What’s Ticking Over in Writer-Brain

Posted: May 9th, 2018 under Life beyond writing.

It’s been a difficult four or five months; those of you who follow on Facebook (now the more frequently posted version) may know about the death of Mac, the remaining horse after Illusion died, husband’s surgery, horse searching, the concussion following first horse’s very efficient bucking, the extensive dental work (now entering the third month), another tick bite by a Lyme carrying tick and the subsequent medication, the second horse purchase (older, quieter, but…it turns out…equally not the cooperative mount I was hoping for), and so on.  And of course *everyone* is having a difficult time with our peculiar Administration and Congress.

So that’s why the long silence.  I decided I would not try to write fiction this year at all…if it comes, it comes, but I’m not going to commit to anything.  I’m out of choir for now, and hope to get back in, but I’m not sure I can manage it due to the necessary driving at night…I need another cataract surgery.   The dental stuff, which started on my birthday in early March, as soon as I dared risk it after the concussion, has been…well, if you’ve had 9 root canals done in multiples and a pulled tooth and a bunch of other stuff, you know my feelings.  Or some of them.  And it’s not over yet.  I thought it was, but it’s not.

But things are once more beginning to tick over in writer-brain.  Some are leftover tags of the Vatta books that want a conclusion; some are leftover tags of Paksworld.  I’ve been doing a little light revision of the next bunch of Paksworld stories, for instance, and have a scene and a notion of where it’s going in a third Vatta’s Peace book.  Most days, however, get no fiction done at all.  Other things fill the time, including trying (so far unsuccessfully) to get fitter in the wake of the concussion.  My right leg is refusing to relearn that most natural (to me) of movements, swinging out and over a horse’s back.  The house next door, that we bought and renovated last year as a possible rent house has renters moving in.  I have not been able to knit since the concussion, or bake bread (weird…but just can’t…hoping that comes back!)  and initiative is way down, though intellectual curiosity is back, and I’m reading a lot of serious nonfiction again.

For your pleasure (?)  here are some pictures.

Mocha, first day here, January 10

Mocha with trainer, late February–now for sale

Molly-second day here, mid-April

Molly – three days ago. Red dun, has the dark stripes

Mocha had no papers…supposedly 3/4 Quarter Horse and 1/4 Arabian.  Molly is a 14 yo registered Quarter Horse, locally bred but her breeders retired and moved away years ago, and she’s not really suited for breeding anyway, IMO.  Others might disagree.  She’s a little shorter than Mocha, with more substance (bone), but she was used as a lesson horse in a program for children and she hates being bridled and isn’t fond of being ridden.  She doesn’t buck (big improvement) but is otherwise in need of retraining, which I’m trying to do between dental stuff and concussion effects and a few other physical problems.

Other than that, both husband and son are doing well.



  • Comment by Annabel — May 9, 2018 @ 9:07 am


    Sorry you’ve been having such a rough ride lately. I do hope the various bits and tags of Paksworld will come together for you soon – I was just thinking I need to revisit that lovely universe again very soon. Must try to find you on Facebook.

  • Comment by Jonathan Schor — May 9, 2018 @ 4:21 pm


    HI – horses look beautiful, but I shy away from any animal larger than myself. I empathize with the dental and other medical woes. While I am sure everyone would want more of everything, your health and welfare comes first. Ky and Paks et al can wait – we don’t want your spouse to find your lifeless body over even a started story. Sing. Take in the nice air outside. As someone who has read and who possesses all of your stories I can and am rereading, currently Ky.

    The famous author deserves her rest.

    Jonathan up here in beautiful New Hampshire.

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 9, 2018 @ 8:36 pm


    Today I went out and took lots of pictures on the 80 acres. The Hesperaloe is really gorgeous this year, and I found a beetle I don’t know (not hard…there are LOTS of beetles I don’t know) on a little bindweed flower. They’re up on Facebook if you venture into that whirlpool.

  • Comment by Susan in WA — May 12, 2018 @ 8:51 pm


    It’s so good to hear from you! All that dental work sounds awful, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to not be able to knit and make bread. If you need to take a break from writing and let the fields of your imagination lie fallow for a season while you deal with Life Stuff, blessings to you. We all love to read your writing, but we care about you as a person even more, so take care of yourself!

