Last weekend, my sis and I traded cars so she could take her boys camping. No biggie. I picked up the Jeep and, as is my driving habit unless it's damned cold or pouring rain, rolled down the windows. Thus I heard a not-really-great grinding noise when applying the brakes. Not much of a biggie, really. My father and I can change out break pads fairly easily.
So Monday we popped off the wheel, and discovered a nice handful of broken-up metal rattling around in there.
That's a biggie beyond my and my father's ability.
And thus the crisis of yesterday: Do I cancel 4th Street and put those funds toward fixing the secondary car, or do I attend 4th Street and just... deal without a car the best I can for a few weeks?
Y'see, even though the work out here has been better, I've been playing catch-up, and am still working to regain the financial buffer that was eaten by moving from Indiana to Colorado. I have the money for 4th Street OR the vehicle repair. Not both. And that's crummy right now.
I don't want anyone to think I'm unable to make ends meet on the important stuff. This isn't that sort of crisis. It just... sucks. It means no camping, no dashing out to meet someone, extensive coordination to continue helping watch my sister's kids (made more complicated by the fact she lives on the Air Force Base), and much pre-planning to confirm client meetings.
And it shuts down almost completely the ability to find quiet and solitude. Truly, that's the part making the choice tough. Until the end of July, I won't have adequate funds. Until the end of July, I won't have an independent living space. (We're remodeling, so...). Until the end of July, please forgive me if I whine and gnash my teeth. Taking a short evening drive has been keeping me quite sane. We'll find out this week if my hips can hold up long enough to replace the drive with an adequate walk.
And in the midst of all that, some people made my all weepy-eyed with offers to help. Honestly, my first impulse is to shoo that away out of... pride? Habit? Ego? All of those things? But I'm also coming to understand for myself what I've so often told others, and choosing to not push away.
So. *deep breath*
- I do have a Patreon! One dollar gets you in the door, and more dollars gets you more. :) We're aaaaaalmost halfway to the goal of adding a monthly video. Check out the reward levels, and do check out the milestones. If you're in the mood to support, I'd be grateful to have you aboard. And if you're looking to be helpful, that's a speedy and direct way.
- If you're already a patron, or cannot/don't wish to be one, your help spreading the word is extremely helpful.
- As always, buying the available books--for yourself or someone else--is a gift that gives twice: once when you purchase, and once when your purchase bumps the novel's visibility for other potential buyers. Leaving a review on the book-buying site, or even a rating at Goodreads, also helps!
- Breath of Stone's release is looming near, and on its heels is the silly little cookbook, so you'll have a chance to pick up something new as well!
- And if you're attending 4th Street, please say hello to me. :-)
This meant I didn't take time to read through and respond to any SFWA message board info, nor jump in to prod and/or propose and/or complete myself any SFWA committee business. Instead, I knuckled down on work that puts money in my pocket--necessary, since I've no pockets but my own from which to fund this life of mine--and did life-things like shared dinner with my son, attended my nephews' community theater performance, and scouted the local farmer's market.
And you know what?
I feel guilty today, because I didn't dive into conversations for less than a week.
There is something wrong with that.
I've written often about the importance of prioritizing one's life work, and about how my choice to self-publish is one way I support my priorities. I write on it and speak on it because I do things like... like feel guilty for not doing volunteer work in addition to everything else. I write on it, and speak on it, because I need the reminders myself.
Really, I know it's silly of me. I know, realistically, that anyone who wants to bitch about a few days' absence isn't worth my time. Not that anyone IS bitching, mind you. For heaven's sake, no one has any reason to NOTICE my absence, let alone give any time COMPLAINING about it!
So... it's my internal voice doing all the bitching. The voice that shouldn't be worth my time! The voice that tells me, always, I ought to be doing more, helping more, achieving more, connecting more, sharing more. It's a nasty, nasty internal voice, and I do wish I knew where it came from. I didn't come from a family that invested huge amounts of time and energy as volunteers. I was the family member always trying to get everyone else to show up at the soup kitchen, or sell things door-to-door for a cause, or
Nope, this one can't be blamed on family dynamics or life's challenges. This is a quirk, an oddity, a damaging trait that's all mine. And it's damned annoying, knowing it's there, and knowing each time the self-talk I need to do to counter it, and knowing it'll pop back up regardless.
