This is a rant. This is about the hellish transitional period a woman goes through between being fertile and menopause. It’s called perimenopause and I didn’t hear of it until I turned 47. It’s like a particularly evil right-of-passage that women go through to say, “Have a baby, now or never! In the meantime, your body is going to be one whacked-out mess of hormones where NOTHING will act as it once did.”
I’ve been dealing with perimenopause for almost a year and it sucks. You want to know what’s worse? Perimenopause lasts between 4 months and 10 YEARS (on average). Yes, I said “years.” That isn’t a joke and this isn’t a laughing matter.
The reason I didn’t hear about this from my mom is the fact that she had a hysterectomy after “bleeding every day for a year” and never dealt with it. She had her own brand of hell to walk through.
You want to know what some of the symptoms of perimenopause are? These are the ones I’ve personally experienced:
• Heat flashes
• Night sweats
• Dry skin
• Irregular periods (We’re talking 16 to 36 day periods, randomly.)
• Morning poop explosions (Like spending an hour on the toilet 2-3 times a week in the morning while your butt goes through the equivalent of dry heaves. I literally need to make all my appointments for the afternoon now because I never know when my body is going to act up on any given morning.)
• Mood swings (Crying at commercials, laughing at unfunny things, general moodiness—oh, you think you [or your loved one is] are being moody now? You ain’t seen nothing yet.)
Some I haven’t experienced but was told about:
• Tender boobs
• Urine leakage (laughing, coughing, sneezing, living)
• Increased PMS symptoms
• More that I can’t remember or don’t know of because bodies are all different
Remember… these symptoms, on average, last between 4 months and 10 YEARS.
You wanna know who has or is dealing with this in your life? Mention the word “perimenopause” to any group of women and see who makes a face and that “ugh” noise.
You wanna know how you might be able to treat this? Birth control pills. Not to keep you from having kids, but a low dose to try to regulate your hormones. But birth control pills come with their own set of problems. Between side effects, political talking points, and religious I-know-what’s-right assholes, that’s something I don’t even want to think about.
Why don’t more women talk about perimenopause? We know all about men and their erectile dysfunction AKA the much more polite and less embarrassing “ED.” No, women have to talk around the bullshit happening to their body because it’s too embarrassing, it’s “TMI.” It’s not polite.
This is something almost all women have to go through. I’m tired of it being a secret rite-of-passage for older women who are already facing enough discrimination in health care. Thank goodness my doctor is plain spoken and blunt about what’s happening to me. It sucks and I wish I’d known sooner this was going to happen to me. There’s no real physical way to prepare for it, but there are mental ways.
And knowing is half the battle.
I took an honest-to-goodness vacation recently. I spent a lot of time listening to audiobooks or music, crocheting, and staring at the ocean. It was so needed. I didn’t understand how much I needed an actual vacation. Not a convention or event where I was “on stage” or selling books. The Husband saw the need and insisted we take it. I’m so glad.
One of the things I noticed while I was on vacation and afterwards was that certain songs made me think of certain people. Mostly because of old LARPing characters interactions. But others, I have no idea why and it mystifies me. It was something I wanted to note.
These are all of the people and songs I’ve noticed recently.
- Chantelle – “I Miss the Misery” by Halestrom (RPG character interactions.)
- David – “A Dangerous Mind” by Within Temptation (RPG character interactions.)
- Evan – “War” by Poets of the Fall (RPG character interactions.)
- Eric R – “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by Fall Out Boy (RPG character interactions.)
- Johanna – “Vampires” by The Pet Shop Boys (No idea, but I also think about drinking red wine, too.)
- Jeff – “Tide” by Tarot (RPG character interactions.)
- Rae – “Paint It Black” by Ciara (Not a clue, but I have to assume it’s LARP related.)
- Rich T – “Eyes of a Stranger” by Queensryche (RPG character interactions.)
- Ross – “Let You Down” by Three Days Grace (RPG character interactions.)
- Thea – “I’m with You” by Avril Lavigne (No idea. Seriously.)
- Toni – “Life is Beautiful” by Sixx A.M. (RPG character interactions.)
- Yonatan – “My Immortal” by Evanescence (Probably because we once dated.)
What about you? Do songs make you think of people?
Last night, I went to the SFWA Reading to see my friends Josh Vogt, Greg Bear, and Tod McCoy read. I realized something: I’d missed my SFWA community. These are people I only see at conventions and SFWA events. I’d been so busy with my own stuff lately, and needed some distance from the organization after I stepped down as a Director-At-Large, that I’d pulled away too much. That was the wrong approach, but I suppose it was one I needed at the time.
