In October 2017, I neared a mental breakdown, seemingly out of nowhere, and it wasn’t good.  It took a while to get me to a level place, and then I went off to Paris for a couple months to basically try to reset my mental system.  My hypothesis was that the rush of chemicals and hormones that come with the stress and excitement of somewhere new might be enough to scramble everything and let it all settle back down to a more typical place.  And, for me, it worked.

Since then, life has gotten easier in some ways, and there have been some very hard losses. One is my oldest dog, Emma.  She got very sick, on top of being very old.  You can tell by her silhouette that she wasn’t doing so great anymore.  By the way, I didn’t edit this photo.  I used a wide-angle lens, wide aperture, low ISO, and I can’t remember the shutter.  That it came out this well means something to me, like I was somehow meant to have a beautiful memory of her.  It’s still hard to think about her or talk about her without crying.

My girl, Emma, and her last sunset at the beach. Copyright me, don’t steal my photo. That’s just plain evil. This picture means a lot to me.

This last week has been rough, and I’m not yet at liberty to discuss the worst of it.  My daughter getting measles isn’t a big deal (she’s fine, seriously), but it sucked getting t-boned when I was on my way to see an author I admire.  Still waiting on the insurance stuff.  It wasn’t fun having someone run into an intersection and into the side of my car.  My trip to Paris may be cancelled.  One thing after another.   I’ll talk more when I can.

Among other things, my daughter was cast as an angel in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker for the 2017-2018 season.  Here she is in her makeup and hair done, waiting to get into costume.   She’s a beautiful little dancer.  In the photo of her in blue, she’s at Northwest Dance Project.  She’s a tall, leggy child who lives for ballet so much that it’s hard getting her to ever take her dance stuff off.  When we do, she usually puts it back on when she thinks we won’t notice.  Well, I am almost always in dance wear, so I guess it’s fair.

I did some travel.  I spent two months in Europe.  London was something I decided on sporadically, and was heading there fifteen minutes later.  If I’d have thought it through, I would have thought to check the weather and take gloves.  In my current manuscript, there’s a scene in London that I will admit is directly lifted from when I went there.  It was just so cool, but so cold!  My bad for not preparing.

In Paris, I got caught up in a big protest-riot thing.  The French are precious.  They considered that riot to be bad and dangerous and such.  I was like, really?  I mean, where I come from, that is mellower than a typical flea market/swap meet.  It really was fun.  They’re so progressive there that Macron, who American’s conservatives tend to have for being too liberal, is so conservative there that they hate him.  That really demonstrates how far apart the US and France are in politics.  Macron gets to be hated from both sides.

Their riot police do get spiffy hats, though, and look like they belong in a video game more than they look like they belong on the streets watching the big, bad rioters.  Oh!  And we were barricaded in.  I was thrilled.  Part of me wanted to sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?”  But I thought that, if I did, no one would be too thrilled.  Well, they might have been if I told them I know Les Mis is about the June rebellion, not the revolution.  While so many Americans rue King George III not continuing his battle and want Queen Elizabeth II to take America back, the French are incredibly proud of having beheaded their last sovereigns.

Among other things, after Emma died, we added this little poppet.   Her name is Ella Ophelia, and allow me to share the meaning of her name.  We had Emma, after Jane Austen’s Emma, and Luthien after Elrond’s great-grandmother in Lord of the Rings (you have to read History of Middle Earth to get that).  Juliet, our small dog, is after the Shakespeare character.  When we got Ella, we wanted to incorporate all three of their names into something bookish as well.  E for Emma, and an L for Lu.  Elle didn’t work.  Sounds like the letter.  So…Ella.  Also Ella Enchanted.  And Ophelia for the Shakespeare character as a nod to Juliet.  Out cats are named after gods and a goddess: Thor, Ares, and Diana.

During this entire time I’d been working on outlines.  I have so many stories outlined.  So, so many.  But when one has fallen off the face of the planet for a while, it’s easy to feel as if that one shouldn’t exactly exist in the writersphere anymore.  Since I’ve been gone long enough, I’m going to use this as something of a chance to restart, and pick a new pen name.  I let a group of people pick my pen name as a dare, and they picked a name that is made up of three references to some books I really don’t like.  The name I would most like to use is a name incorporated into my current works in progress, which makes that kind of a NO.  I’ve actually given serious consideration to legally changing my name to that name because I have since found out that very few people have ever heard of it.  Also my legal name is now one of the most popular baby names in the US, and a very popular name to use for things like makeup colors.

I guess this is a long way to say…look out, Planet Earth.  I’m back!