And you know what? Now I'm worried about posting this, because I took the time to write it rather than read through the discussions I missed.
But there's one conversation in particular that struck me as needing to be addressed, so here ya go:
For at least two years, this friend of mine has been mentioning her desire to start storing extra food. For two years, she hasn't started. And she hasn't started because, once she starts looking up "food storage" on the internet, she gets overwhelmed with talk about grinding her own healthy grains, storing a gazillion gallons of water, how to sprout seeds at any time of year, making jerky in her oven, dehydrating a year's harvest, constructing a canned-goods rotation system, making her own all-natural herbal tinctures, stockpiling veterinary antibiotics... You get the idea.
She hasn't started because anything she could think of as a starting place seemed inadequate. Almost useless, even.
I took a little Google-toodle around and... Yes, the overwhelm is strong on this topic. My favorite was the three-month list that included adequate supplies for one person to bake bread.
Sorry--my family ain't getting freshly baked bread in an emergency. We can do just fine without bread in a short-term emergency, and if it's a long-term crisis, I just don't see myself expending all that energy--and cooking fuel--to bake bread. YMMV.
Besides, most folks who want to store food don't know how to bake bread anyway.
So here's the list I gave my friend as a starting place:
5 lbs quick cooking oats
2 lbs sugar
10 lbs white rice (Yes, brown rice is nutrient-rich. It also takes a long time to cook.)
5 lbs. dried fruit
12 cans of beans (chili, baked, plain, etc.)
24 cans of fruit
24 cans of veggies
12 cans of meat (chicken, tuna, beef, etc.)
12 cans of soup/stew/ravioli type stuff
1 big bottle of olive oil
1 big jar of peanut butter
1 big bag hard candy and/or mini-chocolates
1 big container of Tang or Tang-ish drink mix
1-2 big box(es) of crackers
Assorted teas and/or instant coffee
20 gallons of water
If she had a pet, I'd add a month's worth of pet food and water, too.
It'll last one person about one month, or four people about a week.
A quick-n-dirty off-the-top-of-my-head calculation puts the cost at between $200 and $250, depending on brands and price differences--way too much for her to purchase all at once. So we broke the list down into eight segments, and prioritized the items according to her needs. We added a little Sterno cookstove and fuel, too.
Questions she asked:
What the heck am I going to do with two whole pounds of sugar?
Sweeten your tea/coffee and oatmeal. Mix it with some of the oats and peanut butter (heck, nutella, if you'd rather) for quick and filling no-bake "cookies." You probably won't use all the sugar, but sugar is cheap.
But those canned meal things are full of fat and salt!
And food. They are full of food.
What's all that candy for?
When you're stressed, and when the kids are cranky, treats are good. Very, very good.
That's a lot of water!
Water is cheap, and water is priceless. Twenty gallons gives you a bit less than a gallon a day--well within average use, but not ideal. That's why you'll drink the juice from your canned fruits and use the liquid from canned veggies to supplement cooking rice. Water is also a pain in the rear to store, especially with limited space, so we do what we can.
My friend was thinking of food storage from the perspective of a more natural disaster--a bad snow storm that made roads impassible for days, floods or wildfires that limit supermarket restocking, that sort of thing.
To that, I'll add the reason food storage is important to me: inflation and income insecurity. Not too many years ago, my food storage sometimes became my grocery store. What we ate that week came from what was stored under my bed. Sure, these days I can put a little cash aside, but what $20 will buy today is more than it'll buy after six months of economic hardship. Storing the food makes more sense to me than storing the cash.
