Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Thoughts'

12 Weeks in Self-Isolation

Twelve weeks ago, I drove home from the Rainforest Writers Retreat to discover the world had changed more than expected in the five days I had almost no internet and even less motivation to look to the outside world. That’s what writing retreats are for.

When I left for RWR, there was worry about the growing pandemic, but it was still more of a threat than an actual thing. When I came home, well, that was another thing.

  • …The Husband was now required to work at home.
  • …Voluntary self-isolation had begun but wasn’t yet government mandated. Since the Husband’s work had decided to cancel all his business trips and send him home, that was enough of a sign for me.
  • …Masks were becoming common.

All of these things had a learning curve to them. At the same time, I started watching the news and the numbers of the United States versus the World in Infected, Dead, and Recovered rates.

According to my journal, my first recorded notations were on March 18. All numbers are from the COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

As of Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
US: 10,775 infected. World: 235,701 infected; 9,786 dead.

As of Sunday morning, May 31, 2020.
US
Infected: 1,773,106
Dead: 103,906
Recovered: 416,461

Worldwide
Infected: 6,104,980
Dead: 370,078
Recovered: 2,593,237

These are not good numbers and I’m pretty sure things are only going to get worse as the summer continues on.

I’ve had my moments of pain over the last twelve weeks. Mostly grieving for my father who I last saw alive over Memorial Day weekend 2019. I do miss sitting in coffee shops, gaming in person with my friends, and having my weekly writing group at my house. Overall, I’m fine. I’m an author and an editor. I spend most of my time at home anyway. My biggest sadness is the necessary cancellation of my convention season. It’s the best thing the world can do right now, but I really do miss going to conventions. More than missing the revenue I got from them (ko-fi anyone?), I miss meeting up with my editors, publishers, and peers.

The Husband and I have worked out the new daytime working routine. We take walks. Cook a lot more at home. Occasionally order out to help support our local mom-and-pop restaurants. We are incredibly privileged and we know it. It’s why we do what we can to help out.

Twelve weeks in and we’re doing fine. I don’t see this pandemic burning itself out anytime soon. I have no idea how long this is going to last. So, we make the best of it as we can. It’s all we can do.

The Great Pause and the Three Bears of Childhood

It’s about six weeks into quarantine for me. I’ve heard a bunch of names for this period of time: “Covidcation,” “The Year without a Convention,” “The Virus Troubles,” “The Year of Self Quarantine,” “The Plague Year,” and my favorite “The Great Pause.”

It truth, while I’m doing well most of the time, I have had my moments. I am grateful that I am in quarantine with the Husband and the kitties. I am grateful that I am an introvert 90% of the time. I am grateful for my job of novel writing and anthology editing. Most of all, I am grateful for my latchkey kid upbringing. It taught me independence, self-sufficiency, and self-entertainment.

I was a latchkey kid from the time I was nine years old. In fact, from 9-11, I pretty much lived in a quarantine situation. We lived in Belgium, off-base. That meant I knew no one around my house. We rode the bus home, let ourselves in, did homework, and prepared dinner on our own until our parents came home around 6-7pm. We entertained ourselves. We played in the backyard, read, played card games, and made up stories.

 
That brings me to the wall hanging I’ve dubbed, “The Three Bears of Childhood.” We had this wall hanging in our house for as long as I can remember. My sister found it again while she was helping mom declutter. She pinged me and my brother to see if either of us wanted it. We both did. I acquiesced. A couple weeks later, I was still thinking about the wall hanging. On a whim, I searched for, and found it, on eBay.

Of course I bought it. (Though, I ordered the 37” x 54” one and got the 54” x 78” one. Luckily, the spot I wanted to hang it in—the library nook—was big enough.)

This wall hanging is one of the reasons I’m dealing so well with self-isolation. I have memories of me, my sister, and my brother staring up at it while we created stories about what the three baby bears where doing and how the mom bear was reacting to “our” antics. Because, of course, we were the three baby bears. There were three of us and three of them. (Dad worked a lot in those days. So, we always said that dad bear was out hunting for food.)

Like rereading a favorite book, I am comforted by the sense of familiarity, of “home.” The wall hanging reminds me of my childhood and more innocent times. It is a balm during this time of self-isolation. For me, it’s soothing to hold such childhood memories out for examination and remembrance.

