The Fun Stuff: Last January I did the GoodReads 2015 Reading Challenge and set it at 100 books for the year. Finished in just under 5 months. Rather than sit back and glory in this, I re-set my challenge goal to 200 books. Which I managed by the skin of my teeth with something like 12+ books in December. Check out my reading list at GoodReads with the widget below.
Also, I moved. Twice, but the fun one was at the end of November when I relocated to Tampa, FL. Yup, fun in the sun, and in the same area as many of my relatives--yay!
Not-So-Fun Stuff: I've been depressed. A lot. For a very, very long time. Since I was a pre-teen, in fact. And the last few years, it has been really bad. Clinically bad. The technical diagnosis was Acute Depression with Suicidal Ideation. Yeah. I had the motive, method, and means, and just hadn't decided on the time.
Now, don't think this is a spur of the moment thing. I've been depressed for a long time, remember? I'd made a few life decisions as a teenager that I've never changed my mind about--1. having kids in this world is akin to child cruelty and endangerment and 2. I don't want to hang around while my body shuts down and makes me a burden on others.
A few years back, my body started the whole shutdown thing. Granted, I have NOT been kind to my body over the years--working long hours, lots of stress, not eating well, too much caffeine, few and far between vacations, etc. First to go was my arm. Repetitive motion issues got so bad I couldn't hold a pen--or a steering wheel--for more than a few minutes, and sometimes going numb clear up to the shoulder. I worked around it by going ambi. Most of my family started ambidextrous and had to choose a hand, so while I am more right dominant, I can (and did) swap 85-90% of things to my left hand.
Then I got my first migraine. And, boy, was it a doozy--a visual migraine that started as a headache which I ignored until it became a physical migraine. I went gradually blind over the course of about an hour and stayed that way for almost 2 hours. Scared me shitless. Pretty much everything I do requires sight--graphic design, editing, writing, jewelry design, crocheting, painting, reading, yada, yada, yada. Stress- and tension-related, they said. So I learned to take it a bit easier, cut down on my caffeine intake, and tried not to work 20 days in a row or 20+ hours a day. And I learned to read the migraine signs and kept meds, sunglasses, a baseball cap, and a blackout mask at my desk for times when I couldn't manage that. Depressing AND scary.
Next was intermittent abdominal pain that culminated in an emergency room visit because I was in pain from my breasts to my crotch. Turns out, among other things, I had an infection, gall stones, and 2 kidneys stones, 1 in each kidney. I ended up passing one kidney stone (OMG! some of the nastiest pain I've ever experience), directly followed by a procedure to pulverized the one that was too big to pass (which only half worked, but had them afraid to keep going because I stopped breathing on the table twice before they had to intubate me), and then into surgery for gall bladder removal about 6 weeks after that. Depressing and PAINFUL.
Upside to all that is that my diet expanded back to semi-normal from the chicken broth, apple sauce, cottage cheese, and crackers, which is what I had been reduced to pre-surgery. Oh, and the discovery that I am allergic to an entire family of antibiotics--violently so in a few cases. Downside, massive caffeine intake limitations, increases to water intake, and diet watching to insure no more kidney stones. And a few new 'allergies' to food. Much as I love pork products (yum, bacon!), pork products (and onions) no longer love me. *sigh* Exhausting, but survivable.
Then I went back to work, and found that in the months I'd been out for the surgeries and recovery, I had been back-burnered and most of the work was going to other people. This continued up until 2013 (with a brief blast of a broken right ankle which laid me up for a couple months) when I found out I had high blood pressure about two months before I got 'down-sized'. A whole freight-load of depressing.
So I spent the last half of 2013 looking for work. Then I couldn't find work in my field, which was made everything worse and harder because I was depressed and doing ANYthing is two or three times harder while depressed. Which, of course, leads to more failure, feeding the depression, looping back into fail, depression, etc. This is what I call a spiral, because the feedback loop becomes shorter and shorter until it was literally all I could do to get out of bed.
