Tuesday, October 6, 2020

To Shoulder a Burden

 For the past month, I’ve been struggling to find what posting schedule would be best for the blog. Twice a month? Once a month? I’m leaning toward once a month since I can’t really give any more comments on the writing process except “still editing!”

Turns out that my original schedule was almost met. I did finish the 3rd draft of my book by the end of September, and I have about 10 chapters printed and ready for my editor as soon as he’s able to take them. I just ran into a few rewrites that slowed me down, but in the end will make for a better book. I’ll definitely have all the chapters to my editor by the end of this week.

Then it’ll be time for the cover. I’m looking forward to that as a different way to stretch my creative muscles.

So, now let’s get back to the story of Not so Fun and Interesting Things that Happen to Debra. After the fire, the insurance company took care of us really well. One company came in and took all our hard textiles that could be saved to ‘de-smoke’ them and put them in storage. Another company took all the electronics to test them and save what they could. A third company took all our soft textiles, (clothes, shoes, purses) to dry-clean. Spoiler alert, that smoke smell DOES NOT come out easily. I’m talking washing and rewashing clothes even after we got them back from the soft textile company.

But for everything they could save, there were a lot of items they couldn’t. They wrote off everything in the master bedroom immediately, and other than the soft textile company that went in for the clothes, nothing else was pulled out of there. We had a lot of keepsakes, and some were salvageable, although hard to get to. I did find all my highschool yearbooks and picture albums, but I had to dig through chunks of sheetrock that had caved in from the ceiling. I’ll also note here that the night of the fire, my brother-in-law pulled out all our gaming PCs (my husband’s, my daughter’s, and mine) along with the monitors. Because they were off during the time of the lightning strike, they were fine.

However, we had no place to put this stuff except in our car. Remember my shoulder injury that was slowly getting better? Well, that was about to change. The loading and unloading of all our luggage and computers into hotel rooms, not to mention the digging through debris, killed any progress my shoulder had made from the first steroid shot. It got worse very quickly. By July, I couldn’t raise my arm level out to the side, let alone try to lift it over my head. I couldn’t reach around behind me to put a belt on, and taking off shirts was a struggle. It wasn’t that there was just pain stomping me (and there was a lot of pain), but the muscles in my shoulder had ceased up and blocked any movement.

Back to the doctor I went, and I finally got transferred to a specialist. He gave me another steroid shot and ordered an MRI.

Guys. I’m claustrophobic. This was horrible. I spent the entire time in the machine trying not to panic. My efforts were not in vain because they got some good images. The results were a frayed rotator cuff and shoulder bursitis. All because I tried to carry in too many groceries?

People. Take care of yourself.

The hours I spent in physical therapy were brutal and am pretty sure my therapist was Satan himself, who feeds off other’s tears and pain. However, I learned the right exercises to do to help loosen up my shoulder, although I think the steroid shot was doing most of the work. I no longer see the therapist from hell and have nearly full range of motion back, if not the strength. Daily stretches and workouts with a 1lb weight are helping. I’ve learned to compensate for the injury, so now it only really affects me at night when I’m sleeping. It’s hard to find a comfortable position when your arm refuses to move a certain way. I’m not fully conquered, but I hope some day to get there.

As for reading, I’m currently working my way through The Obsidian Trilogy by James Mallory and Mercedes Lackey. Maybe once I’m finished, I can get a good old-fashioned review up. I do love high fantasy with complex magical systems. Also, this series gets bonus points for talking unicorns.

As for shows, I’m once again re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender for the 10th time, and eagerly awaiting the season finale of The Boys this Friday. This season has been crazy beyond words, but I’m hooked. If you’ve waited to binge it all at once, (and really, why did Amazon do that?) it’s almost time! Can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts on this season.

Look for my next post around the first of November. I’m getting back into the flow of this blogging thing again and should be able to stick to this schedule. I hope to have more writing news for you then! For now, Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Bad Memories

 This is the post I don’t want to write. If I think about it, it seems like a dream, something surreal, like I’m an outsider looking in at the events of my life, but if I look at the pictures, everything comes back full force. I won’t be posting many pictures of what happened.