So there it is: a quick starting place that has nothing to do with suddenly living off the grid after a solar flare destroys the grid, causing global collapse that results in a landscape of crumbling infrastructure run by gun-toting looters riding mutant bison past zombie herds. It has everything to do with making sure you're not hungry on the third day of a fixable power outage, and mega-everything to do with ensuring emergency response personnel can focus on those who can't prepare for disasters.
And, yeah, it's knowing you can still feed your kids if the next paycheck suddenly vaporizes.
Over the last couple days, I've mentioned here and there I'm in the process of evaluating career options, and a subset of that evaluation is choosing the fiction projects that'll come up once Breath of Stone is launched in the coming month(ish).
The overall career stuff is... complicated. A matter of deciding priorities, time expenditures, current needs, future plans, and professional satisfaction. Some things are working wonderfully, but I'm not certain I want to keep working them. Other things are more risky and will require time investment, but I'm drawn to them nonetheless. We shall see. :-)
Anyway! It was suggested I share my Next Project Dilemma to see what y'all might want to see next. So! *drumroll* Here are the fiction projects on the horizon!
Books Three and Four of Desert Rising: These are the SheyKhala novels, picking up after Breath of Stone. These are long books—at least 125K words each. They take awhile. That said, Book Three is completely plotted and partially written. Book Four is partially plotted.
Tomorrow's Bones: Continuing the story of Sword and Chant. Chant was written as a stand-alone, but was always the opening to something more. This is a story that nags me often, but has a much smaller audience (at least at this time).
The Slaughterer: Something completely different! A stand-alone about a bounty-hunter pulled into his family's decision to run a kind of Underground Railroad for magic workers.
Suffragette Story: This one dropped into my brain, almost fully formed, during last year's Sirens Conference. It's alternate/secret history of the fight to gain women the right to vote, complete with magic and martial arts.
The new series I still struggle to describe: If I had to describe it, I'd say it's paranormal rural, but sometimes urban, contemporary fantasy. There are ghosts and small towns and historical sites and some city settings and sentient elements being manipulated as weapons. Each book is shorter than my usual tome, and I'd likely complete three of them before even publishing the first.
So... There are considerations that must be taken into account. Current faithful readers, market sizes, audience potential, variable time to be invested on each project...
But I'd love to hear what you think! The reader's perspective, the writer's perspective, your perspective.
Help me out here, my darlings! Talk about preferences as a reader, scheduling experience as a writer, knowledge, gut feelings, EVERYTHING.
Crossposted at Blair MacGregor Books. Comment here or there.
If I haven’t made huge mistakes in the trauma/recovery area, I’m thinking I can wrap up revisions on Breath of Stone by the end of the weekend. I’d like to say sooner, but I’ve perhaps a couple hours a day for it through the next seven days. (When I sell more books, I’ll get to do fewer non-fiction projects…) Then I must draft cover copy, and that’s just… SIGH.
I’ll be posting a couple chapters for patrons over at Patreon, along with this month’s article on injuries and trauma and healing.
There is a second Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off underway! I’m thinking of putting Sword and Chant in the mix. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of novel. Even some of the most complimentary reviews mention it’s difficult to define. And it’s written in omni viewpoint. More than ever, the response will depend on the reviewer randomly assigned the odd thing.
I’ve found new places I want to camp! Pawnee Grasslands, Toadstool Geologic Park, Paint Mines, Palo Duro, Bisti Badlands…. And of course these longings are strongest when over a foot and a half of snow sits outside my door.
Have you see the schedule for the Nebulas? There is cool, cool stuff happening there, and the cost of the conference itself is, in my opinion, darn good. Alas, the Chicago location is far too expensive for me. Maybe next time.
I’ll still be taping my own NOTx talk on the most important aspect of self-publishing! I was trying to set up a small audience, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, alas, so it’ll likely just be me talking to you.
Lastly, the ankle is improving more quickly than I would have anticipated. Just walking, there is nothing but a lingering tightness. Going upstairs is quite workable. Going downstairs happens slowly and stiffly, one stair at a time. Side to side motion isn’t all that fun, and rotation doesn’t feel very good at all. But progress! It’s healing!
