Here I am, bloody but unbowed, dang it! I made it through, unarguably, the toughest year of my life. And you've stayed with me, through it all. Bless! Why go through it all again, except to add that I'm now calling it a major stroke; few people survive it, and most are far, far reduced. I am something of a miracle.
Now we've been through all that, the question is: what next? I'm looking at the book I was writing--History 3, for lack of a better term--and I'm rethinking everything. It'll be SO LONG between book 2 and 3 by then! I may as well make them match, or so I'm thinking. I'm thinking of a short interlude featuring Sedra and Brinnid not long after book 2, and then the longer book featuring Temmin set at least a year after, probably more. Maybe a few years. I've been thinking on what to do with Temmin in any event.
Like most writers, I'm going over what I've done and reworking it in my head. So far, I haven't written it down--I haven't written anything down, really--but I can feel my fingers getting itchy.
Yes. Itchy fingers. At last. It's been a year. Time to get writin'.
IT'S MY OLDEST CHILD JOSIE'S **18TH BIRTHDAY**!!! confetti! massive carrying on! Until recently, I did not look old enough to have an 18-year-old--oh, who am I kidding! Happy birthday, sweetheart! You are more than I imagined a daughter could be. I love you!!
An update: I am walking without a cane inside my home. Yes, we are home! Freedonia is filled with boxes, heaps of belongings we're getting rid of, and love. We've been home nearly a month.
The changes John and the builders made--all without the stroke-affected me--are wonderful. They've opened up the kitchen beautifully, and placed the freezer, washer and dryer all on the main floor. I don't have to venture down the steep (now-dangerous) basement stairs to reach either. I can use the laundry whenever I feel like it, which is daily--no more waiting. I can use the big freezer as my actual freezer.
There are drawbacks. We have no personal storage. Our old bedroom on the top floor now belongs to one of our daughters, and we live on the main floor in a girl's room. Our clothing is a fraction of what it once was, and a good thing, too. I lost about a third of it in the fire, and a third more to smoke damage and general wear-and-tear. Out of what's left, I've gotten rid of most of it. I have three or four drawers and fewer than twenty hangers in the closet, including stuff I only wear a few times a year. As I discovered in nine months of living with far, far less, that is far, far more than I really need.
Now, here is the hardest part: I am finding as I write this report--and this is the most I've written in some time--that I don't like the sound of my language. Words no longer come easily to me, and words have always come easily to me. I have had to labor over this. It is new, troubling territory.
The next book is going to take some time, and I don't expect to start until after the year is up. I'm not happy with what I've done to date--not surprising since it was a first draft, but I'm truly unhappy. I'm not going to make any decisions right now for obvious reasons, but you can guess my mind: troubled.
That said, I am determined--determined, I say!--to remain cheerful.
We are back in our home! This is Monday; we've been here since Friday night. My parents are here, working on various things, while John is at the rental with the men from the rental company. Me, I'm working with my parents and resting. The girls are sound asleep, and if they're not up in ten minutes, I'm gonna get medieval on their asses. That is all!
In case you missed it on Facebook. I don't really like it there, but my friends insist on hanging out there.
It's been nearly nine months since the stroke that nearly killed me. And so, a status report, in response to my husband's questions. Those who only do good news, scroll down.
How are you doing?
I am stronger than before, with limits.
I went for my final examinations for Social Security Disability, and the 99% chance I'd be approved went poof. We Are the 1%! Oh well, that's why they made an appeals process. It's been thirteen years I've been trying to win approval now; at some point, they'll have to give in. I cannot work, even before I had the stroke. In the past, I have had either no one [legal] on my side, or [legal] hacks.* This time, I have someone on my side who truly understands the process, and I'm optimistic. I won't give up.
I'm still stroke-affected. My right hand is much, much better, which is only saying so much. My right leg works now; I couldn't move it at all--not a fraction of an inch. That said, they remain difficult.
My balance is still bad. I have a hard time standing in one place for any long period (over five minutes). The balance issues extend even into sitting; with no opportunity to rest, the room just swims. If I sit quietly, the issue goes away. The problem is with my right eye; it doesn't move as my left eye does, and the result is double vision/diplopia. The neuro-opthamologist says it's definitely neurological, not physical. Not great news, since there's only so much that can be done.
The balance issues may resolve given time. It has definitely gotten better since the stroke. I am now walking with a cane, sometimes unassisted (though usually I rely on help). In environments which are familiar, like the house we're in, I walk without either assistance or a cane. Most of the time, it's fine. Sometimes, it's not, but my "you will NOT fall" record is intact--at least since leaving the hospital. I credit my physical therapist, Jordan at Therapeutic Associates. He's AMAZING, as is Debra from Connected and the crew at Care Center East, especially Karen. Blessings on them.