And I started thinking that maybe it was time to think about decision number two. I had a right arm that I could only use for a good 5-6 hours of constant use, a gut that worked 'most' of the time, a heart that was over-loaded, a soul that was exhausted, and I was back living with my mom, no money, no job, no lover, no reason to keep going...
I managed to kick myself out of the 'non-do loop', cashed out my 501k, and used most of by-out money to pay off my car loan and move to Houston, Texas at the end of April, 2014.
The first 4-5 months in Houston went pretty well. I was in an apartment with lots of natural light and high on actually DO-ing something. Then I again failed to find work. Restart of spiral commenced.
Don't get me wrong. I met a number of wonderful people in Houston. I have great friends in Virginia. My family loves me. My life has had its great moments as well as horrific ones. I was (and am) just tired and spending most of my waking time in pain, physically as well as emotionally.
But it looks like I missed my window. At least for a while. I have family who not only aren't ready for me to 'move on', but need me to keep living so that they can keep living. Hence the move to Florida, and trying to get things re-started.
So hope to see more people checking out my LiveJournal in 2016. And here is that list of books I promised. May even have all 200 here...
Angel Ludwig's favorite books »
Share book reviews and ratings with Angel, and even join a book club on Goodreads.
- Current Location:Tampa, FL
- Current Mood: pensive
Spread the Light
Slow morning wake up. Stretch. First the mind, then the eyelids. Finally the body. Stagger around a while before things start clicking. Guess the brain stretch didn’t take. Settle in for the long haul again. Still getting used to the day/night thing. Feels like I’ve been working forever, but as I look back at my work, I can’t help a twinge of pride mixed with the joy of creation.
Then I notice my first creations seem somehow… wrong. Or maybe incomplete. I really have too much left to do to revise, but maybe…
My stomach rumbles. *Sigh* Forgot breakfast again. Reaching out, I grab a slice of leftover dark, but find it’s gotten a bit dry. I really need a better way to start the day.
A quick note added to my ‘to-do’ list and back I go to contemplating breakfast—I really love that term—improvements. Watching the star brighten the firmament, pouring light over my creations, epiphany arrives.
Reaching out, I spread the light thickly over my slice of darkness and call it Good.
- Current Location:Houston, TX, USA
- Current Location:Houston, TX, USA
- Current Mood: contemplative
- Current Music:Abney Park & P!nk mix (yes, I know it's odd)
Originally posted by seanan_mcguire at Now we can cross the shifting sands.
I have a pretty good life.
That's not bragging, really. I mean, my life has its problems—it's stressful, I'm tired a lot, I'm a woman in the age of the Internet (which is unfortunately code for "I get some really disturbing hate sent my way for the crime of being outspoken and visible while existing as a non-male"), my foot hurts almost all the time, I worry about my friends—but there's no measuring stick that doesn't put me at "pretty good." I am financially secure enough to do things like take off for Disneyland at a moment's notice, to hug a woman standing as avatar for my favorite cartoon character. I have amazing friends who love me despite myself, and I struggle every day to be worthy of them. I have incredible cats. I sleep in an orange bedroom packed with dolls and books and Disney memorabilia.
I get to write books. I get to tell stories, for a living, and have people read and enjoy them. It's everything I ever wanted my life to be...
...and I spent more than half of 2013 wanting my life to stop.
I have been suicidal, off and on, since I was nine years old. I made multiple suicide attempts when I was a pre-teen and teenager; some came closer to success than others. I have my scars. My last active attempt was made when I was in my mid-twenties, and the friend who drove me to the train station has never forgiven me for making him complicit, in any way, in the attempt to take my life. I do not blame him for this, even as I know that I didn't mean to involve him; I just needed to get to the beach, and thought "hey, I can get a ride," and never stopped to consider what that might mean when he'd found out what I'd done, or worse, if he'd found out that I had succeeded. I couldn't see that far ahead. All I could see was the need to stop, to be over, to not need to do this anymore. Any of it.