It’s hard to express just how good it feels to be in a room full of like-minded people who all understand why losing one of the greats like Ursula K. Le Guin is such a tragedy or why naming Peter S. Beagle as SFWA’s newest Grand Master is such a joy. So many of the people I met up with last night are at various points in their writing careers. It was like looking at my past, present, and future writing self. They all understood the language of the writing professional and the publishing industry. It felt like coming home. It felt like family.
Recently, SFWA has had to deal with some tough issues. All of them center around protecting its membership at large. I know, intimately, what they’ve been going through—all the time spent, the discussions had, the decisions made—and I’m proud of the Board. I think, with the evidence they had on hand, they did the only thing they could do to protect the SFWA organization and the community they’ve built.
I came away from the SFWA Reading rejuvenated, with an armful of Greg Bear's short fiction, inspired to attempt science fiction poetry again, and the sense that SFWA is still in the right hands, doing what it needs to do to meet the needs of its membership. I also came home with the desire to write more, to mentor more, and to continue to be part of the SFWA community.
I'm so glad I went.
Like most authors, looking back at what I did during the year is a good way to convince myself that I’m not just spinning my wheels and that I really am still headed ‘towards the mountain.’ This is also why I keep track of my daily activities in my private Freelancer Summary document. It allows me to see what I’m doing and when. I think I did pretty good in 2017.
Short stories submitted
• 6 short story acceptances
• 5 short story rejections
• 1 short story outstanding
• 8 new short stories written
• 1 new novel written
• 26 episode podcast produced (with the Husband)
• 12 Author Etiquette blogs produced (with Sarah Craft)
• 5 mini fiction collections and 1 “stealth” fiction collection released
(Not as much as I wanted but I did have two bathrooms renovated in the middle of it all that mucked with my productivity.)
Edited for others
• 3 novellas edited
• 6 EGM Speculate! stories edited
• 9 BattleTech/Shadowrun novels proofed for ebook editions
• 15 events (readings, conventions, signings) attended
• 2 writing groups joined (Wit’n’Word [social writing], TBD Writing [critique group])
• 3 novel contracts
• 1 novella contract
(Due between now and the end of 2019 = about 300,000 publishable words.)
It’s nice to look at the quantified amount produced and be pleased with what you see. Supposedly, 2018 is going to be a slower, longer set of projects with only one novel, one novella, one anthology, and one short story currently on the docket. We all know this will change. Also, I already have seven confirmed events and four not yet confirmed, but planned for, events.
Then again, I’ve gotten good at producing while traveling. It’s taken me a bit to learn the skill. Now, I think it’s just a survival reflex. If I don’t write, the words will eat me.
Note: I’m leaving out all of the personal blogs, SFWA meetings (when I was a Director), looped edits/revisions, kickstarters participated in, weekly phone calls to various publishing folk, and the myriad of other freelance details.
The Husband and I take a lot of road trips. Some of you have asked about the car games we play, for they are many and varied. I probably should’ve posted this earlier in the holiday season, but better late than never.
License Plate Anagram Game
Object: Make an anagram out of every letter on a license plate.
• License plates only.
• Moving cars only.
• The more interesting the word, the better the bragging right.
• Single word score: Use all the letters but out of order. License: BGG-123, “Garbage”
• Double word score: Use all the letters in order by not next to each other. License: TXS-554, “Taxes” or “Texas” or “Taxidermies”
• Triple word score: Use all the letters in order and concurrent. License: STL-826, “Costly” “Castle”
Level: Simple to Moderate (gets progressively harder).
Object: Look for the alphabet in order.
• License plates take priority, but signs and other writing on vehicles count.
• No more than one letter per discreet object. (“Alphabet” on a sign only counts for “a” and not “b”).
• Can use a particular type of sign once (IE: Exit sign can be used for E, X, I, and T once.)
• License plates are always allowed.
Scoring: How many iterations of the alphabet can you get through before the end of the trip?
State License Plate Game
Occurrence: A rare game to play unless we are on a long road trip. Usually begins when someone sees Maine, Florida, Alaska, or Hawaii.
Object: Look for every state license plates in the country.
Rules: Any order. Parking lots are fair game.
Alphabet License Plate Anagram Game
Occurrence: Long, multi-day trips only.
Object: Make an anagram out of every letter on a license plate. Alphabetic. Begins with the letter sought.
• License plates only unless there have been no cars for more than 3 minutes.
• No more than one letter per discreet license. (“JBA-222” only counts for “a” and not “b”).
• Word must begin with the letter sought for.
• Single word score: Use all the letters but out of order. Looking for “G.” License: GGB-123, “Garbage”
• Double word score: Use all the letters in order by not next to each other. Looking for “T.” License: TXS-554, “Taxes” or “Texas” or “Taxidermies”
• Triple word score: Use all the letters in order and concurrent. Looking for “S.” License: STE-826, “Steady” “Stenosis”
Perched Birds of Prey Spotting
Occurrence: Long trips and random.