On May 31st, my husband and kids left for a road trip to Florida. On June 1st at about 8pm, there were storms rolling through Dallas, and our house was struck by lightning and caught fire while we were 18 hours away by car.

The feeling of helplessness was immense. Thankfully, we had a house-sitter who was there at the time of the strike, and 911 was called immediately. Also, my brother-in-law and neighbor were there to help out. At the time, I didn’t care about our material things. I figured they were lost. I was only worried about our three cats. The house-sitter wasn’t able to find any of them before the smoke grew too thick.

The strike hit over the master bedroom where the fire burned away the ceiling and spread through the attic. This was normally where the cats would go if they were scared. Without that sanctuary, the firemen found my old man right away. For all his 11 years, Ben has always been a friendly cat, so he didn’t hide. However, this experience has changed him and he’s very shy now. We keep a large dog kennel outside for the neighborhood stray cat, and they were able to get that set up to keep him safe. Our neighbor offered to keep him until we made it home. 

Once the fire was out and they declared the house safe to enter again, the neighbors and our house-sitter found Caly that night. My neighbor packed her up with Ben and took them to her house. Caly is short for Calypso, because she’s a pirate (one eye is missing). She also has asthma, and although our neighbor tried, Caly wouldn’t take her pill the whole time we were gone. The smoke also did some damage to her lungs, and she was having asthma attacks daily for a while. The vet did a full blood workup on her and recommended an inhaler, which is the same as mine, but have you ever tried to give a cat a puff on an inhaler? I think the stress on her was enough to induce another attack. Caly has since recovered and is back to her normal routine with only a few attacks when it’s rainy outside.

That night, our neighbor helped us locate a contractor who secured the roof, as there were more storms coming in. The contractor ended up doing exceptional work for us to help rebuild the house. We spoke with him, the fire marshal, and our insurance agent, who all said to just stay in Florida. Our rooms were already paid for, and if we went home, we would just be staying in a hotel, anyway. There wasn’t anything to come back to. Except for one thing. They never found Inigo, my daughter’s cat.

My daughter found Inigo when he was 6 weeks old. That’s too young for a kitten to be away from his mother, but somehow he got into the storage room at the fast-food restaurant she worked at. She said her co-workers went crazy and thought he was a rat, but she had experience with cats and was able to catch him. My daughter promised she would take care of him, pay vet bills, and then help find him a home when he was ready. However, after caring for him in her room for two weeks before we introduced him to the other cats, the option to find him a home disappeared. Inigo had adopted her.

Whatever happened in his first 6 weeks (or that day in the storage room) traumatized Inigo. He has always feared everyone except for us and hides as soon as someone opens the front door. He grew to be a huge cat, around 20lbs of muscle, teeth, and claws, so I warned the contractor that if he found him, he might be in for a fight. The contractor’s team was working in our house those days before we made it back, clearing away debris (the ceiling had caved in all over the house from the water damage) and sitting up huge fans to help dry out the house so they could save what they could and prevent mold from growing. The fans ran on generators and were LOUD. I gave people an idea of where to look for Inigo in the house, but he was probably terrified and didn’t want to be found.

We did stay a few nights in Florida but ended up coming home early. Everyone told us to stay and enjoy what we could of our vacation, but how could we? The good thing was we had so much time scheduled off work, we could use it to help salvage some things and deal with insurance and contractors. When we made it home, my daughter went into the house first while we went to the neighbors, who had also offered to let us stay there until the insurance could get our hotel set up. We figured if Inigo was going to come out, it would only be for her. I gave her a few minutes before going in to check on her, but found her crying in what was left of our living room. She couldn’t find him.

Walking into the house was horrible. It stank. It smelled of rotting carpet and smoke. Most of everything we lost was due to either water damage or the smell of smoke seeping into everything. Not much of our actual possessions burned due to the fire being contained in the attic, but we still lost all our electronics and furniture. We were able to wash and save a lot of our clothes, and most of the hard objects in the front of the house survived. The fans did not stop the mold from growing on our couches or mattresses, not that the smoke smell would ever fade from them. That is not something you want to be reminded of.