A very dear friend of mine described suicidal urges and ideations as a narrowing, and she's exactly right, at least for me. It's not selfishness, not at its heart, because when things get that bad, it's virtually impossible to see continuing as an option. It's like climbing a very high mountain, and then running out of trail. You can't fly. It's not selfish to refuse to sprout wings and try. It would be selfish to stay where you are, to block the trail, to prevent others from climbing on without you.
It seems so much easier to just jump, and get out of everybody's way. It seems like the only logical choice. Selfishness doesn't really enter into it. I sort of wish it did. It would be easier to argue with the little voices, or at least it seems like it would be easier; we're all trained from childhood not to be selfish, and that makes selfishness easier to refute than narrowness. "I won't be selfish" is an easier statement than "I will continue to exist, even though there are no options, even though it will never get better, even though I am a burden to all those around me, even though I am unworthy of love, even though I do not deserve this skin, this sky, this space that I inhabit." And easy is...easy is easy. We want easy. When everything is hard, easy becomes incredibly tempting.
Writing this down is hard.
I didn't tell most people how depressed I was, because I didn't think I deserved my own depression. I have a pretty good life! I have all the things I listed, and more, and saying "I want to die" when I have a pretty good life felt like bragging; it felt like trying to claim a sorrow I had no right to. But depression doesn't give a fuck how good your life is. Depression is a function of fucked-up brain chemistry, and brain chemistry doesn't say "Oh, hey, you made the New York Times, that's cool, I better straighten out and fly right from now on." You can be depressed no matter what is happening around you, rags or riches, perfection or putridity. That does not make you wrong. Depression is a sickness. You can catch the flu at Disney World, and you can be depressed on your wedding day. No matter how good your life is, no matter how much people say they wish they had your problems, you are allowed to be unhappy. You are allowed to seek help. You are allowed to express your needs.
I did not actively attempt suicide in 2013, but that was only because I have had a lifetime of learning how to trick myself. I begged my agent to get me new book contracts. See? Can't die! I have deadlines! I cajoled my best friend into going to Disneyland with me. See? Can't die! I have to make faces with pixies! I accepted anthology invitations and convention invitations and let a lot of television build up on my DVR. Anything to create obligations that I would feel compelled to meet, but which weren't the kind that can overwhelm me. I made a lot of lists. I check-marked and itemized myself through the worst of it, and it worked, but it...it wasn't easy. I don't think it's ever going to be easy.
I am telling you this because I want you all to understand, at least on some level, that depression is not a thing you have to earn: it is not justified by tragedy, it is not created by grief. It can happen to anyone, and everyone has a right to seek help. Everyone has a right to be cared for, and to find a way to widen their options back into something that they can live with. Everyone. Even me; even you.
I would be very sad if I were not here to share 2014 with all of you. I hope—I really, truly do—that all of you will be here to share this beautiful year with me. Even if I don't know you, even if I've never met you or never will, I hope. Selfishness is easier to refute than narrowness, and we need to be here for each other, or those walls will crush the life from us.
I hope none of you have to deal with what I dealt with this past year. If you do, please, remember that you can seek help. You deserve help.
We all do.
- Current Mood: contemplative
As a writer, words are the tools of our trade. Plumbers use wrenches and caulking and bobs and other things I don't know about because I'm not a plumber; carpenters use saws and planes and measuring tape and other things I don't know about because, again, I am not a carpenter; but I AM a writer, so it is my job to know things like what the words I am using mean, how to spell them, use them correctly, and punctuate them so that the meaning is clear to my reader(s). I wouldn't use an electrician or carpenter who didn't know the difference between a phillips and a flathead, or an IT guy who didn't know the difference between a Mac, a PC, and a Unix box; and I don't want to read an author who doesn't know the difference between to, two, and too, or reflects and reflex.
