a big fan of the golden oldie station. Country music of the 1990s makes me think of Mom, as that's when she started listening to a lot of country. (We lived in Spain at the time, and the one English radio station was the Armed Forces radio station, and skewed heavily toward the country side.)

One day, I'll actually try to organize some of my music based on the kinds of memories they give me, as that will help me figure out which songs are which, for one thing. In the meantime, I'll just live with the knowledge that any given song may bring me back to a place in the past. At least, for a little while.

Monday, February 8, 2016

So, What's Your Favorite Book?

There are some recent changes going on at work. Specifically, my boss' boss (or my Grandboss, as I like to call him) will be moving to another team within the legal department. He's been with my team (Kindle Content) since he started six years ago, so we're going to miss him quite a bit.

Kindle Content basically means that he heads up the group that supports teams working with publishers of all stripes (including indie publishers) to get books, magazines, and comic books into the Kindle store and printed on demand. It seemed fitting that we get him a going-away gift that is related to books. My boss came up with the idea that we give him a copy of everyone's favorite book.

It's a good thing that the going-away toast isn't until Friday, because everyone had to take some time to come up with their favorite book. It's not an easy question, especially if you read a lot. I have my default favorite, based on how many different editions I own (A Wrinkle in Time), but somehow I didn't feel like that was quite appropriate for the audience. I decided to go with Small Gods by Terry Pratchett instead.

Everyone else, however, went with the classics. It almost makes me wonder if these are truly people's favorite books, or if it's the book they're most willing to admit to liking; for a lot of people, I get the feeling these are two different things.

So! What's your favorite book? What do you actually hold dearest to your heart, and what do you respond with when someone you don't know that well asks that same question?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Series Review - Cecelia & Kate by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Growing up, my father spent a decent amount of time travelling abroad. He was in the Air Force, and would have to go on temporary duty for a few weeks or months (twice, he had to leave for a year at a time). This was all before the internet was a big deal and easily available, so we communicated by written letter. The memory of coming home and finding a new letter waiting for me is one that I remember fondly, and I've always had a fondness for snail mail. When I found out that two authors had written a series of YA novels via letter, I knew I wanted to read them, and I'm glad that I did.

The first book in the series, Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Teapot, introduces two characters as good friends who are spending some time in different parts of the country. They are writing letters to each other, describing what's going on in their respective territories and asking questions about the other's predicament. Even though the tale is told only through letters from the two main characters, there's a wonderful amount of character development and world building.

I love that the authors wrote these letters without discussing the plot with each other, so each letter they received revealed something new about the characters, and referenced past acts that they might not have known about. The series goes on for three books, and they each have the charm and humor of the first.