(12 days left in the kickstarter for limited editons of my Bram Stoker nominated anthology, A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods. It’s funded. Now we’re trying for interior artwork. Please help if you can.)

 

Advice for Writers During the WFH Social Distancing Period

The Husband has been working at home for more than a week now and I have some thoughts. If you are a writer who…
…Suddenly works from home in your day job…
…Suddenly works from home in your day job and has a spouse who also now works from home…
…Always worked from home and suddenly has a spouse who also now works from home…
Here are some tips and tricks for you.

If you are one of the above and also have children who are home schooling or are just home… sorry, I don’t have kids, thus I don’t have practical advice on that particular front. Though, you might find some of this information helpful.

0. If possible, set up a dedicated day job work space. Something you can leave or shut down before you go to your writing spot. A physical separation is best. A laptop that can be closed and put away is good. A VPN that can be shut down is okay. Closing all work apps/notifications will suffice.

1. During the workweek, dress for work. Video conferencing is a thing. At least put on a clean shirt, wash your face, and comb your hair. It will help put you in the correct frame of mind. Speaking of video conferencing, be aware of what is behind you.

2. Try to keep to your normal schedule as close as possible.
•    Get up at your normal time. If you have a commute, use that commute time to do something else (read, listen to a podcast, take a walk).
•    Log into work at the normal time.
•    Take hourly breaks.
•    Take your lunch break. This means if you normally leave your work system, log out and leave it.
•    SET ALARMS. (Forgetting to eat and drink is common for those who are not use to working from home.)
•    When the workday is done, close your system and (at least mentally) walk away. You do not work 24/7 unless you are on call and/or this is how your normal job works. This means no checking work email outside of work hours.

3. If you have a day job, try to keep to your normal writing schedule. If you write at lunch, that’s the time to continue doing it. If it is before or after your work day, again, that is when you write. Structure, and a schedule, is your best friend.

4. If you have a spouse working from home, they should have a separate and distinct “office” area away from you. Even if it is your closet, the laundry room, or in the corner of the family room. Do this as much as physically and distantly possible. Otherwise, the urge to spin in each other’s orbits will either be very distracting or overwhelming.

5. During the workweek, when you and your partner are working, only contact them in the same way you normally contact them during the workweek: texting, slack, discord, google hangouts, etc… They are probably also having a hard time adjusting to working from home. They need to find their new normal, just like you do.

6. Headphones are your friend. One or both of you need to wear headphones so you can’t hear each other as much. Also, headphones are invaluable for video conferencing. Trust me on this.

7. Schedule movement breaks. Some people do 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of movement. Some people do 45-50 minutes of work 10-15 minutes of movement. Working at home limits your steps in a big way.

There is no one true way for the new normal of working from home, but these are some of the ways a writer can adjust to both working the day job at home and/or figuring out how to work at home with your partner there. Good luck!

Life in the Age of a (Currently) Mild Pandemic

Parameters for this blog post: Pandemic level 0: Normal flu season. Pandemic level 5: Contagion movie. Pandemic level 10: The Stand by Stephen King.

I think we’re somewhere around Pandemic level 3. I say level 3 because of the following:

·         There is a cause for concern. We are no longer at containment. We are at leveling the curve for emergency care and working to mitigate the spread as much as possible. The breakdown of hospital resources (ventilators) in Italy is an example of why we need to flatten the curve.

·         There is some mild panic. It’s still thoughtful and rational. It’s “I need hand sanitizer and TP.” There is no real threat of looting. It’s not a real panic. Real panic is where you will accidently drown another person trying to find the surface of the water. It’s where you will leave behind loved ones in the face of danger because you are no longer thinking. It’s where fight or flight has taken over and where people refuse to open doors to neighbors out of fear.

·         Long asymptomatic infectious period. A person can be infected with COVID-19 for as many as 14 days without showing any symptoms while being contagious. The R0 (R-naught), the estimated number of individuals that each infected person will transmit to, for the COVID-19 is currently between 2 and 3.

·         Specific vulnerable population. In Contagion and The Stand, anyone and everyone could get the virus and all ages would get sick and die. Whereas COVID-19 is specifically lethal to elderly and autoimmune compromised populations. I’ve read a lot of data out there that say up to  40-70% of the world’s population will catch COVID-19, but only have comparatively mild symptoms. Obviously, more than just the elderly and autoimmune compromised can get sick and die.