How hard is it to double check your spell checker's choice of words? Don't just take the first word on the list, check the meaning before you take it as gospel. Otherwise you too will end up apologizing "for any incontinence this may have caused" as happened to one international company's accounting department memo when they wanted to apologize for the inconvenience of a problem they had. A decade and hundreds of corporate notices later, and THAT is the only memo I can quote a sentence from verbatim. When your story is riddled with things like "had not been heard from since their last faithful day", "they hoped a little bravo went a long way", and "how to overcome her gag reflects", that is what your reader is going to remember: the horribly humorous mistakes you made rather than the story you are trying to tell. Sadly, those examples were all from one book. When I can concentrate on the storyline itself, the book isn't too bad, but the plethora of poorly chosen words is made worse by the author's lack of understanding of the comma and basic sentence structure. Puzzling out what she is really trying to say makes my head hurt.
Now, people make mistakes. A carpenter might miss a stud when nailing up drywall just as a writer might put a comma before a word instead of after it or forget whether the hero's eyes a blue or brown, which is why carpenters need to pass inspections and writers need go through (and LISTEN to) editors--preferably at least two, as editors make mistakes, too. Depending on where a carpenter messes up, it could cause major structural integrity issues. The same goes for a writer. If you aren't building your sentences correctly, your paragraphs fall apart. If the paragraphs fall apart, your story collapses.
For those of you who don't know, a Phillips screwdriver is the one that looks like a cross/plus sign and a flathead is the screwdriver that looks like a 'flat' head or minus sign. Also, she meant fateful day instead of faithful, bravado (emotional state) rather than bravo (applause or thug), and reflex (an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus) rather than reflects (mirror or throw back). FYI, talking about someone's gag reflects is a heck of a way to whack you out of the love scene she was trying to write. And check out the last paragraph. I managed to work in a sentence that used to, too, and two properly. ;)
- Current Location:home
- Current Mood: nostalgic
- Current Music:the hum of the humidifier
The Glass Casket, Part 8
The Master Smith was already famous, even on a backwater rock like Beta Aeco. Prince Callalli had survived more assassination attempts than any other royal in the known galaxy before he hit puberty. They say he started tinkering in his crib and, having spoken to his mother, I know it to be not far from the truth. At ten, a few of his toys ended the 30-Year War on Omega Belator for his daddy in 3 days. Over the next couple years he terraformed a dozen or more planets and moons--the ones no one else would touch--to give to his sisters for their birthdays, and then he started on his crèche-mates’ gifts. The armor he gifted the Epsilon’s Alpha is still considered state of the art and is one of the prettiest pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on. If a world had tech or wanted it, they knew of the Master Smith and spent fortunes getting his work by the time he was sixteen.
And then he disappeared. One minute dancing at the biggest bash in six galaxies and then, at midnight, BANG! He was gone.
Cursed, they said, among a bunch of other crap. No one knew what had happened to the boy, and the story made the rounds, along with news of a sizable bounty for any info on his whereabouts. Not all of it offered by his family and friends, if you get my drift. Of course, I was just a bit of thing when it happened, and the story was just that by the time I heard it--all story and few facts--but the bounty remained. You could find bulletins in any public forum on the known worlds, and probably on a few unlisted ones as well.
I had a few fantasies as a child about finding the prince. OK, more than a few. He was a favorite invisible playmate for years, and when I grew up, so did the fantasies. There were a couple years in my teens, I kept a copy of one of his posters hidden in my pillow.
Kinda like Cillia over there keeps that popray of--OK, OK. My lips are sealed, which means y’all need to head on back. Ah, ha-ha-ha! Listen to you whine. You’d think you all might actually have ta work for a living. Apprentices today. So, my way or the door-way. Got it this time?
Now let me tell you, that poster--and my imagination--had nothing on what was in that casket.
* * * *
So, help me decide if I should keep working on this. If anyone is reading it and wants it to continue, please leave me a comment. Or do you have an alternate suggestion?
