AKA zmethos

I’ve had a lot of nicknames in my day; if you’ve read the FAQ, you know some of them. I’ve been Mandy, Manda Panda, Weeb (as in “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”), Data (from ST:TNG), Indy, Mac (for MacGyver), Sherlock… Not necessarily in that order. But my favorite nickname is still Methos.

It was given to me as an undergrad, and my core of friends eventually took the nicknames Kronos, Silas, and Caspian. You either understand this or you don’t, but after we rented Highlander 2 to see if it was as terrible as everyone said, we started calling ourselves the Zeistmeisters. For fun. No profit.

And so I became Zeistmeister Methos, or just zmethos for short.

I’m only mentioning this because it’s the name I’m using to repost my fan fiction. All of the fics are pretty old, but I’m “shelving” them online because I don’t have a way to open the old files any more. So in a lot of cases I’m having to re-type from hard copies.

Anyway, if you see anything by zmethos, that’s me. Or if on random sites you see really, really old stuff by A.C. Langlinais, that is also me. I’ll admit I’m tidying some of the stuff as I post it, so it may not be exactly like the original. Hopefully that’s for the better. At the very least, I’m trying to fix spelling errors and typos.

And now I’ll sign off in the way I used to do with my friends: ~ZM

Mentors

I was helping host a Facebook cover reveal party, and it got me thinking about mentors and all the people who have supported me over the years. I’ve been really fortunate in that regard, and I wanted to write about a few of them.

Mrs. Truehardt was my first real mentor. She was our gifted & talented teacher, and we were in a pilot program where she followed us through several grades. (They call it “looping” now, and maybe they did then and I just never knew it.) She really encouraged us to develop our skills and interests, and she knew my strengths were in reading and writing. I remember once I forgot to write a paper, so I wrote a poem and handed that in instead. She loved it! We were all so sad when she retired after our fourth-grade year.

In high school I had Mrs. Bason, the journalism teacher, and Mr. Crivello, who taught honors and AP English Lit. Mrs. Bason was a fellow Trekkie, and we even once went to a Star Trek convention together. When I graduated, she gave me a book of poems inscribed with: “I know you’re going to be a great author someday.” Mr. C (as we called him) also encouraged my writing. He gave me a cassette tape of Jackson Browne music, too, which I still have, even though I’ve long since bought the albums in digital format. He’s the reason I got the highest possible score on the AP exam, too.

As an undergrad I was lucky enough to study with Dr. Douglass S. Parker (“Doc Parker”), the man who coined the term “parageography.” He had two offices on campus—one in the HRC and one in Waggener. Both were so crammed with stuff he couldn’t hold office hours in either. So he would send a note around to me and tell me to put on my one good suit—the one my parents had bought me for job interviews—and meet him at the faculty lounge. And he’d sneak me in and we’d have lunch and talk about his days in the war and in Memphis… He played in a band, if I remember right. Trombone? Doc Parker said I reminded him of his ex-daughter-in-law and wished I’d learned enough Greek to help him with his translations. He wrote the recommendation letter that got me into grad school, and he emailed me regularly to check on my writing and whether my world (AElit, which I had developed in his parageography course) was published yet. One of my biggest regrets is that he didn’t live to see my work in print. He was a wonderful champion.

And in grad school, one of my thesis advisors, Lisa Diercks, was the one to get me my first job by recommending me for an internship that eventually got me hired. I showed zero aptitude for book design, but she saw something in me anyway, for which I’m very grateful!

There are many more people in my life who have guided and supported me, but I can’t name everyone, else this list would be eternal. But I like to take moments now and then to remember that I didn’t get where I am all on my own—I’m not that good, nor quite as independent as I like to think. Good teachers make big differences in the lives of their students, and for that I’m forever thankful.

Life with a Nutritionist

No, I’m not living with one. At least, not in close quarters. I am living with one telling me how and what and when to eat.

First off: Why hire a nutritionist? At my last general wellness visit with my doctor, I told her that I kept gaining weight and nothing I did seemed to stop or reverse it. I’d changed my eating habits, begun counting calories, was exercising—nothing worked. My doctor told me not to be concerned, but as a precaution she also sent me for blood tests. Everything came back normal. So then I got sent to a gastroenterologist. He diagnosed me with “low motility,” meaning my gut is slow at digesting and *ahem* eliminating. He put me on an expensive medication that kept me tied to the bathroom. I decided the cure was worse than the disease and quit after a month.

Finally, my doctor suggested a nutritionist. So I decided the start of a new year was the perfect time to tackle a new health regimen. I’m now four weeks into a nine week program. I’ve lost about 11 pounds, and of that about half has been body fat. I look better, but it hasn’t been easy, and I do worry whether I’ll be able to keep the weight off.