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 13, 2018 @ 6:51 am


    Thank you! Your support–all of you–means a lot to me as I work on this stuff.

  • Comment by Butterwaffle — May 13, 2018 @ 7:18 pm


    Happy Mother’s Day! I’m sorry to hear about all your troubles, and hope you have a good rest the rest of this year. I’m sure Paks and the Vattas will understand. 🙂

  • Comment by Jazzlet — May 14, 2018 @ 5:49 pm


    Sorry you have been having such a horrible time, I have only had one root canal and that was quite enough. I think the fact that my dentist always scheduled them for Fridays should have tipped me off about the two days of pain no over the counter remedies touched. I was all ready to swear at him on the Monday only to wake with perfectly managable pain. Were you able to have adequate pain relief or did the concussion interfere with that? Anyway deep sympathy for nine and more work to come.

    Wonderful that the house is finished and rented out. I hope that means both of you can really relax, the surest way of getting properly better. I hope the bread making, the knitting and the right leg return to normal soon.

    I don’t do facebook, so thank you for telling those of us who don’t what has been going on.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — May 18, 2018 @ 1:18 pm


    I’ll add my wishes and prayers to all these others for additional (and speedy) recovery.

    I’d thought I’d gotten on your FB feed. I’ll have to check. But then, again, it may just be FB being FB and not sending things through my rather active feed now.

  • Comment by Fred — May 20, 2018 @ 9:02 pm


    A recommendation (from personal experiences): listen – as much as you can – to the music you love. Music does heal, singing does heal – not only the singer (as you may know from your choir), but the listener as well. Reach for the joy in your hearing.

    And know that we care.

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 21, 2018 @ 7:53 pm


    Thank you, Fred and all the rest of you, too. I now have the major part of the dental work done, and yes…the music helps. I started choir with rehearsal last week and sang almost two full services yesterday (had to sneak out after the offertory anthem because I had lost focus and also strength–shaky and stuff–but I was able to sing both anthems at the first service. The second was a simple shorter one and there were enough other altos to do it without me. Our organist wrote the longer anthem, so it’s newish (he wrote it a few years ago, at another church) and quite fun to sing. And the low altos have a high E. Which to my surprise came out right when I asked for it on Wednesday, was squeaky in rehearsal on Sunday morning, but then warmed up and only began to fray at the edges on the last high E of the second service.

    I’ve been listening to Bach and Brahms and Mozart and so on…mostly use headphones at home because the two of us don’t have the same musical taste exactly (and certainly not minute to minute). But to be surrounded by it live in rehearsal and the service…it’s a joy.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — May 24, 2018 @ 12:57 pm


    Best wishes for continuing recovery. I took the cataract journey in February and very, very much like the results. Hoping the same for you. Fellow sufferer in the dental department, prepping for a second implant. You have all my sympathies!
    I second the recommendations to listen to music, and get outdoors to hear Nature’s songs.

  • Comment by Moira — May 27, 2018 @ 10:19 am


    Elizabeth, I am so glad to see you post. I was worried about you – I knew from Twitter you were still kicking, but the long absence from the blogosphere was a definite cause for concern.

    I’m so sorry the concussion turned out to be so serious and the aftermath so lingering. But I’m relieved to hear that you’re taking it easier and not pushing to get the next book done. We, and it, can all wait; your health cannot. Please do take the very best care of yourself.

    As for dental hell: hoo boy can I relate. It’s a very, very bad thing when every single staff member at your dentist’s office knows your name and the sound of your voice on the phone… All I can say is: suffer and bear, this too shall pass. And if the concussion allows, keep taking the tablets.

    I wholeheartedly second Jonathan’s comments, and also Fred’s. (BTW, if you actually have access to a composer who writes high E’s for the second altos… take him aside and advise him of the error of his ways! ;)) Music, laughter, friends, animals (friends with friendly dogs? cats?), the wonders of Ol’ Ma Nature, and anything else you can manage – massage would be good, I’m sure, as your neck & back & shoulders must be screaming from all the pain and tension. And plenty of sleep.