- Current Location:work
- Current Mood: blank
- Current Music:Abney Park's Ancient World
The Glass Casket, Part 7
In one was a tiny scale representation of the galaxy. Movement within drew me closer until I pressed my face against the glass like a child at a candy dispensary, for it was a perfect replica. Stars danced inside, planets rolling in their orbits around them, clouds shifting in their skies, tiny ships lifted from stations, winking between gates to land systems away.
Huh. I might be there still if I hadn't caught the tiny sound of an indrawn breath. By that time, I was so used to being alone in the silence that I damn near wet my pants from sheer shock.
Of course it was shock. I know the difference between fear and shock, ya little brat. You want to hear more of this story? Then quiet down and let me tell it. No respect, these days, I swear! Now where was I? Oh, yes...
Whirling around, I saw him. Locked in the other casket was a man, the most perfect man I've ever seen, then or now. Bound into a chamber that kept him in an almost perfect stasis. If I hadn't found him that day, I might've believed him dead and kept searching, for he'd not have needed another breath for weeks. That casket was a miracle of science, as sweet a piece of engineering I'd ever seen. Cryztaal, the hardest substance and most ornery to biogineer, grown as thick as my hand and still as clear as glass, made up the bulk of the casket. They'd worked a bunch of the circuitry into the cryztaal casement, delicate traceries like runes, glowing around the edges.
But I drooled over his casket later. Much, much, MUCH later.
Because, laid out naked as the day he'd been birthed but ever so much more of him to drool over, was that perfect specimen of masculinity. Solid muscle from the surprisingly suckable toes clear up to his perfectly carved features. And I knew that face. Not that it surprises you, being as this your favorite tale, but that is when I first laid eyes on Callalli, the Master Smith.
* * * *
- Current Location:work
- Current Mood: depressed
The Glass Casket, Part 6
Which took a while. I wandered through hall after hall, room after room, some themed, some colored, some bright, some gloomy. Eventually I gave in to my hunger and copped a squat on one of the myriad sofas--not a white one, of which there were more than a plenty, 'cause days of dirt and old blood equals eewww that would never've come out of those silks or velvets--and had myself a quick meal from the provisions in my pack.
It wasn't a hardship as the old guy had done a right decent job packing a variety of flashpax, provided me with a solid, tasty square. With time to do a thorough look, I had a few days worth of pax, some bags of dried nuts and berries, and two full canteens of water all wrapped in a spare set of clothes and a blanket. I'd need to find water or chip some ice if I didn't find someone soon. Just the thought of facing that cold again brought fatigue crashing to the front of my brain. I set my chronometer for a few hours, wrapped myself in the blanket, and caught a nap.
That set the pattern for the next few days. Wander through rooms, marking doors with my tailor's chalk to indicate which direction I'd taken until hunger drove me to eat. Then a quick nap and on my way again. I was beginning to fret a bit about food, having been out for ice twice already, when I finally stumbled on the trick. And no, you don't need to know how those rooms work. Suffice it to say, there is one and anyone with a will and a while can figure it out.
So, as I was saying, I figured out the trick of it, and I found the center. A room of crystal so clear it could have been plaz. Hollows had been carved out along the way and the faceted niches filled with tall phials filled with various colored liquids and vapors. Lightning flashed around them, drawing the eye, but eventually my attention found the two caskets set opposite each other near the center of the room.
* * * *
- Current Location:work
- Current Mood: bouncy
- Current Music:none yet
Glass Casket, part 5
I scrambled to the edge and saw him bouncing from one impossibly tiny--and distant--foothold to the next until he vanished behind the next mountain. My breath rushed out in a cloud that almost froze my lips. Without the cursor's huge body generating heat, this little slice of nowhere was rapidly becoming uninhabitable.
I took a swift inventory of my pack--made quicker by the chill--and discovered the venerat had indeed packed supplies for me, including fresh medicinals for my now mostly healed back. No better sign he had not intended this outcome. The kit included some expensive antibiotics and new-skin patches beyond even my master's means at the height of his trade. Settling it carefully on my back, I explored the ledge and found only a large crevice. Leading into the mountain, it was barely large enough for a small man but easily wide enough for me to squeeze into once my pack was again off my back.