Here’s the current situation: I have to eat certain amounts and kids of foods at certain times of day. I eat at 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. (roughly half an hour before I go to bed). At those times, I have to pick from an approved list of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. I cannot have breads (except Paleo bread), pasta, or dairy. I can’t have sugar; the only sweetener I’m allowed is Stevia. I can’t have starches like corn, rice, potatoes, carrots, or bananas. It’s not very fun, especially for someone who loves cheesesteak, mashed potatoes, and ice cream.

On top of all this, I have to take a lot of pills. First thing in the morning I take a probiotic and two Omega fish oil capsules. With breakfast, I’m supposed to take a Caltrate, too. Before lunch and again before dinner I take a starch blocker. At dinner I take three more Omega-3 capsules, a vitamin C tablet, another Caltrate, and another probiotic. Oh, and somewhere in all that I also take a magnesium pill as well. Yeah, it’s pretty f***ing insane.

And not inexpensive. All the health food, all the pills—the cost adds up quickly.

My nutritionist says that I’ll be able to add dairy and bread back into my diet at a later date (when we get to “maintenance”), once we’ve rebalanced my hormones or whatever. She also says I probably won’t want those things, but I have serious doubts about that. I don’t crave them the way I did in the first week or so, but I still want to be able to eat them. There’s nothing to make you want something like being told you can’t have it.

I worry I’ll be stuck eating off this restricted menu for the rest of my life. That if I don’t, I’ll just gain all this weight back and be fat again. And sometimes I wonder if losing weight and being healthy is worth all this sacrifice. I honestly can’t decide. I want to be healthy… But I also want to enjoy life. Eating should be a pleasure, not a chore.

So I’m about halfway through this… experiment? I don’t know if that’s exactly the right word. We’ll see what happens. I don’t have the extra energy that the nutritionist said I’d have, but I am sleeping better than before. That’s a plus. I worry about things like vacations. I want to be able to eat and not have to think about whether it fits my prescribed menu, and without feeling guilty for my choices. I’m not convinced there’s a good middle ground except moderation. And a life full of pills and supplements.

Worth it? What do you think?

January 2019 in the Rear View

The first month of the year is almost over, and already so much has happened. Alas, not as much on the writing side as I’d like. If you’re wondering where I’ve been and what’s going on, here’s a recap.

  • We put our house on the market. Which has meant a slew of cleaners, handymen, and the like have been in and out, making it impossible for me to get any work done. The open house is this coming weekend, so let’s hope it’s all been worth it.
  • We’re looking for a new house. The flip side of trying to sell ours is needing to find somewhere new to live. There are a number of reasons for our move that I won’t go into, but right now we feel a bit like we’re in limbo, and that makes it difficult to concentrate on writing.
  • I got a nutritionist. After my thyroid was tested, and my GI tract was looked at, my doctor recommended I find a nutritionist. Which I did. And now I’m on some funky diet that I hate, but I will say I’ve lost quite a bit of weight already, so… I’m still living for the day I can have cheese and bread again, though, even if in tiny quantities.
  • I need surgery. Another fun follow-up visit with my doctor resulted in the news that I need some surgery. It’s day surgery, nothing major, but the recovery will be similar to when I had my C-section, which will mean no lifting anything heavy—right as we’re planning to pack and move. I don’t have a surgery date yet, so things are in the balance until we know when.

As you can see, my January has been eventful! And you might be able to understand why I haven’t been writing much either. Though one writing-related thing did happen this month: I got the rights to The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller back. I’ll be re-editing it and republishing it later this year. I’m considering a title change, though. What do you think? Should I keep the title or change it?

Here’s to maybe a little less excitement in February. How has your year started? Bang or whimper?

Looking Forward to 2019

Yesterday I wrote about everything I did and didn’t accomplish in 2018. Sure, there are still three weeks left in the year. More may yet happen! But this is usually the time of year when things slow down as people focus on the holidays, so I’m not pinning any expectations on it.

Instead, I’m looking ahead to 2019. What projects do I plan to focus on and what goals would I like to reach? I firmly believe in concrete, quantifiable goals. To say, “I want to sell a lot of books” is not helpful. To say, “I want to sell 1,000 books” is.

Here, then, are my goals for 2019:

  • Finish and publish Ms. Fortune
  • Finish the Hamlette rewrite
  • Make at least as much money as I did this year (or more!)
  • Attend at least one conference or convention, either as a guest speaker or with an author table

These all feel do-able. As I’m not a particularly fast writer, finishing two manuscripts is something of a stretch for me, but I’m going to try.

I have other, non-writing goals as well, such as losing those 15 pounds (20 would be even better). And I have things to look forward to in 2019—a family vacation to Disney World, for example.

So what about you? What are your goals for the coming year? What, if anything, are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

Looking Back at 2018

The year is almost over, and my birthday is coming, which means it’s time for me to get introspective or retrospective or something.