    I’ve been in lurker mode for years and years now, due to my own Life Stuff happenings, but I do keep checking in and enjoying the craic (Google that!) as it unfolds. Long may it continue, but only when you’re able!

    Take care.

  • Comment by Elizabeth Moon — May 27, 2018 @ 2:00 pm


    Firefox, that idiot, now won’t let me log in to my own blogs because “it’s not a secure connection”. This is what you get for updating to the current model of some software–it screws you up. Yes, yes, I know it’s not secure. I’m working on getting it there *but in the meantime I need to be able to moderate comments.*

    Yesterday it let me in. Today? No, it’s clutching its pearls and swooning on the sofa. And this probably won’t show up because I would have to log in to moderate my own comment. Let’s see.

  • Comment by Elizabeth Moon — May 27, 2018 @ 2:07 pm


    Oh well. It did slip it in. Good. Now I can explain that if you’ve commented in the last 24 hours or so, and I just saw it in my email inbox, I can’t approve it without going in as Admin and I can’t do that because Firefox won’t let me enter use my password because…as above.

    Meanwhile my website guru is still trying to get in touch with the hosting service, because she can’t make the changes in the websites’ privacy policy statements OR convert these to secure sites because the hosting server won’t accept her bonafides, even though it says it has. DUH. So many apologies, but right now this is the only way I can post, and I can’t accept your posts. Suckage all around.

    But stuff will get fixed in time.

  • Comment by Fred — May 28, 2018 @ 9:35 pm


    Remember when computers were supposed to make everyone’s life easier?

    (I think I may be revealing something about my age…)

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 29, 2018 @ 7:39 am


    I do remember that. When they were housed carefully in supposedly static-free, temperature controlled rooms into which only the sanctified few were allowed to go, let alone *touch* them. There’s a wonderful scene in the movie HIDDEN FIGURES showing the worshipful installation of new computers at NASA, changing the meaning of the word “computer” from its earlier meaning of “someone who can calculate quickly and accurately, with or without an adding machine.” The previous “computers” had been women, and now they’d been supplanted…except the computer needed programmers and operators and…well, if you haven’t seen the movie, get the DVD or stream it from somewhere. It’s outstanding, and it’s history.

    I remember learning to use a simple slide rule in junior high, then envying the wealthier kids who got themselves a K&E log-log deci-trig one in HS, and then getting one for graduation. I still have it, as I still have my mother’s simpler one. We had “number sense” competitions in the University Interscholastic League competitions. Accountants used adding machines and comptometers, and eventually electric calculators that would multiply (mechanically) instead of having to re-punch or pull the lever multiple times. At one point I could use the adding machine, the comptometer (which had a subtraction key, and was lever operated), and the Monroe electric calculator my mother used. All were noisy. The comptometer made a satisfying “ka-CHUNK!” with every pull to get the total. We did a lot of mental math using various tricks. We caught on quickly that computers (and hand-held calculators) would make life easier, but the connectivity thing was startling at first. When I was a programmer, we shifted from keypunching in one building and carrying boxes of cards to another where they were turned in to be run through a card reader and then the program compiled (or not)…to having a dedicated landline from the keypunch machine that produced no cards but sent whatever your fingers hit on to the other building to wait in the queue for a turn to compile. LOTS harder to know you’d made an error and cancel that card…er…entry. Every job had to be preceded and followed by the Job Control Language code. Computer memory was precious; we had to rewrite an entire program (big one) from the language it was in (an early database management system) to COBOL because the other language required a 100K partition and COBOL took only 56K on the mainframe of the period…which was a whole 356K. COBOL was designed for accounting and lists, not for a random access database with a million records. Just sayin’ I had two incredible programmers on my team. Hard disks were in external machines the size of my washing machine, taking big platter-stacks. We did flowcharts by hand, and coded on code sheets before keypunching. Starting out, learning how to do this, involved a fiendish interface language barely a step up from 000 and 111, where you had to know exactly where to put each byte. Stick something in the wrong register, or get it stuck in a loop, and you’d be up all night with printout paper all over the floor analyzing a “core dump” and tracing the path of every bit and byte through the machine. OTOH, it was a great way to learn how the beasts work, and I regret having to leave DOS behind years later. I liked knowing where things were. A long way from where we are to the adding machine in the hardware store where my mother worked when I was little, and the pad of paper and pencil beside it because some people always wanted to check that the machine got it right.