And if you haven't yet picked up your latest StoryBundle, please amble on over and do so. Our charity this time is Girls Write Now--a fantastic group dedicated to mentoring girls and improving their writing skills for success in all life endeavors. You'll also find in the bundle ten great reads from ten fantastic indie writers whose creativity, style, and craft is exceptional!
And now, back to work!
My sis and her family live on a military base, and I’m on and off the base a few times a week to help care for my nephews. The road through the base swings around a field of about five or six acres near the family housing.
As I was pulling onto that road last week, I saw a boy walking, leash in hand, toward a beautiful and tall Husky sniffing around the side of the road. Behind him, his parents were splitting up to close off escape routes. I drove a little farther down the road, stopped my car beside a couple other cars, and joined a half dozen folks who had the same idea I did.
The Husky walked back to the boy, ducked his head… then tore off for the field with his tail up high.
For the next half hour, I was part of an impromptu mission to capture the pup. Men and women — some in uniforms, some not — running back and forth in lines and arcs to keep the pup from bolting for the gates, and to gradually shrink his romping area.
And romping he was! Head up, he pranced and sprinted and leapt all over that field. Time and again, he bowed down in front of one of us, tail swinging, waiting for a single twitch to tell him where we were going to play next.
Everyone was laughing. Sure, it was important we catch that pup, but it was so clear the pup was having the absolute time of his life! And as orders and warnings were called (“HOLE!” was the most common, since the field was riddled with prairie dog dens), we humans played his game in the bright sun and cool breeze until the pup stopped, shook himself from nose to tail, and trotted over to the woman holding his leash.
More laughing, an exchange of waves, and we all piled into our respective cars and went on our way. I passed that kid I’d first seen, now holding a leash with a tongue-lolling dog on the other end, and grinned all the way home.
As I was driving home, I thought, “This is one of those things that would happen to asakiyume!” Then, in the next moment, I thought, “No, her stories have changed the way I see things, and that’s an incredible thing.”
And then I thought I should tell her, and tell all of you, about the Husky and the military folks and the laughter and the sun, and the power of perspective to change a story and a life.
I might have gotten teary-eyed in there somewhere, too.
Darlings, I am so excited about this one, and would love to have your support in seeing these great writers connect with a wider audience!
“Ten fine bloggers and blog-sites spent a year considering almost three hundred self-published fantasy books to bring you their ten favorites. It’s hard to imagine you won’t find some gems among them.” — Mark Lawrence
This is a unique bundle to curate as its books were chosen not by me, but by reviewers who took part in the first Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off organized by Mark Lawrence. Each reviewer received over twenty-five books and a mission: Choose one. This bundle contains the books those reviewers put at the very top of their list.
The SPFBO Bundle includes some of the coolest indie fantasy around. Crista McHugh’s A Soul for Troublegives you a witch named Trouble, possessed by the god of chaos. William Saraband’s Shattered Sands follows a slave girl suddenly empowered by forces older than the desert itself. You’ll delve into the more-than-murder mystery of Matthew Colville’s Priest, and follow another priest trying to save the world after the gods disappear in Barbara Webb’s City of Burning Shadows. And The Weight of A Crown from Tavish Kaeden serves up the deep epic of a recently-united realm on the verge of fracturing.
There is the sharp warrior who knows the value of leaving heroism behind in Under A Colder Sun by Greg James, and the ruined hero who chances into a way to surmount the past in David Benem’s What Remains of Heroes. Plague Jack delves deep into a brutal world of conspiracies, consequences, and backlash against a conqueror in Sins of a Sovereignty. Ben Galley smacks a young man into a frontier Wyoming filled with blood magick and secrets in Blood Rush. And Michael McClung’s The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids—the novel scoring highest in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off—races along with a sassy, smart thief who must find an artifact everyone thinks she already has before she’s killed for it.