My speech is very nearly intact. As long as I'm not over-tired, I'm fine (part of the finding of the SSA people, a part I agree with). My wits are what they were. I'm able to concentrate past the balance issues to communicate. For the most part, that's enough. Missing is the ability to write fiction. It's just not there. I haven't the heart yet.
What could you use going forward?
VISITS. I know most of you don't have time, but for those who do, I'm lonely. Any time: evenings, weekends, daytime. It's hard but not impossible for me to get places. I am fairly normal, not at all difficult to visit. I wear an eyepatch over one eye, I walk funny, and my hair is quite short, but otherwise I am the same. Please call or write first.
We still accept dinners. John tires of cooking, and I'm still not much in the kitchen apart from super-simple main courses. T'ain't critical, but it helps.
What has been an amazing surprise for you?
THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE. From the fire through the stroke, I have been continuously astonished--FLOORED--by the outpouring of love, caring, and materials our friends and coworkers have given us. Blessings, BLESSINGS, on all of you!!
* Note: I (JJ) added the legal note to clarify after discussing with Lynn. This was directed at the legal profession, NOT our friends.
In this sequel to Lovers and Beloveds, MeiLin Miranda continues the saga of the Antremont family, kings of one continent, would-be emperors of another, and subjects to the whims of gods.
For a thousand years, the trapped, immortal Teacher has carefully planned escape. Now it all depends on one heartbroken young man.
Estranged from his father, Prince Temmin Antremont struggles within the Lovers' Temple for peace of mind. A murder rips away his greatest support. His forbidden love of Allis Obby, the human host of a goddess, may get them both killed. And all the while, enemies inside and outside the kingdom are plotting against the monarchy, and the gods prove once again they are no one's friends.
Set in a Victorianesque world of magic, sexuality, political intrigue and military conquest, Son in Sorrow is the second book in the epic fantasy series An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom.
390 pages in paperback.
MeiLin says: If you want this book dedicated, please give the name in the comments field at PayPal or in the shopping cart! Otherwise, I'll autograph it but not dedicate it.
Purchasers of this book must be of legal age and/or legally able to purchase it according to their local laws. If you buy this book, you certify you are legally able to do so.
I'm home, or what passes for home right now. I've been here a month--more than a month, really. I am having more fun working at home than I ever had at the care center. I am home, y'all!
Fun aside, I am not whole. I still can't stand for any long length of time. I'm unable to walk steadily--but news flash! I'm able to walk! Yay!! I was unable to walk unassisted, and then only for short steps. And that was after six weeks of rehab. (I started unable to lift my right leg. At all. Like, not even a little.)
So actually, I'm doing extremely well, fantastically well. I stand to fix breakfast and lunch for myself, I walk to my room and the bathroom, I'm... Normal. I'm normal at home. I stagger a little, my gait is uneven, but I'm normal. Especially at the beginning of the day.
Today, I met with the physical therapist and the occupational therapist separately. The PT said I've got six more visits--three weeks. The OT and I will continue to see one another for a while yet; I still have work to do there. I don't have the ability to hold what we've done in my mind very long, though it's longer than it's ever been.
Yesterday, I said goodbye to the speech therapist, for good. I'm done.
I'm moving fast, but don't expect to see me back to normal for several months. Thank you, everyone, for remaining my friends.
Those of you waiting to hear from me, or waiting to hear news: it may be some time. I had a stroke December 5th. It is a difficult recovery. You would not believe how long it took me to type this note. I am still myself, though. No weird facial tics, or anything like. The damage was primarily mental; it left my sense of self alone, but stole some thought functions. Those are--slowly--coming back. It takes time. I am in a rehab facility in Portland. It looks like I am going home some time this week. Wish me luck.
A version of this appeared on my nonfiction site.
On November 12th, at 2:30 in the morning, we ran for our lives from my home of 27 years. A tiny spark from our pellet stove caught the bark dust alongside our house on fire; it smoldered until high winds blew the burning bark dust against our basement window casing. From there, it burnt through the casing, and spread into the basement.
Our oldest daughter discovered the fire when smoke began pouring out of the heat vent in her room, where she was staying up late finishing her homework. The alarms went off, but if she hadn't run out of the house and begun slamming the front door and screaming her head off, we might not have woken up in time.