·         There is no vaccine. Yet. We don’t try to contain the flu during flu season. That’s because we have a vaccine. COVID-19 does not yet have a vaccine. That’s one of the reasons it is so dangerous.

·         There’s a lot more data out there. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s some of the reasons for my thought process and estimate of the danger. Don't forget to do your own research.

 

In the Seattle area, many companies (mostly tech companies) have cancelled all non-essential travel. Also, those who can work at home have been sent home until the last week of March (at the earliest). Many of those companies have put support staff on “holiday hours” but are still paying full-time wages. Some are not, and that will lead to future problems.

As an author of dark speculative fiction, and a former military brat who lived in Europe during the Cold War, I watch this all with a wary eye. Every person of my local social writing group, Wit’n’Word, has a spouse who has been sent to work from home. Including me. This isn’t too bad. The Husband understands I need quiet and long periods of time to write. On the other hand, this entire week he has early morning conference calls with the people he was supposed to meet in Boston.

My dreams are unquiet. Example: last night, I dreamed that the Husband agreed to taken in 14 cats without asking me because two of them were singapura kittens and he knows I love them. There were also a LOT of people in the house because of the cats. By the end of the dream, I was slowly containing the cats and kicking the unwanted house guests out.

Clearly, my brain believes that the Husband is bringing a lot of chaos home and it doesn’t know how to deal with it all…yet.

I do have some anxiety. I really don’t want to live through an actual Armageddon. At least, not one this slow moving. Give me Night of the Comet any day of the week and let me have the world’s resources to survive on. You can skip the zombies, though.

Still, I have hope. Hope that the spring and summer months will become an obstacle to COVID-19 and its spread. Hope that a vaccine will be approved over the next year. Hope that I will still be able to make some of my summer convention season.

I also have common sense. Washing my hands regularly. Limiting my forays out into the world. Plans of what to do when I do go to conventions—gloves, wipes, no handshakes or hugs. The knowledge that some events may be postponed or cancelled and there’s little I can do about that.

Now, I guess we will wait and see.

 

Going Forward in 2020

I found a digital set of journal entries from 1990. It was my first real attempt at journaling. It was also before I understood what the internet was and that things written in digital form are forever unless you make a specific effort to get rid of them. I read the journal entries, had a good laugh and a small cringe, then I deleted them. No one needs to have access to private journal entries from 30 years ago when I was thrashing about in my college years.

Talk about hindsight being 2020…(and every other 2020 joke out there).

I’ve already rounded up 2019…and logged my accomplishments from the last decade of 2010-2019. I guess the only thing left is to talk about my plans for 2020. Hard numbers:

  • Write: 1 BattleTech novel, 1 SF novella, 5 short stories, [other projects in the works].
  • Edit: 2 BattleTech novels, 1 anthology, 1 Shadowrun novella, all contracted short stories, [other projects in the works].
  • Publications: 2 BattleTech novels, 1 anthology, 1 Shadowrun novella, [other projects in the works].
  • Travel: 6 conventions (speaking at 5, dealers table at 4).
  • Podcasts: Continue to be voice talent on the Dire Multiverse.

Life is more than the publishing business. Fantasy Jenn is waiting in the wings to get things done, too, including…

  • Read 5 nights a week.
  • Learn to pick locks. (This one is mostly for Apocalypse Girl.)
  • Get better at Beat Saber. (IE: shift from easy to normal mode on all songs)
  • Declutter sentimental things.

Fantasy Jenn is an interesting concept for me to play around with. Fantasy You is the person you buy hobbies for but never get invested in. Fantasy You is the person who is going to scale mountains, and foster kittens, but you never find the time. The same person who is always going to lose 10 lbs. and start eating healthy, but can never get in the habit.

Last year, I decided to start feeding Fantasy Jenn in a deliberate fashion. I actually started this accidentally in late 2018 when I changed my diet to feel better. I’m happy to say that I’m still 25 lbs. down despite the trauma of last year. I also decided it was time to declutter. I decluttered twice last year and the household is better for it.

This year, I’ve decided that I’m going to pick one thing that Fantasy Jenn wants and work at it for a month. If I don’t find joy or skill or use in it, I’m going to stop, put it down, and say good-bye to that fantasy. When I say good-bye to that fantasy, I’m going to say hello to the next dream that Fantasy Jenn has and work on it. I think that’s going to be the key in 2020. Work on one fantasy at a time.