StoryBundle lets you choose your own price, so you decide how much you’d like to support the writers. For $5—or more, if you’d like—you’ll receive the basic bundle of five novels in DRM-free ebook format. For the bonus price of at least $15, you’ll receive all ten novels. If you choose, a portion of your payment will go toward supporting different charities such as Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now. Over the years, StoryBundle and its participating writers have donated thousands to support awesome charities doing great work.
The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Bundle is available for only three weeks, so now is the time to pick up this unique collection of reviewer-beloved fantasy novels, and discover new independent writers who want to take you on thrilling adventures through worlds you’ve never seen with characters you want to know (even if a few of them are rather terrifying).
So here’s how you get your hands on this marvelous collection:
For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you feel generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format worldwide:
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- What Remains of Heroes by David Benem
- A Soul for Trouble by Crista McHugh
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:
- Sins of a Sovereignty by Plague Jack
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The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!
It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
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StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.
Honestly, I did think I'd at least get an audition. The topic and the credentials I offered--the creative control and opportunities offered by self-publishing--seemed to fit perfectly with their theme of "Make + Believe," and I've over two decades of public speaking and teaching experience. But I must have failed to make it compelling enough at the "query" stage, or perhaps mistook the oddities of the online form as an indication they wanted brevity. (Any form that requires odd key strokes to create paragraphs...)
For whatever reason, I don't get speak.
But since my topic was on the empowerment of self-publishing, the cultural shift happening within the community of writers, and the way readers are embracing the creative diversity... Since I'd intended to speak on the impact of no longer needing to gain third-party permission for one's creative choices, and the new-found passion so many writers find in creative control...
In that spirit, I figure I'll write up the presentation and record it myself. It'll be my NOTx Talk, and be no longer than eight minutes. Why the heck not, yes? :)
More to come, as I put the pieces together...
This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon. Because they’re wonderful patrons, they support making the articles on self-defense and fight scenes available to everyone within a month of the original posting. So if you like it, thank the patrons, or consider becoming one yourself!
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Run away when you can! First rule of self-defense!
Hang around martial arts and self-defense instructors long enough, you’re bound to hear this advice given over and over. Some would tout it as the most important advice, but it’s most akin to, “Major in engineering (or whatever is financially lucrative),” or perhaps “Always eat organic foods.”
The temptation to make “run away” the foundational principle of self-defense lies in its simplicity. But since the advice is usually given rather than taught, its limitations are rarely considered, and how to use it as a successful and integrated portion of an overall strategy isn’t much discussed.
The most important piece of self-defense advice is actually, “Avoid the fight, or make it as short as possible.” That’s the defining strategy to avoid harm to self and others. “Run away” is but one of many possible tactics in support of that strategy. But the conditions under which it’s the best option are limited, and teaching it as one’s primary technique is as responsible as teaching everyone in the world to take the stairs instead of the elevator in order to improve their health.
Since most self-defense instructors were taught by—and teach, and are themselves—people of a certain baseline fitness and physical mobility, the assumptions behind “run away” aren’t always examined. So let’s take a look at them, and narrow down the circumstances under which running is indeed the best option.
First, understand running away is not a passive act. It is resistance. It is an escalation.
The moment a victim chooses to run, the attacker must decide if the victim is a lost opportunity—not worth additional action—or a threat to survival. If the fleeing victim is thought to pose a threat, the attacker must then decide whether the best way to neutralize the threat is to escape it by doing their own running, or to capture and control it. And if capture is determined to be best, the victim is no longer running from a fight. He’s being chased down by one.
Mind you, I’m not against running. I am for understanding and teaching its limitations. Such as…
1. Running-is-best assumes you have both greater speed and stamina than your attacker, and you happen to be wearing more running-appropriate clothing and footwear as well.
Certainly some folks can train well and hard to increase their ability to run. Certainly folks can choose to always wear run-friendly shoes (or, as some advocate, learn to run like the wind in heels). Certainly many more folks would sigh over those options because…
2. Running-is-best assumes you don’t have a limiting physical condition. Asthma, gout, arthritis, injuries, third-trimester pregnancy, vertigo… I can’t tell you how many self-defense teachers will brush those concerns aside with, “Adrenaline will make it possible!” or “You’ll be surprised what you can do when you have to!” or the most toxic “You can do it if you really try!”
