Monthly Archives: October 2022

Dancing with Cataract

I used to be a special education teacher with a fascination for neurobiology and how the brain works. While I was a generalist, I had been exposed to a couple of cases where vision issues needed to be taken into consideration. Such cases called for a specialist associated with a neighboring county’s Education Service District. Vision Impairment specialists are not only rare in education, they’re very much prized (and there are times when I regret that I didn’t go into that subfield). That said, I seriously only had two confirmed cases of Vision Impairment in ten years of working in the field.

However, the class session for my special ed training cohort that covered Vision Impairment was utterly fascinating. Little did I know that the experience of that one session—including wearing goggles that simulated different types of vision impairment—would ultimately prove to be personally valuable.

It started sometime around April, 2022. I had been noticing that I was having greater problems than usual with sun glare on my desktop—which is situated so that reflections shouldn’t be an issue.

At first I didn’t think anything much about the situation.

For the last fifteen years or so, I have had issues with focus during certain times of spring and fall. A conversation with my optometrist at the time centered on the aging of my eye muscles, and slower focusing as a result. I had also noticed that sometimes during that period of sun angle, my eyes were unhappy and needed some additional time to focus.

I didn’t get excited.

I figured that this was just a worse case of my seasonal focus issues than usual, possibly an effect of dry eyes and spending a lot of time at the desktop instead of the laptop, which was failing (tends to happen, especially when you’ve drafted something like seven books or so of about 100,000 words each on the device, in the course of two and a half years. That tends to make laptops Very Tired. I had worn spots on keys and the space bar).

So I spent money on a mouse for my iPad and switched over.

I had bought said iPad a couple of years earlier because my eyes hurt when reading on my phone.

I figured this would make everything better, and that part of the problem was my laptop.

It wasn’t.

The blurring became more specific in location. Inside portion of my right eye. When I drank from a coffee cup, everything around the rim was as clear as it had been.

It became harder to see the temperature and time readout in the Subaru, located on my right side.

Bright sunlight hurt my eyes more. And, as several weeks passed, things were getting worse, not better.

I looked up macular degeneration. Nope, didn’t fit. Same for retinal detachment, which had been a worry since I had a sign of some old damage there.

I looked up glaucoma. Maybe, especially since my eye pressure readings were borderline at my last exam. Possible.

I didn’t think much about cataracts, simply because the changes were happening quickly. We had a friend who had needed surgery for glaucoma, so I was worrying about that, and knew I needed to act quickly.

I made an appointment with my optometrist.

The first big sign of trouble was when it took a lot of effort on my part and the assistant’s part to get good scans of that right eye. Left eye? No problem. Right eye? Trying to center in on those bright red dots proved to be more difficult than expected.

“It’s a fast-developing cataract, and you need surgery,” was the optometrist’s verdict. “Your glaucoma numbers are also pretty high, so you need to have that checked as well.”

Which was a complication. I do not have vision coverage, so I don’t go to the optometrists at Kaiser (my medical coverage). Multiple reasons for this choice, including dealing with opticians in the Kaiser shops who don’t understand people who do things like ride horses. The arguments that I’ve had about bifocal line placement, as well as finding frames where coatings don’t peel off the lenses, much less finding frames that will hold up to a horseperson’s lifestyle…yeah.

Nonetheless, I sent a message to my doctor at Kaiser requesting a referral, and citing the glaucoma numbers as a primary reason (they were up there).

The stately dance of managing my cataract had started.

“We’re looking at mid-fall for a surgery date,” the ophthamologist said when I finally got in to see him. “Sorry, but we’re backed up.”

He also dismissed the glaucoma as an issue. “Not concerned about those numbers. Let’s deal with this cataract first. My scheduler will contact you.”

So I went home and prepared to live with a cataract.

Coping with vision impairment, especially a fast-developing one, takes up a lot of cognitive effort.

At first it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t open the curtains in my office. I implemented some dry eye management systems such as running a diffuser with plain water to improve the humidity in my office. I took more frequent breaks.

After all, as a former special educator, I knew coping strategies were possible.

The blurriness got worse.