I don’t have new year’s resolutions. I have yearly goals and I tend to stick to them. I suppose it’s because it keeps me feeling like a successful and productive person.

What about you? What fantasies will you work on this year?

A Decade in Review

How does one review a decade of growth, change, expansion, and experience in a single career? Much less in an industry like the publishing industry? I suppose by starting with some of the stats from 2010 – 2019. Note, this is an imperfect list of stats. It doesn’t mention the number of words written, the stories submitted then rejected, the novels written and trunked, the journals, articles, and blog posts. But, really, you’ve got to start somewhere. That is what I’ve done.

  • Short stories published: 65
  • Fiction collections published: 4
  • Novellas published: 5
  • Novels published: 11
  • Omnibuses published: 2
  • Podcasts produced and published: 2
  • Comic books published: 1
  • Anthologies edited: 16
  • RPG books contributed to: 7
  • RPG books written/co-written: 6
  • Award nominations: 18 (including 2 Bram Stoker awards and a Hugo award)
  • Awards won: 7 (including an AU Shadows award, an ENnie award, an Origins award, and a Scribe award)

Gotta admit, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. In 2010, if you’d told me that one day I’d be an internationally published author and editor who’d been nominated for both the Bram Stoker and the Hugo award, I would’ve laughed at you and said it was a nice idea. I thought those things were so far out of my reach that I couldn’t imagine it. If you’d told me that I’d get to write for some of my favorite non-RPG properties like VWars, Valdemar, and Predator, I would’ve wondered what you’d been drinking. Stuff like that didn’t happen to me.

Then again, I didn’t know I was going to start my own publishing house.
…Or serve a term as a Director-at-Large of SFWA.
…Or volunteer for the HWA.
…Or be a Guest of Honor at ten different conventions, including conventions in Sweden and Finland.
…Or get an agent after I’d given up the search.

In truth, this is no real way to quantify a decade of my career in a meaningful manner that gives the scope of “everything.” I’ve always been ambitious when it comes to my career. I’ve got plans for the next decade. I’m sure they’ll change. But, that’s all right.

I’ll leave you with some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  • Share the love. Publishing is not a zero sum game. No one has to lose for you to win. Eventually we will work together on a project.
  • Default to being kind. Publishing is a small industry.
  • Write what you love and what you want to read. My greatest success has come from settling in to write exactly what I want to write and to love what I do.
  • Figure out what kind of writing career you want. Casual? Part-time? Full-time? Just hang out with other writers? It’s all good. The sooner you realize what you actually want, the better it will be for you.
  • You are allowed to change your mind and to change direction. Shift gears on the type of story telling you do. Flash? Podcasts? Epic novel series? One-off books? Tie-in work?
  • You are allowed to stop. To quit. To take a break. To rest.
  • You are allowed to start again. No one is going to take away your writing card.
  • There is no one path to a successful writing career. YOU determine what makes you a success. Self-pub? Big 5? Hybrid? It’s all fair game. This is one of the most exciting times in the publishing arena. Nothing is off-limits.


Of course, the last decade wouldn’t have been as successful as it’s been without the Husband’s support. He helped make it all possible. For that, I am ever-grateful.

Days Go By

Days go by until days become weeks and weeks become a month. I’ve spent most of this last month writing hard on my BattleTech: Ghost Hour novel and mostly avoiding the internet. Now that I can see the end of it—four or five scenes left—I can say this novel isn’t going to be the death of me. But, I gotta tell you, it was a hard book to write. Mostly because of the circumstances in my life. I really hope Crimson Night goes easier. (Note: I finished the novel before I managed to post this blog post. :) )

I still think of my Dad a lot. I think of John, too. Less often though. John and I didn’t have a complicated relationship. We were writers, gamers, and dreamers. We had a lot in common—married, with pets, book collections, mutual friends. It was a good relationship. My Dad and me, the relationship was a lot more complicated and messy. But, I find myself thinking mostly of the good things about him these days. It makes things easier somehow.

For the first time in a long time, I’m going to spend Thanksgiving and my birthday with my mom. (Like a decade for Thanksgiving that I can remember, and longer than that for my birthday.) I’m going to help her with some house stuff. And, I think, since I’m staying with her, it’ll be a good visit to reconnect with her. (I still say “my parents’ stuff” about a lot of things and have to remember to change it to “my mom’s” thing.) It’s going to be mostly me, mom, and my sister. I’m looking forward to it.