And if we all clap our hands and really-o truly-o believe, Tinkerbell shall fly again.
Y’all know by now I deal with hip dysplasia. That hip has collapsed unexpectedly while I’m just walking. I and others who deal with similar and more severe issues know better than to count on The Think Method as our primary means of escaping trouble with a capital T.
3. Running-is-best assumes you aren’t in the company of someone who needs your help in the face of a threat. A child. An older parent. A partner or friend who uses mobility aids to get around. Someone who has, say, hip dysplasia.
Most assuredly, you might still be able to run. But it’s bad form to leave behind those who can’t run away from what you’re escaping.
4. And running-is-best assumes you have a place to run to that is better than where you’re running from. I understand the urge to believe anywhere is better, but that’s a false—and therefore dangerous—belief.
Consider the 11-year-old boy who, lost in the woods, hid from would-be rescuers for four days because his parents had been very clear on “stay away from strangers,” but never added, “go toward these people.” And all it takes is one wrong turn to go from a populated area that might discourage an attacker to a deserted alley holding no deterrence at all.
To sum up: The tactic of running is most likely to succeed when you are alone, dressed to run, fit and able to run faster and farther than your attacker, and have a safe destination in mind.
So… what about all those other times?
Buy time, and buy it loudly.
As I said above, every act of resistance—every choice that is not total compliance—is an escalation of the encounter. The attacker’s response to the escalation is not within the victim’s scope of control, but the victim can do things to deter or narrow responses.
Chase down a victim is not the same decision as chase down a victim who already jammed fingers into my eyes. Or rammed knuckles into the windpipe. Or whipped a cane against the knee. Or swung a loaded diaper bag across the nose.
You see, every single act of resistance before the running (or the jogging, or the limping) adds a variable to your attacker’s plans. Increasing the number of variables tends to decrease the assumption of success.
Unpredictability increases the likelihood of failure, and failure for an attacker means physical pain, public discovery, loss of freedom, and possibly death. Merely running gives the attacker a single calculation to perform. Striking and screaming before running exacerbates the attacker’s doubts.
Since I know I can’t count on my hip to hold up under pressure, I will choose my strikes according to how much they’ll slow pursuit. I will always choose a kick to the knee over a punch to the jaw, a sharp jab to the eye over a shove to the chest, and a fist to the throat over a knee to the gut. I might be able to sprint; I might have a leg collapse in mid-stride. Thus I want to leave my attacker struggling to breathe, or see, or limp rather than capable of chasing me down in rage because I bopped him in the mouth.
And do not for a moment buy in to the judgment of, “If your attacker is so close you can’t run away, you’ve already done something wrong.” It’s a snooty philosophy that assumes telepathic and precognitive skills alongside a life lived either in utter solitude or perpetual paranoia.
Yes, it’s true: a well-trained person will have the skills, calm, and reflexes to attempt to talk an attacker down, or redirect the aggression, just as a well-trained person in the right circumstances can indeed run away without suffering further consequence. And it’s really nice to think of running away as an element of non-violence without its own moral cost.
But everyone else in the world–everyone who does not at this instant have amazing, or even foundational, physical abilities, and everyone who does not at this moment have two, three, five, fifteen years of training–deserves to have options right now. And brushing away that truth with, “Hey, just run away!” isn’t all that helpful.
So why, you ask after all that, is running touted as the bestest and most common self-defense advice?
Quite simply, because most teachers teach only the able-bodied, or the close-to-able-bodied. Most instructors never have to answer a fearful, “But what can I do?” from a man using a cane or a woman a month from giving birth. Most instructors don’t even mention the cascade of decisions that come into play when a person must consider what their choices will mean for the six-year-old at their side.
Telling someone to always run away first is simple. Following such advice often isn’t.
So absolutely run if you’re able to run, and if the consequences of running are acceptable to you. Just know your intentions, understand your assumptions, and consider your options before you do.