  • Comment by pence — May 29, 2018 @ 6:20 pm


    Sympathies on the dentistry. I went through a long bout a few years ago due to cracking all my molars from tooth grinding. Took a long time to get my energy back after that (and I wasn’t dealing with concussion and lyme at the same time -ouch.)
    I have a nasty suspicion that the repeated doses of novocaine were draining – and I actually get a related thing that doesn’t nave epinephrine in it which novocain edoew. I have this weird wipe out reaction to the epinephrine.
    Fresh air, nature, music and puttering are healing.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 1, 2018 @ 9:04 am


    Thanks for the sympathy. It is exhausting. And I had the longstanding dental infections before that, so … yeah. The energy’s coming back, just a lot slower than I want, and it’s getting so hot now I’m having my usual summer thing that started a decade or so ago…for someone who used to play tennis in 100F temps, it’s annoying not to be able to just walk a mile or so in it.

  • Comment by Linda — June 2, 2018 @ 6:12 pm


    So glad I thought to look you up.

    Finished my fourth reread of Into the Fire yesterday, done start to finish this time, and enjoyed observing the skill with which it was put together. Don’t have a literary term for that … but I’m was noticing the nice balance of time spent with various characters. No one got lost as the excitement shifted to a different situation. I also like the way “challenges” crop up, recede, and reappear to be resolved (or not). Thinking especially of the second year cadets, Ginger (the dog), and the relatively minor good guys. Also nice to see Ky sending a note of thanks when she returned the dance costume.

    Hope that the healing continues … I have found knitting too tricky due to deteriorating eye sight, hand tremors, and the realization that I already have plenty of sweaters, scarves, etc.and that it really is less stressful to be able to try things on rather than worry through months of knitting that it won’t fit properly.
    I know you are a sock specialist, but I have switched to Insect Shield socks which have done a marvelous job of repelling ticks, mosquitoes and black flies. As a passionate gardener, my mental and physical health depends on being outdoors, but too many dear friends have suffered severe cases of Lyme disease, and living alone there is no one to do tick checks. I am also subject to headaches when I use anything with Deet in it.
    Not one tick since I bought the socks (7 pairs), long work pants, long sleeve shirts and sun hat. I order thru their website, but now and then find outdoor clothing catalogs have a treated item I like for its style.
    I took up felting when knitting became too frustrating. I love being able to play with color and make art or useful items as the spirit moves me. Great being able to finish things quickly (like a pair of earrings) or slowly (a large landscape) or really slowly … an 8 x 10 “tapestry” which now hangs at church, made by many hands over the course of two years . I also like being able to carry some projects in even a smallish hand bag. (this is needle felting, wet felting has to be done where there is a sink (or garden hose 🙂 ).
    Do take care of yourself … I notice you never seem to take a vacation. Perhaps a summer trip to someplace relatively cool like Vermont … or escape the administration by going to the Netherlands or Sweden where English is widely spoken and life is quite sane. And thank you so much for all the wonderful books which make escape possible when illness or pain seems inescapable.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 2, 2018 @ 10:35 pm


    Well, I Knit socks because commercial socks don’t fit my feet…they hurt and they cause swelling. Maybe the ones you mention wouldn’t but if they have elastic in the sock, they would. And I realize I am running out of oomph right now…early morning tomorrow and so must get to bed. Thanks for writing…now you’ve found the spot, don’t be a stranger.

  • Comment by Moira — June 3, 2018 @ 8:48 am


    Elizabeth, if you don’t feel up to knitting and your supply of socks needs replenishing, have you tried the “Dr. Scholl’s Men’s Advanced Relief Diabetic Crew Socks” which are plenty elastic but obviously not at all constricting and very comfortable? (Yes, as usual the mens’ stuff is better, but it doesn’t stop me from wearing them. They’re inside my shoes anyway!) Their main drawback is that they only come in black, white and khaki which would certainly put a crimp in your style…! But for those of us who don’t knit, they are a godsend. They’re available from Amazon, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and maybe even some local stores you might actually want to patronize.

    I hope that gives you another option.

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