The Husband won’t be coming with me. He’s got the cats, the house, and a couple of appointments to deal with in my absence. We’ve realized that this forthcoming trip is going to be the longest he and I have spent apart since we before we got married. I’m going to miss him. I know it. We’ll have Skype and Discord, and texting. But, I will miss him. And the kitties—who will believe I have abandoned them forevermore, I’m sure.

I think the visit is going to be a good life break. I’ll turn in Ghost Hour before I leave. I’ll get it back after I get home. My wrists will have gotten a break. So will my mind. Part of me has grand plans to write the rough of a novella while I’m in North Carolina. Part me of me has grand plans of sleeping a lot. We’ll see what actually happens. I suspect a little of column A and a little from column B. After all, the novella is already outlined.

We had another small tragedy in the last week. An abandoned kitten that Seanan was taking care of died. Nature sucks. It’s true. I’m sad about the kitten. She had a lot of life in her. I’m sad for Seanan. The whole situation was harder than it should’ve been…and I have nowhere to put this free floating anger that won’t hurt someone I care about. So, I’ve got to deal with it another way. Still working that one out, too.

Right now, I’m working to keep on keeping on. The staying calm part isn’t working so well, but I’m managing. Grief sucks, but little by little I get better. Baby steps.

I have an earworm because of this blog’s title: “Days Go By” – Dirty Vegas. You can have it, too.

Good-bye My Friend

John A. Pitts AKA author J.A. Pitts has died of “amyloidosis of the heart”—an f’d up gene mutation that has no cure. I knew he was sick. I didn’t realize how sick until he reached out to a mutual friend and asked him to tell me so I could contact him. At the time, he had “six weeks” left to live. I’d planned to visit and tell him the whole story of the Rogue Academy trilogy. He loved BattleTech and my stories. Three days later he died.

I didn’t get to visit but I did get to text, to tell him how much he meant to me, and that I loved him. At least I got to do that. It’s hard telling people you love how much they mean to you when you know you’re telling them good-bye. I’ve done that twice now in the last six months. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. You have that tiny bit of closure to hold onto.

John (along with Jay Lake and Seanan McGuire) was pretty much my welcome wagon into the non-RPG publishing industry. I met him casually at Norwescon a couple of times. But I got to know him at the Rainforest Writers Retreat in 2010. Black Blade Blues was about to be released and he was nervous. He told me once, years later, that he was always nervous about a book release.

John exemplified one of my own personal mottos when it comes to the publishing industry: “Share the love.” Publishing is not a zero sum game. It’s a small world and, eventually, you will work with a lot of people—including your heroes. John always had a good word and an open ear to any writer he met. He was good about contacting me out of the blue, just to see how I was doing.

In my last face-to-face conversation with him, he asked me if I regretted not doing something due to my father’s illness and death. I told him no, because I hadn’t planned on doing that, I was going to do something else. I admitted to not handling my father’s death as well as I had wanted to. I think it was one of the reasons he didn’t tell me then and there how bad things were for him. He didn’t want to burden me with another impending death. That was how John was; always thinking about those around him first.

There are many things from our last text and face-to-face conversations that make sense in retrospect. Questions he asked me. Things we talked about. I will miss his messages, his hugs, and his advice. John was one in a million and I’m damned lucky to have known him. Also, I’m so very sad that memories are all I have left.

Good-bye my friend. I love you.

Author by the Sea

After my father’s illness and death and my stalling on my novel-in-progress, I decided I needed a personal writing retreat—both for the writing and the retreating from normal life. A reset point. I do my best recharging by the ocean. It fills me and lets me rest. I kept a journal while I was there.

Day 1: Thursday
This is the first time in my life I’ve taken a vacation by myself for myself. I’ve traveled alone before, but my destination always included meeting up with someone. Whether it was for a convention or a writing retreat, I was never actually alone. I feel a little weird about this. but not bad.

Now that I’ve given myself permission to grieve, to cry, I have no tears and I don’t know why not.

Wandering through a hotel in the middle of the week as the hotel transitions into the off-season reminds me of the Alhambra hotel from THE TALISMAN, the novel by King and Straub. There’s no one around, long empty corridors, and services are limited.