I found myself taking longer to get my daily words down. Lying down once or twice a day with a cold pack on my eyes ended up being necessary. It became harder to plow through any reading on a computer screen, and paper wasn’t any better.

But what was worse was the beginnings of cognitive fog.

It affected my reading comprehension. I had to read things more slowly and carefully. For a fast reader like I have been all of my life, needing to slow down was a frustrating exercise. Retention became a challenge. Tasks that had been simple became slow slogs.

The issues weren’t just tied to computers and reading. My close-up depth perception worsened. I stopped working on a couple of quilts because I didn’t trust myself to measure, cut, and sew accurately. Walking down stairs or an uneven slope became a challenge.

I worked out strategies, but the price for trying to cope and compensate was greater fatigue. I started postponing my applications for book promotions because the cognitive labor of facing the questions or even the applications themselves was tiring. Too much effort. I managed to get two books finished and released, but a third is still awaiting edits.

Schedules started falling apart in September. I could see how I was losing track of things, slowing down in writing production, spending more time lying down with a mask over my eyes, just to relieve the aches.

But I didn’t beat myself up over it. I was dealing with a vision impairment, yes, but one that hopefully could be fixed. I remembered that class session so many years ago, with the goggles. What was happening with my vision was simply a result of the cataract.

I kept telling myself that frequently, and planned for the possibility that things could get worse.

When things happened, they happened quickly. I qualified for Medicare and had a start date. A surgery date popped up, after I went on Medicare. I would have taken the offered date no matter what, because my vision was worsening week-by-week, but the Medicare piece made it simpler.

I went in for the pre-surgery scan. The technician called in a second person to verify the drastic differences between my eyes. My left eye was still good, but my right eye?

I couldn’t read the top line on a vision chart. Just too blurry.

And yet, every time I raised a coffee cup to take a drink, it blocked out the cataract. I had a temporary reprieve from vision impairment.

But there’s no good way to replicate that blocking. I tried.

“It’s a relatively uncomplicated cataract,” the opthamologist said.

I clung to that lifeline, because the speed of the cataract developing was worrisome.

I am one of those squicky people when it comes to my eyes. I don’t do contacts because I don’t like fussing with my eyes. Heck, I never did eyeliner because that was too much fussing around my eyes. So facing the prospect of cataract surgery, especially after watching the detailed video about it, required a bit of fortification.

It helped to have a number of friends who had already undergone cataract surgery.

“It’s nothing. You’ll be so happy afterward,” was what I kept hearing.

I clung to that reality.

The surgery itself was pretty uneventful. I was part of a production line involving several different types of eye surgery, all performed by my opthamologist. I noticed that there was space for thirty-eight beds in the Eye Procedures department, and I’m pretty darn sure they were all occupied by patients in different stages of preparation for surgery.

Soon enough, it was my turn to go in. I was nervous about the whole thing, especially because of my eye squickyness. I happily accepted the offer of a calming agent, especially since I was very explicit that I was nervous about the whole affair.

I saw bright colors while the surgeon worked.

And then it was done, and the blur was gone.

I’m taking my time to recover right now, listening to my body. It took a couple of days to get past the anethesia. My opthamologist wasn’t very restrictive—when I told him I had an old horse I needed to exercise to keep in shape, he advised me to give it three to five days, and not throw around any hundred-pound hay bales for a while.

I notice that my eye muscles are still adapting to this change—I had subconsciously developed some adaptive mechanisms where the left eye was compensating for the right eye. My eyes are still tending toward fatigue, but improving.

But I didn’t have any major focus issues. To date, the recovery has been uneventful.

I’m grateful for that.

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Nook Oops Special–Life in the Shadows

So I’m starting out my Nook Oops pricing special with the first book in the Netwalk Sequence series, Life in the Shadows.

Shadows is currently available at ALL VENDORS for $2.99, October 14th through October 20th.

It’s a collection of stories that chronicle the growing estrangement between Sarah Stephens and her daughter Diana Landreth, from short stories such as “Leave Him–or Else” to novellas such as “Shadow Harvest.” Because Diana and Sarah are powerful women working with world-changing technology, their off-and-on relationship has an impact beyond just themselves, especially when a war machine of unknown origin begins to destroy cities around the world. Ultimately, they have to make a choice between family and power. Will their alliance forged to manage the Disruption Machine endure, or will it fall victim to the choices they make? To what degree do the shadows of their past–including the shadows of the men they love–impact their decisions?