Here’s what I accomplished this year:

  • Put Brynnde out as an audiobook
  • Finished and published Faebourne (in ebook & paperback formats)
  • Put Brynnde out as a paperback
  • Presented at the public library
  • Had 20 August finish in the Top 20 in the Film Empire Fempire Screenwriting Contest 

Here is what I didn’t manage to do:

  • Find an agent or publisher for Hamlette
  • Get any of my screenwriting optioned or produced (not that I was actively looking)
  • Finish Changers 2 (which at this rate may never be completed)
  • Get accepted to any conferences or conventions

I’m sad about Hamlette, though I’ve since started a rewrite of it based on the overwhelming feedback I received. I don’t know what to do or think about Changers. Or my screenwriting for that matter. Maybe I’ll adapt all my screenplays to prose and publish them.

Aside from my writing life, I had a fairly good year that included trips to Paris and New York. I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which was a treat. (It’s better on stage than reading it, and Scorpius steals the show.)

Later, in another post, I’ll look ahead to 2019 and what might be on the horizon. For now it’s enough to say that, while 2018 didn’t really set my world ablaze, it was steady and not terrible. Sales were decent, and I’m very excited about my paperbacks, which are beautiful!

How about you? How was your 2018?

On Waiting

Today I’ll be talking to all you writers out there, you hopefuls. You can get the short version in a Twitter thread I wrote:

But I’ll go into a little more detail here.

When you’re querying agents about your manuscript, it’s like walking a tightrope. Without a net. There is an exhausting amount of tension involved as you try not to fall. When querying, that tension comes in the form of hope—you’re hoping all the time that an agent will have a favorable response to your query and/or your first pages. And if they do, you’re then hoping they’ll like the full manuscript. Constant hope is tiring to sustain. And as with tightrope walking, any little nudge—a lack of response, a bunch of form rejections, no sign of interest from anyone—can send you crashing right over the edge.

Let’s say you get an agent. Hooray! Well, now your agent is going to be sending your manuscript out on submission. More waiting, but this time you have a safety net under your tightrope. While your manuscript is in the capable hands of your agent, said agent may also be giving you guidance on what to work on next. You’re no longer alone in this venture.

[Note: I realize many authors will say, “I was never alone! I had critique partners and beta readers and fellow authors!” This may be true. But there is a marked difference between the support of your fellows—which is still a wonderful and lovely thing to have—and the support of people who are actually in a position to submit your work and make things happen on your behalf.]

Okay, so your agent is submitting your manuscript. There’s still a modicum of that exhausting, infernal hope that an editor or publisher will take it, but it’s not as exhausting as querying because of that safety net that is having an agent.

And then! Your book gets accepted by an editor! After you celebrate, you will wait some more, this time for editorial notes, and then more notes, and then more notes, and also a cover, and marketing info, and a finalized publication date. BUT. While this is all very exciting and you may be impatient to get through this process, the hope element is over. Now we’ve moved on to anticipation. Because there is no longer a question of whether your book is going to be published. It’s really happening! No more tightrope. You’re on the ground now, in the center ring, with the circus around you. It’s dizzying, but there is no fear of falling.

Well, maybe you’re a little afraid your book will suck and get terrible reviews. But you have an agent and editor and publisher who believe in you, and that goes a long way psychologically. From those lonely days of querying and hoping, you now have a full support system and—thanks to the guidance of your agent—other books in the works in case this one isn’t as successful as everyone, well, hopes.

Hoping alone, though, is very different from hoping together.

Knowing you won’t bear the sole brunt of the fall, should falling occur—that counts for a lot.

So what I’m saying here, that I said in much shorter form via Twitter, is that when people tell hopeful authors—authors without agents yet—to get used to waiting . . . Well, yes, that’s going to be a big part of the process. But I’ve noticed the people doling out the advice usually already have agents, and sometimes have editors and publishers as well. They’re speaking from a place with a safety net and support system. And while they’ve walked that tightrope that is querying, they are now in a position of privilege that feels out of touch with where querying authors are. Similar to the, “You’ll make it if you try hard enough!” school of encouragement, the, “Just be patient,” school doesn’t address fundamental problems. Like the very real psychological stress of not knowing an outcome. We like to make light of how we check our emails repeatedly and have trouble focusing because this hope takes up so much of our energy, but it’s a significant (and not always funny) issue. “Just be patient” doesn’t alleviate that stress and in fact often adds to it by making querying authors feel like they’re doing something wrong. Like there’s a wrong way to wait.

We’re waiting. We’re being as patient as we can be because, seriously, we have no other options. We’re on this tightrope, and we’d love a safety net. The truth is, we may never get one. That’s a stressful reality. So please, if you’re an author giving this advice, don’t be patronizing. We know you mean well, but you’re not always helping. Sometimes you’re even throwing us off balance.