We all came in after my daughter’s first search, and all of us looked for Inigo. We couldn’t find him or hear any meows over the sound of the fans. There were windows and doors left open throughout the house to let it air out, and we eventually figured he must have escaped. It was midafternoon and horribly hot, so we went back to my neighbors to get settled in.

Once it cooled off and my daughter had calmed down some, we decided to walk through the neighborhood to see if we could spot Inigo. That walk led us to the back of the house. Even though I didn’t have my keys on me, I tried the backdoor and the contractors had left it unlocked. I decided we might as well sweep the house one last time. We looked everywhere. While I was trying to find a safe way into the attic, thinking he could have gotten up there from all the many holes, I heard my daughter yelling from the master bedroom over the sound of the fans. She had finally found him, hiding underneath the nightstand, at ground zero, in a place that he shouldn’t have been able to fit.

Inigo seemed fine, although it was obvious he had lost some weight. I think once he got under the nightstand, he never moved for days. I dragged the kennel to the master bedroom and ignored the pain in my shoulder. My arm was still in quite a bit of pain and carrying the kennel over the fans and debris that blocked the hallway caused more damage. It didn’t matter, though. We needed to get Inigo out and to a safe place.

I’ve never seen our cats so happy to see us. The neighbor said Ben hadn’t come out from under the bed the whole time, but he came out as soon as he heard us. You could see the joy and relief in their eyes and the way they wouldn’t leave our sides. Even Inigo, who generally only gets close with my daughter, was sleeping in bed with us. All of us were safe now, and we would work out the rest later.

I have a lot left to write on what happened, but this post has stretched long enough as is. I knew it would. It’s a lot of story to tell. Some things that happened were unbelievable, and I’m not sure how much detail I want to get into, but that will be for another time.

For now, it’s back to editing. I’ve gotten a lot of work done these past two weeks, and I’m very pleased with the progress. If it all continues to go smoothly, I’ll be able to start sending chapters to my editor by the end of this week. My hope is to have the final draft, or at least close to it, completed by the end of the month. By then, I should be able to release a few details about the book(s) that will be coming soon.

Until then, please stay safe and happy reading.

Monday, August 24, 2020

It's Time

That’s right. Everything that I started working toward on that fateful day in September two years ago has finally come to pass as of midnight last night. No more papers, no more modules, no more discussion posts, and no more fucking replies. It’s done, boys. I’m done. I wasn’t stopped by chronic migraines or fibroids, or a frayed rotator cuff, or even wild dogs and lightning strikes. 

It is done.

And today, the story continues.

So where did I leave off? Oh yeah. Chronic migraines and fibroids. So, real quick about these stupid migraines and the medication that allows me to actually function. It’s called topirmate. Side effects may include “mental problems such as confusion, slowed thinking, trouble concentrating or paying attention, nervousness, memory problems, or speech/language problems” (WebMD, 2020). Did I just… ? Yes, I did, but anyway. This means it’s very hard for me to write or spell a coherent sentence. Harder to have a conversation with, but I make it through. I can normally save everything in editing, so let’s keep this dream alive, shall we? Dreamland’s waiting.

My next roadblock hit me sometime in February 2019. This one is interesting because it turned out to be quite painful and debilitating and is still lingering today, yet I have no clue how it happened. I’ve narrowed it down to maybe this being the culprit; apparently I jacked up my right shoulder trying to be She-Ra while carrying in too many groceries at once. I don’t have the power, guys. It didn’t hurt right away, and it was a slow, dull ache that came on over time that just steadily got worse. By April, I begin to notice that I wouldn’t raise my arm straight above my head because it hurt, and after that I favored it more and more, keeping it close to my body so it could ‘heal’. Spoiler alert, this was the wrong thing to do.

I believe it was May when I finally made it in to see a doctor in my general practice. I still had some use of my arm by then, although I couldn’t raise it over my head at that time. My general was too busy to see me, but the doc I did see was great, and she gave me a steroid shot and had an idea that the muscles were ceasing up and inflamed, which was halting the movement. She gave me a few exercises to do that would help get my mobility back. It was working. The family and I had a vacation coming up in June we were really looking forward to, and I was happy that my arm was decently working again. We would leave out May 31st on a road trip to Florida.