I spent a few seconds worrying, but the venerat beast had said inside and it was the only inside available. I didn't waste more than a few seconds because I started losing feeling in my fingers and toes, which even a novice like me knew wasn't good. I shimmied my way out of the wind gratefully, if cautiously.
Perhaps a dozen sideways steps inside, the crevice widened, then sheered off into walls. Shining, polished walls rising up from a marble-paved floor and leading to vaulted ceiling arches, painted and gilded with visions of half a dozen galaxial garden spots.
I don't know quite how long I stood there gawking, but it was long enough for the frost on my clothes and lips to melt and begin pattering on the floor. That was when I noticed the carvings in the floor. Each marble square was covered in patterns of the alien script, glowing a sickly yellow-red and giving off a faint heat. It wasn't just being out of the wind that had me thawing. Not that you could feel it standing, but I, being the curious sort, got down to on hands and knees to check. Thawed my nose right out, but not hot enough to burn even when you touched the glow directly.
Well, anyplace where the lights and heat were on, there would be someone home somewhere, sooner or later, even if the venerat was no more than a crazy old alien, so I set out to find them first.
- Current Location:work
- Current Mood: tired
- Current Music:The Mob Rules
With that reluctant endorsement ringing in my stunned ears, the venerat grabbed hold of me and, I swear, changed into a cursus beast as tall as his cottage, with a tangle of antlers nearly as wide. I like to think I'm as smart as the next woman, so I began to back up. Before I got more than a two steps, a toss of that enormous head had me tangled in that snarl. Then he took off, growing larger with each bound.
Yes, I swear, on my honor, it really, truly GREW! Honestly, people these days.
As I was saying, it ran and it grew, while I twisted, trying to find a way out that would break my neck falling to the ground. In a single bound, its horns knocked into the lowest tree branches. A few more leaps and I was looking down on the tops of the forest canopy--a sight I hope to never see again--rushing by mere yards beneath my feet. I quit trying to get out, as I had no more desire to die by splatting hundreds of yards through the trees to pancake on the forest floor than I had wanted to be a burrows' or Hunter's meal. Instead I found a fairly wide intersection of branches and settled in, hooking arms and legs around spurs or whatever I could find.
I saw more of this rock than I have before or since, jungle giving way to forest, which fell to rolling meadows, then hills and mountains, rivers, fields of rock as white and shining as snow, I saw it all from a height I hope never again to match, for I was too proud to close my eyes in fear.
Days later, the cursor beast leapt through mountains full of sheer drops and icy heights until at last he came to a halt on a ledge between two sheers of rock. Then the beast tipped his head forward and the antlers melted away. The huge beast looked down on me and spoke--a freaky sight all on its own--but its words competed with the chill frost of the air at those heights for which would freeze me first.
"By interfering in the course of events, however accidentally, you have involved yourself in quite the mess. Your only hope of survival lies within. While the task before you is not for the faint of heart, should you succeed your life shall continue. And can only improve, outcast that you were." The cursor stamped a hoof the size of my head in emphasis, shattering a small boulder. "Fail or turn aside from this task and, however short it turns out to be, know that your life is already measured. And it is a better death by far to freeze here than to be found by Ifritae. She delights in making her inquisitions last for months. She has been known to clone particularly annoying specimens to be able to graft new organs to her victims, leaving both aware during the process."
"So gather your courage and enter. Once inside, take nothing that you see, lest you draw Ifritae's attention too early. Eat and drink nothing but the sustenance I put in your pack. You must seek the only living thing within, and bring it forth. I can do no more, and dare not linger here. I wish you luck, young outcast. Luck and success."
With his final words, the cursor leapt off the ledge.
- Current Location:work
- Current Mood: determined
- Current Music:The Last Steampunk Waltz by Ghostfire