Shadows is a prequel of sorts to the Netwalk Sequence series. It’s possible to start with Book Two, Netwalk (on sale next week) but Shadows provides backstory for the entire series.

Here are the links to specific vendors:





Please check Shadows out! It’s also available to libraries through Overdrive and Hoopla, so if you want to read it but don’t have the cash on hand to buy it, please request it from your local library–and thank you to those of you who do purchase it or request it from your library!


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So. A thing happened with my books this year….

So. All these books I’ve been talking about? The Netwalk Sequence reissues, plus A Different Life: What If?, The Enduring Legacy, and Becoming Solo?

Guess what. Not a one has a link to Barnes and Noble, aka Nook, in the universal Books2Read link. Until this year, Nook has been my best-selling vendor.

I’ve been fretting about the dearth of sales on what has been my best sales platform to date, and, well, now I have a pretty good idea of just why that has been happening. No links to Nook.

I’ve gotten lots of suggestions from other indie writers about how to manually add those links in B2R. Taking a deep breath because that means nine books to fix (not the eight I had erroneously claimed on social media last night). But there are other issues I have to consider as well, most explicitly a.) how to republicize each book and b.) rebuilding trust in my readers that when I say there’s a link to Nook, there really is one.

Add in the issue that in the next two weeks I will be dealing with cataract surgery and the aftermath, plus gearing up to promote box sets for three series (once I make them, that is). There will be some conflicting issues for sure, and I’m thinking that perhaps the box set I most dread (the one with the Goddess’s Honor series, dreading because of all the short story pieces that will go into it) needs to be my first one. It’s the only series unaffected by this link issue.

So, what to do, what to do?

I’ve decided to start by running a reduced price feature on each individual book, starting on Fridays and running for a week. I’m going to call it the Nook Oops promotion. That means that every $4.99 book will be $2.99 for that week, and the $2.99 books will be $1.99, with the exception of Becoming Solo, which is brand new and releasing in time for the Halloween season.

It’s not much, but it’s something. I’ve added individual links to Barnes and Noble on every promo slide I’ve made for these books in the last year.

Will it work? Will I start seeing Nook sales again?

I don’t know. It’s worrisome.

Part of me splutters and growls because of course this sort of thing seems to happen to me, just about every damn time I start to gain some traction in this writing business. If it’s not an important reading expanding my market getting canceled because the venue’s ceiling fell in, or the big periodical that bought a story that would be a splashy debut losing important funding and the principal person behind it dying, or Covid happening just when I wrote a book that might be my Big Breakthrough…or…or…or….

One of these days, something’s gotta break in my favor, right? Right?

Time’s running out, though. I’ll be sixty-five in a few days. It’d be awfully damn nice to have one of these breakthroughs happen sooner rather than later.

Ah well, enough whining for now. I need to schedule price changes on a book and think about the promo for the upcoming week. Time to get to work!

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Some thoughts about short story drafting and serials

Illustration of office

I’ve been drafting a short story this week, which is somewhat of a new process since most of the last three years has been dedicated to novels and serial fiction.

It’s been an interesting experience going back to short fiction. Somehow, I seem to have integrated some of the process mechanisms I’ve developed for long form work into the process of short form work–namely, thinking in 1000-2000-word chunks. I haven’t been able to do it in quite that manner before, but I’m hoping the trend continues.

Meanwhile, I’m realizing that the process of drafting several works for serialization on Kindle Vella and Substack seems to have affected some of my drafting skills for short stories. The optimal length for a serial episode is really under 3000 words, whether it’s Kindle Vella or Substack. When carrying novels over to either format, I’ve split up chapters into individual episodes loosely based either on a single scene or several closely related scenes. My drafting for the serials has followed that pattern of writing complete scene sequences during a day’s work–a chapter usually takes about five days using this process.