June 1st would bring about something that I never thought would happen to us in a million years, and the worst part of my journey. That will be a story for its own post.

Today, though… Today, I write. Without anything holding me back any more, I’m diving in and getting this book ready for you as fast as I can. It’s time.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The First Bump

I guess it's time for another post. Still hard to get back into the swing of things, so bear with me. It's certainly a struggle. I'll take the time to say that whatever you're out there struggling with, keep at it. I'm with you. I'm here to help you put that block behind you and keep going. Life sucks right now and has the potential to get a lot worse before it gets better, so let's stay in this together.

As stated in my previous post, the rocks that started rolling downhill on top of me started in late December 2017 went I spent the night in the ER. They were the first signs of the avalanche waiting to come but minor in the grand scheme of things and also something I had spoken about before on my blog. I had spent the week with a terrible headache and couldn't stop throwing up. Not only was it horrible, but it was terrifying. I was able to get the cat scan that was long overdue and in January 2018 was finally diagnosed with chronic migraines.

Although this was something I had been dealing with for a while, it gave a name to the pain and a pathway to control. I began seeing a neurologist, and although we went through a lot of trial and error at first, we finally landed on some medication that has dampened the migraines' effects and stopped most altogether. Huge win here.

To put it mildly and short, the fibroid they found was benign, thankfully. However, it was the size of a tennis ball and nearly as round. I don't want to give too much detail, but there was some damage caused, and I had to have a hysterectomy. I had to make the decision to delay my return to college and bump out the course I had signed up for or try to push through the course work during my surgery and downtime. I chose the latter and finished the course with an A. The first step in that journey was taken.

So 2018 didn't get kicked off to a great start, but I still decided to go back to school. I had to find something flexible since I was still working a 40-hour week with an hour commute, so online was the only option. I researched, chose the school, situated my finances, and enrolled. That in itself was a chore, but I was set to start in September 2018. My yearly wellness check was in August, only a few weeks before my start date. That was when the real avalanche started.

I'll save the events of 2019 for a later post. I know we're still playing catchup here, but here's a flash-forward at what I'm currently reading. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.

Until then. Happy reading!

Friday, May 1, 2020

To New Beginnings

It’s been so long, where do I even start? I guess by saying this post has been in my mind for some time as I’ve known what I’ve wanted to say, but when to say it? I even hinted at a few things before my grand disappearing act in 2018, but after the silence had lingered for so long, it was easier to let it be than try to break it before I was ready. Now the question is, am I ready?
But sometimes life is there to force our hand whether we want it or not, and at least this time I’m glad for it.
I’d like to say that over my nearly two years of radio silence that all I’ve been up to is work and family, that the dreaded 9 to 5 has just ate away at me, and it’s all I can do to keep up with that and family. Such has not been the case. Oh lordy, has that not been the case. I have so much to tell you. So much so that this story will require multiple blog postings and maybe a glass or two of wine. At the very least, you may want to get your popcorn ready for some later postings, but for now, I’ll start you off lite.
Although my last couple of years have been terribly rocky, there is one main culprit that has stolen most of my time. In September 2018, I took my ass back to college. That’s right. I’m finally finishing out my degree. Now, because I have a full-time job, along with some other events that happened between then and now, this has taken a little longer than originally anticipated, but I will graduate this year. I can assure you that after graduation, all of that time spent on school will be back to working on my books.
Now I’ve managed to find some meager time to write and work on my new website here and there, it hasn’t been as much as I’d have liked. Right now, writing is like taking a vacation. Also, since I knew this would be a series of posts, I didn’t want to commit to writing on posts, then end up going weeks, maybe a month before I could find time to get another post down. I feel that the next post might be a bit time-consuming. However, there has been another unexpected shift in my schedule that I will get into more later that will hopefully free up a little more time.
It does feel good to be posting again, though. For now, I’ll keep it at this and look forward to getting another post up soon.
Until then… Happy Reading!