Day 2: Friday
I’ve learned that I need more than a view of the ocean. My dream oceanside home will be close to the shore or on the shore and up high (on a bluff/above the 6th floor of a condo building). I like the hotel I’m in but it’s not close enough to the shoreline for me.

I made the tactical error of not bringing a sweater. Always bring a sweater with you to the ocean. There is always a breeze and it’s usually cold.

Faced my fear and went out to have a meal at one of my favorite restaurants by myself. I was going to get it to go then decided it was silly to not eat there, enjoying the place. Facing one’s fear is hard.

Day 3: Saturday
The words are returning—slowly, haltingly, like learning to walk again. So are the random story ideas. Of course, this random story idea involves a haunted hotel, but not exactly in the normal way.

Another tactical error on my part was forgetting the binoculars. I’m too far away from the shoreline to really get a good look at the kites, flying go carts, and boats on the water. Must remember for next time.

Definitely the off-season now. Limited menus and no lunch service. Good thing I packed food for all breakfasts and lunches.

Day 4: Sunday
I’ve figured out that I can write or not-write just as well at home, but it’s the solitude I’ve needed. I’m not done crying, but I think the worst of it is over. I’ve now written more in the past 2 days than in the past 3 weeks.

I miss my Husband and kitties. I miss the Husband’s cooking. I miss my bed. I’m ready to be home.

Day 5: Monday
I’ve decided to go home a day early. I can write or not-write just as well at home, and I am writing again. So, mission accomplished.

6 days is too long. 5 is long enough. Controlled solitude is healing. I think this has been a good learning vacation. Maybe I’ll do one again next year. Just closer to the ocean shore.

 

Dad’s Memorial and Other Thoughts

North Carolina was hot and humid and generally awful to Seattlite me. Good things and bad happened; more good than bad, all things considered.

Dad’s memorial was 90% good and 10% awful. I enjoyed and appreciated everything that John (BIL), Shannon (sister), and Pastor Stan (former pastor) said and did. I think those parts of the service were a memorial worthy of Dad.

Unfortunately, the “new” pastor—he’s been there 3 years and I still can’t remember his name—took a religiously myopic view of the service, turning the memorial into a sermon without any regard for the friends and family of differing faiths that my father had.

I mentioned this to Mom a couple days later. I’m glad she likes him, he is her pastor after all, but I think he really needs to rethink his process for future funerals/memorials.

Basically, he preached that Dad was baptized at 50, thus saved…and any of you heathens out there, that aren’t saved in the proper manner, won’t see him again unless you convert to the one true way. Of course, the words were prettied up, and backed by an odd reading about the centurion who wanted his servant healed…and how he was a military man who understood he wasn’t worthy. I think the pastor chose this reading because he really didn’t know Dad. He was a man who had left the military over 30 years ago and often didn’t want to talk or think about that time in his life.

It was almost as if the pastor didn’t actually know what a funeral was for or that people of different faiths might attend…like the Muslim woman who was one of Dad’s longest friends from when he first came to North Carolina. Much less the different Christian and non-Christian faiths that were represented. Mostly, I wish it had been a funeral rather than a sermon. Instead of being soothed, I walked away irritated, feeling unwelcome, and not charitable towards that church. It’s an unfortunate memory to carry with me from my Dad’s memorial.

Mom was brave throughout the memorial and only cried through Taps. She says she isn’t a strong woman. I guess she’s got enough stubbornness, persistence, and willpower to fake it. I think my relationship with Mom has leveled up in some undefinable way. We talked and laughed and remembered together. For the first time, I really worried about leaving her to go home and understood the stereotypical meme of wanting Mom to move in.

I think my relationship with my sister also leveled up. The day after the memorial was done, Shannon gave herself permission to fall apart. At one point, she started crying and said, “I need my sister.” I hugged her and pet her hair. We’ve talked more in the last few months than in the last few years. I think we’ll keep it up.

The Husband was a rock through this whole thing. He was ready to help out, move things, and run-go-fetch at a moment’s notice. He also was happy to sit there in companionable silence. I appreciated that so much. So did Mom.

Grief has not been kind to my writing career. I’m months late on the next BattleTech novel. My editor knows and understands. I’m going to spend some time at the ocean by myself in a private writing retreat where I can work and cry and re-center myself in the new normal that my world has become. Life goes on for those of us who are still living. I know my grieving isn’t over but I hope after my retreat, it will mostly be at peace.