As it was, by the time the three of us made it downstairs the house was within minutes of total involvement. The fire department came in the nick of time to save the building, but not before the entire basement was charred, including the floor joists. John tells me the floor boards for the main floor are also burned. We escaped with our pajamas, our dog, one cat and no shoes. Our second cat was discovered dead in the basement last Friday. We were hoping she'd just run away.
It turns out we have good insurance. They have put us up in an extended stay hotel and have found us a rental house not far from our home. They will be gutting our house, to the studs; it is balloon frame construction, and smoke damaged the entire house severely, including much of our belongings. When all is said and done, we will have a new house inside a 130-year-old frame. It will take six months to rebuild, months we will spend in the rental house.
Needless to say, this is cutting into my writing time.
I don't mourn the loss of most of the things I lost. What gets me are little things: all our Christmas ornaments, including the stocking my mother made me when I was a baby; a favorite thermal knit Henley I'd embroidered; fiber, yarn and fabric I'd collected over 35 years, including handspun; a huge chunk of my craft and art reference books; and my comics collection--it's the second one I've lost in my life. I lost looms, my sewing machine, copies of my books. My piano. My drafting table I've had since I was 15.
And my cat, Inky.
The things we miss the most are those attached to memories. Furniture, dishes, TVs--those things can be replaced. Nothing can ever replace my stocking, my handspun, the ornaments my daughters made, or my cat.
It's been less than two weeks. I'm still in shock, I think, though gradually coming out of it. We're all exhausted. But we have discovered we are rich in friends. They've come out of the woodwork, offering help, supplies, and money. Twelve years ago, when we first discovered my weird heart condition, we also discovered we had no friends but my parents and our intentional brother. Four years later, when I nearly died, we had them, and my two best friends. This time, we literally cannot count the people who have come forward to support us.
We are so grateful, so, so grateful.
And yet, we mourn.
That's a Van Morrison album, titled for his revelation after he left Scientology. I kinda feel like I just left some kind of cult, the cult of not trusting myself. I am never again going to use someone else's work method as my own.
I'm a slow writer. I hate that. I've been trying to speed my output up, and several people extolled the method of breaking a novel down: three sections (acts one, two and three), so many chapters per section, so many scenes per chapter, so many words per scene. That way you know just what you're going to write every day and can go faster. It's logical, right? It should work. Just outline your work into that handy structure, write a scene a day, and boom, novel.
I've been struggling for nearly a year trying to work this way, believing it would speed my writing up. All the trouble I've been having, I've been chalking up to other things--things that were contributing, for sure, but in the end weren't the problem. I found the choke points (mostly stuff from the original draft that doesn't work any more), worked them out, and still couldn't get this book into a coherent shape.
Today I said fuck it. I jettisoned everything but the scenes themselves. Got rid of the three part structure, the x number of chapters per part and x number of scenes per chapter. Which I knew I didn't have to follow slavishly, but even having it like that in Scrivener was fucking with my head. I dumped all the scenes into one folder...
...and it straightened itself right out. In an evening. I rejiggered the timeline, adjusted the wordcount targets, and went over the outline obsessively. I moved parts around, discovered what happens in the missing transitions (which will now have deep resonance), and I'm finally ready to finish this goddamned book. For the first time in weeks, I'm excited about writing. I got excited a little while ago, but it foundered on the structure I was trying to use to "speed my writing up."
This is the umpteenth time this has happened to me. It's no one's fault; no one's ever led me astray or forced me, I just haven't trusted my own process. Last year, I lost an entire Drifting Isle novel because I followed advice that I learned doesn't work for me: finish what you're supposed to be working on, not what you want to work on ("otherwise, you're procrastinating"--remember, I'm trying to speed up). I was supposed to be working on book three. By the time I realized I'm the kind of writer who has to follow the energy, it was too late: the Drifting Isle novel energy was completely gone, and I didn't have the book three energy, either.
After two years of working on book three--almost a year of which was spent having and recovering from various health calamities, granted--I'm finally on a serious track to finishing this goddamned book. As things already stand, I'm 90% done by wordcount, and 100% done in outline.
And I'm finally ready to trust my own process. After six years. No guru, no method, no teacher. Just me.
I'll be part of the following panels:
Woman in the Fridge: Violence toward women as trope and plot device
Writing Believable Sex Scenes
Social Media and the Modern Writer
Synopses, Summaries, Book Descriptions and Other Horrors
Crowdfund Your Project
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
MeiLin Miranda reading from my work
Stitch n Share (formerly Stitch n Bitch)