Friday, December 1, 2017

***Insert Exaltation Here***

Winner 2017 - Web Banner

NaNoWriMo 2017 is officially over!

AND, I would like to add, officially won!

Image result for celebration gifs

Another month of furious pantsing behind me. I've done it before without a plan. I've done it before with a plan, and every time somewhere in the middle, I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing. Not sure if I'll ever figure it out, but at least I was able to find the will to keep going. That's half the fight, right?

Anyway, the story isn't exactly finished, so work will continue on this novel, but here is where I ask for help. I posted a link at the beginning of NaNo, announcing that I would be posting a chapter a day on Tablo. I also completed that... somehow... because apparently I wanted to torture myself by working on two books this month. Oy, I might be a little bit insane.

Well, posting this was hard. This book has only been seen by my eyes so far. No editing. No beta-reading. Just words of barely more than a first draft. However, that's what Tablo asked for, and now I have a chance of getting this in front of a publisher, but I need help. They are looking at books based on 'hits' and 'active read time.' The book has been doing fairly well, better than I had actually expected, so thank you for those that have signed up for Tablo and favorited the work! I see you, you beautiful people!

But I still need more to boost the book into the top percent so it'll be noticed. If you haven't already, please check it out, and if you already have an account, please spread the word. Trust me, every little bit helps in a big way! I've got my fingers crossed. 

What we built, they drained away...

So today I'm taking a break. A time to breathe before I dive back into that wonderful sea of stories and words. My goal is another 50k in December to try to finish this up WHILE working on Dreamland - Part Three, and that name may change. I'm looking at rebranding, and TPC will probably be the last books published under my D.R.Johnson pen. Future books will probably be under my extended name instead of just my initials. Deets on that will be posted here, of course, but just a warning of what's coming!

Until then, happy reading! 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It starts...

Happy November 1st! The first day of NaNoWrimo, the writing challenge that started it all for me. I think, had I known those five years ago what I'd been able to accomplish with my yammering, I would have started sooner. Am I anywhere near the goals I set out for myself? No, but everyday I'm getting closer, and that's what I have to focus on.

It seems every year I'm on the fence on if I actually want to jump into NaNo again. It's a challenge, and I've proved to myself that I can write 50k words in a month multiple times, so the challenge isn't exactly what it started out as for me, so why bother?

This year I've realized that's not the point.

I threw my hat of plot-ideas to one of my friends and let her pick one, not even bothering to set up my story until today. Creating a new Scrivener document felt like a chore, and then I had to name the damn thing. Ugh. That was the hardest part so far. Next step was to set up the outline, go over my notes and begin the long process of turning this prompt into an actual story.

So I wrote.

I passed my daily goal, finished out the scene and off I went to NaNo to update my word count. That's when it hit me. Seeing that old familiar screen, my daily stats up there so bright and shiny, and the sense of accomplishment that washed through me. I've been in editing mode for so long now, I've almost forgotten the joy of writing.

"A blank page was nothing but potential, pointless until it was used." 
~ Brandon Sanderson

So NaNoWriMo isn't a challenge, but an event. A month of reckless writing where I don't have to worry about editing, adverbs and punctuation. Where I don't have to flip back and forth between Ali's cynicism and Joss's naivety. That balance between the part of the world he only thinks he can save and the good Ali doesn't think she can accomplish. I know it's just me sitting at a desk for hours, working out these problems in my head, but it is exhausting work.

First drafts into a new story, new characters, new places are nothing but pure potential. A fresh journey I can walk with my brand new characters, a vacation a can spend away from TPC, and when I come back to Ali and Joss, it will feel like home.

And then I remember I wrote their POV's in first person.

Hello Darkness, my old friend...

Anyway. Enough writing for today. If you'd like to follow me on a different journey, I'm trying something a new.. and well.. a little scary. I've joined the NaNoWriMo community over at Tablo, and I'm posting a chapter a day of the novel I'm getting ready to release. The title isn't concrete yet, but what title ever is? (A hint at more scary things to come.)

Join me at Tablo!

Only 47,807 words left to go! Happy Reading!