Object: See a perched bird of prey.
Rules: Bird of prey. Must be perched. Only one person in the car needs to see it, but better if more than one does.
Scoring: See the bird and note it. Smile at the good omen.
Gen Con 50 was an amazing experience. I had a thousand-thousand good things happen. I saw old friends, made new ones. Announced a three book deal, confirmed pending contracts, had old gigs in retirement re-ignite with the power of the sun, and agreed to work on a couple of new, exciting things.
With Apocalypse Ink Productions, I sold out of 7 of my 10 available titles, debuted 2 new omnibuses with both authors there at the convention, and met some people who were so glad to know me first as an author. I had someone come up and tell me I was the reason for their success. They’d taken my advice over the years and now they had the career they wanted. I was told I was someone’s most favorite author in the world. Out of all the fabulous authors out there, they loved my books best.
I got to meet and have a lovely, brief conversation with Charlaine Harris.
And yet, I had one unpleasant thing happen. Just one. Kind of a record, really. This one small micro-aggression keeps coming back to overshadow everything else. I’ve had this specific thing happen before. I’ll have it happen again.
When you come to my booth at a convention, I usually ask you something like “What do you like to read?” Even if this isn’t the first thing that comes up, I ask it pretty frequently. I don’t believe in trying to sell someone a book they don’t want to read. If you don’t read horror or urban fantasy, I won’t even try to sell it to you.
This older guy stops at my booth and we have a conversation. It’s a pretty good conversation from all cues. When I discover he only really likes sci-fi, I admit I only have one book on the table that fits the sci-fi genre. It’s NEVER LET ME, my Melissa Allen trilogy omnibus. I don’t get a chance to say more than, “It’s a YA sci-fi thriller that was nominated for the Bram Stoker award.”
He looks at the book cover.
Then he looks me up and down in an obvious, deliberate manner before he says, “Let me guess, female protagonist?”
I blink at him for a moment and nod. “The first book has a female protagonist, but—”
“I don’t read female protagonists.” He turns on his heel and stalks off like I’d insulted his mother.
All I could think to say was “I guess not.”
I’m not sure what this guy wanted to accomplish. Having a reading preference is one thing. Being deliberately mean is another. He knew he was insulting me when he said what he did then flounced off. Half the covers of my books have women on the front. (The others include dripping blood, a man with an ax, and ravens.) I introduced myself as the “author or editor of everything on the table.”
Part of me shakes my head at all the wonderful books this man will never read because of the assumptions he makes. Part of me wants to shake some sense into him. Part of me is feeling very uncharitable and thinking “Well, he’s old and will die soon. Good riddance.”
Just wish this one thing hadn’t happened to mar my convention experience. Just wish this one thing wouldn’t happen again, but I know it will. And I know I’m not the only author it will happen to.
Added note: The main reason I wrote about it is the fact that some people don't believe this sort of thing happens all...the...time... because people don't talk about it. This needs to be talked about. It needs to be pointed out when people behave badly with a purpose.
My first Doctor was the 4th Doctor played by Tom Baker. I loved the show. There was something about it that struck me as wonderful. To be able to travel through time and space and to be home in time for dinner. To see wonders and fight monsters and to always work for the good of humanity. I loved the show for many reasons. However, as a military brat, I loved Doctor Who most because of the TARDIS itself. For a kid who had to move every 2-3 years, the idea of having a house that you could take with you was beyond wonderful. It was magic itself.
Because of this, I was the kid who kept a packed backpack by my bed. I was ready for when the Doctor came and offered me a place in that wondrous blue box. The one that always knew where to go. I wanted to be a companion because I wanted to travel in the TARDIS.
The first time I saw the Doctor regenerate, I realized that maybe, someday, the Doctor could be female. That instead of being the plucky companion, a girl like me could live in the TARDIS and choose her companions. But, being the cynical child that I was, I knew it wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
I disliked the 6th Doctor so much that I stopped watching Doctor Who altogether. I ignored it for three seasons when the new Doctor Who came out. It took Rich Taylor, one of my best friends, a legion of fans gushing about it, and a music video to get me to watch. I went to Netflix and found the episode “Blink.” Rich had described it as “The episode I would point people to if I had to describe what Doctor Who was without getting into the long history of the Doctor.” After I watched “Blink” and admitted I liked it, Rich told me to watch “The Empty Child” next. That’s when Eccleston became my new Doctor. He’s still my favorite.
At least for now.
After Tennant, I wanted a woman or non-white Doctor. I wasn’t picky. I just wanted the Doctor to regenerate into someone who wasn’t white and male. Someone a tiny bit closer to me. After Smith, I was so disappointed that Capaldi was chosen. (Note: Capaldi did a fantastic job as the Doctor.) The world kept telling me “No.” Once more, I was back to focusing on the TARDIS itself as my favorite.