So far, I’m noticing the same pattern with short stories. But the other piece is that I’m suddenly able to think through the arc of a short story, hopefully without turning it into the first chapter of a novel (which is my lamentable habit). Oh, the prospects will still exist, but…the current short story should be coming in at around 4ooo words.

This is–different. In the past I haven’t been able to chunk up the progression of a short story quite this easily. Haven’t thought through the beats of story and the character arc like this.

I’m tending to attribute this difference to serial writing. Now I’ve only really composed about three things specifically for Vella–Beating the Apocalypse, Becoming Solo, and Bearing Witness. And even at that, Apocalypse and Bearing Witness were both mostly completely written before I revised them for Vella. However, I started the process of integrating Word and Scrivener for long form work using those two stories in particular–breaking the story into episodes with separate files in Vella, then consolidating them into chapters later. Becoming Solo was really the height of this process. Then I carried it over into other long form work.

But somehow, in the process of divvying up sequences to post appropriately on Vella, I developed that mental construct which allows me to wrap my head around the structure I want for a particular piece of short form writing.

A learning process, I suppose, like any aspect of writing.

Will this trend continue? I certainly hope so. At the moment, my priority is to draft several stories for particular anthology calls. We’ll see if it results in saleable work. Once I’m done with that, it’s time to start work on a couple of other serials, plus worldbuild for that dang second fantasy series in the Goddess’s Honor world that I keep talking about. All of the shorts that I’m working on are tied in somehow to worlds that I’m fleshing out or thinking about doing more work in.

We shall see how it unfolds.


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New release and musing about inspiration

I keep lollygagging about putting up new posts. Oh, it’s not for a lack of ideas. It’s more an issue of energy, time, and…I dunno. I keep wondering if maintaining a website and a blog really works for me or not. Perhaps I need to fork over for a decent website. I dunno.

Then again, the issue of the cataract is a very real situation. I find that it tires me out–not so much physically but with mental fatigue because I’m coping. All to be expected–that’s how disability works, after all. But it’s still frustrating.

Especially since I need to be focusing on drafting short stories and getting a bunch of other stuff done. SIGH.


So here’s the latest work. Becoming Solo had its roots in a particular anthology. In its original form, it was rejected. I put it aside, occasionally tried to market it, but otherwise didn’t think much about doing anything with it until Kindle Vella happened. I looked at what I had, saw where I could turn it into a nice little short piece to put up on Vella–and here it is.

The essential conceit behind Becoming Solo is that magic in a certain part of the world–the Pacific Northwest–is managed through daemons, which are tied to a specific region. Daemon power is renewed through yearly Magic Fairs, which coincide with your everyday county fair.

So what happens to an area’s magic when a Fair becomes Lost?


The inspiration for this story came from my days as a 4H Leader. The county that we lived in, with a strong tradition of being the first urban 4H program, decided to defund its 4H program. I provided a community club option for my county’s 4Hers at a neighboring fair–our project areas were small animals, tech, science, plus all the home ec stuff. One of my members, who was a powerhouse at our fair, waltzed into the new fair and easily dominated a very competitive field, especially in the Style Revue sewing division (in Style Revue, one not only makes an outfit but displays it in a runway walk–and it is competitive).

I used that experience to create Shadow the Question–but it took other experience to fill out the family spell matrices, the role of the Senior Council, and more.


So far, the story hasn’t really been one that I thought was big enough for a book. Oh, I could whip up a full-sized book, I suppose. As I wrote this one, other threads popped up that could make it longer. But. I couldn’t necessarily do it from Yesenia’s point of view. Her arc within this novella is more-or-less completed as a major character. And, as I look at possibilities, I just do not see a single character or set of characters that emerge as story leaders for anything long enough to be a book.

However, I do see possibilities in individual stories, not just about this fair but others. Shadow may have a story. So may Bright Star itself. Or other magicians. That’s why I labeled it as a “Bright Star Fair Witches” story–holding space for future stories in the series.

I’ll probably come back to it at some point.

But for now, here is Becoming Solo. A nice little short piece, at a reasonable price ($2.99).

Becoming Solo can be found on Amazon as well as Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. Due to size, it’s unlikely to come out in paper, unless I write other Bright Star Fair Witches stories.


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