On this 13th (or 14th, if you want to be pedantic, because of the War Doctor), I wanted a woman or a non-white man so bad. My cynical side said it wasn’t going to happen. They were going to get Kris Marshall and he would do a good job and that would be that.
I did not expect my visceral reaction to the discovery that a woman, Jodie Whittaker, would be taking on the titular role of the Doctor. I felt my cheeks flush and my heart beat faster. I punched the air and ran to the Husband’s office to tell him. In those scant steps between his office and mine, tears sprang to my eyes as I formulated the words to tell him, the new Doctor would be played by a woman. My voice cracked when I told him. It was like the world had changed in some indefinable way.
It’s taken me a week to figure out what that way was and why this meant so much to me: Finally, I’m no longer just a guest in the TARDIS. I don’t have to the companion who will eventually be left behind. The TARDIS can be my home, too.
Now, thousands upon thousands of little girls and boys will see Jodie Whittaker as their first Doctor. The potential for them will always be there in a way that wasn’t for me until now.
I can’t wait for this next season of Doctor Who.
My TARDIS Little Free Library in my front yard.
There are a lot of changes going on in my life right now—physically, mentally, and atmospherically. This is a good and bad thing. Change is hard. Change can hurt. Doesn’t matter if everything is so much better when it’s done. Change is life.
Atmospherically... The Husband and I have decided that, unless something drastic changes, this is our house until retirement. It is a 30+ year old house in decent shape. We are the second owners. There have never been any kids living here. But, it is still 30+ years old and things are slowly falling apart. Thus, we have decided that since we would have to update the house to sell when we move anyway, we should go ahead and update the upstairs bathrooms now so we can enjoy the updated look and feel of the place while we live here.
This means I’ve had people in the house almost every day for three weeks. For an introvert like me who prefers to work in silence, this has been hard. My productivity has dropped. My sleep schedule is all messed up. The cats are unhappy and anxious. It’s no fun. But the master bathroom is almost done. Almost. And it is beautiful. I’m going to love using it. The Husband can’t wait to take a bath in the new tub. It will be worth it.
Of course, next week, the destruction of my bathroom happens. My bathroom is right next to my office. I suspect I’m going get even less done. The work is going to be louder and there will be constant movement in my field of vision. I won’t need to lock the cats up the whole time, so I don’t be able just close my door—not that my paranoia would allow that anyway with strangers in the house. (Change is hard but good for you.)
Physically... I’m definitely getting older. I’m figuring out how to deal with perimenopause. Not fun and total TMI, but women go through it. Just look it up.
I cut my hair off in a drastic (for me) new style that’s gotten good responses. Soon I’m going to see how much gray hair I actually have. I’m so glad I did this. I needed the change. Though, I don’t recommend this to everyone. I have EPIC bed head every single morning. I have to fix my hair every day. There is no brush it once and it’s good. It’s not hard, but it is a change. At this point, I’ve forgotten I’ve cut my hair off and I’m surprised when people are surprised. I will be growing it back out over time. It will take a while and I won’t be going as long as I did before. Probably to a 1920s bob. I do love Miss Fisher’s sense of style....
Mentally... I’ve been thinking about what I own and what I want versus what I need. I’ve been looking at my life. I think Millennials have the right idea with paring down and thinking hard about each thing they own. I’m not going to become a minimalist, but I can see why so many adults—young and old—have taken to the lifestyle. I’ve discovered the more I get rid of stuff, the easier it is to pare things down. It gives me more room for what I truly love.
There is a relief to divesting yourself of those things and that gift you just don’t care about anymore. The obligation to keep what was given, even if you hate it, weighs heavily. I knew this intellectually, but not viscerally. I grew up poor. My parents stored things for “just in case.” I’ve picked up this habit. I’ve learned to converse and to save. Not to my determent. Not really.
I’m not a hoarder or even close to it. I’m much more of a I could use this in the future maybe... kind of person. But sometimes I wonder what I would do if something drastic happened (like a flood or fire) and I could only rescue one or two or five non-living things from the house. My list is simple. Pictures. Laptop. The anniversary book where, instead of exchanging anniversary cards, the Husband and I write each other anniversary love notes in a book each year.
That all said, I do like my stuff. I’m just getting rid of that which I no longer love, want, or need.
I can’t say I’m enjoying this set of changes, but I think I will appreciate them after they are done. As I change, I feel like I’m leveling up as a person. I don’t need to hold onto things or to do something because “that’s the way it’s done.” I am forging a path I wish I’d learned earlier. Ah, well. Better late than never.