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Between swings of cold weather, there were two days that looked perfect for a quick, early-season outing–clear skies, warm temperatures, and an almost-full moon as a bonus. Shortly before the trip, the forecast called for a bit of wind and rain on the second day, but I’ve camped through Indiana summer thunderstorms (and a tornado outbreak), so I didn’t have much concern for a slight chance of a maybe-rain event in the high desert.
Compared to Indiana, Denver is pretty darn dry. Compared to Denver, Pueblo is damned dry. Truly, it’s been almost twenty years since I’ve spent significant time in the desert, but there is no mistaking the distinct feel of the air on the skin and in the lungs. It isn’t just the low humidity (which dropped to around 5%). It’s the smell of dust and–if you’re lucky–the heat-pushed scent of twisted little trees and determined brush. Breathe it in long enough, and you’ll be able to discern the distinct scent-feel of plain water, too.
When I stepped out of the car and took a few deep lungfuls of that air, I felt as if I were visiting a long-lost home.
It didn’t take long to set camp. I was one of two campers on the loop, with my nearest neighbors way on the other end, and we couldn’t see each other without stepping around the stunted trees and table covers between us. We waved from afar, a nice little acknowledgment and mutual agreement to ignore one another. Really, when you deliberately choose a campground as far as possible from everyone else–not to mention a short hike from the bathrooms–you recognize others who do the same.
In comfortable and quiet isolation, I settled down to bask in the sunshine with a bottle of water (my third since arriving, and I was still thirsty!) and my Kindle for a session of what was essentially self-chosen slush reading.
I looked up as tumbleweeds rolled between me and my tent. The next one rolled through even faster. Sitting in the shelter’s lee, intent on my reading, I hadn’t noticed the rising wind. But now grit was scratching my eyes and my mouth felt a little dusty, and the tent was rippling. Then a new gust shoved the tent, squishing it down to about half its height, and I thought I might have a problem.
After a few hours of checking and re-checking tent stakes, weighing down the leading edge of my tent to keep it from pulling up, keeping track of everything else that kept trying to blow away or blow over, and consoling Gambit where he’d decided to curl up under the table and shake, the wind abruptly stilled. My tent had not blown away, its poles hadn’t snapped under the strain, and I just might get a decent camping trip in.
The moon was so bright that night, I sat out writing notes for book-plotting long after the sun went down. And those other campers at the other end of the loop? Musicians. Every now and then, light guitar melodies provided a quiet accompaniment to the few insects chirruping in the night. Owls hooted. Coyotes yipped in the distance.
I turned in early, thinking to catch up on sleep, but awoke shortly before midnight with Gambit nosing me. He never asks to go out in the middle of the night at home, but does so when we’re camping. So we took a moonlit hike, not at all needing a flashlight, up and down the shale-scattered hillside around the campground with nothing but a light breeze for company.
The next morning, rested and ready to spend the day in combination of book-plotting and brief hikes, I checked the weather alert that had come through my phone. It was another high wind warning, set to begin late morning and go late into the evening, with predicted wind gusts exceeding 60mph for hours and hours. And Wednesday’s forecast was even worse.
Staying would have been little more than a decision to battle the wind all day in the hope I’d have enough energy left by nightfall to accomplish what I’d actually come to do. So I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, gave the sausage intended for the next day’s meal to Gambit (HAPPY DOG!), and packed up. The wind starting rising while I was taking down the tent. That made it extra fun, I tell ya. Driving through those winds coming home made for a long and tiring two hours, too.
And so it was, tired and dust-covered, I rolled up back home. It was not a wasted trip. After all, I screened a few novels, mapped out plot points and essential elements of two others, and plotted two novels of my own. Gambit was thrilled to scout new stuff of his own–he has earned the privilege to wander off-leash under certain circumstances–and I felt absolutely ALIVE to reach even the edge of a desert again.
But within a few hours of being home, the headache started. Out of curiosity, I checked the weather.
Surprise! Blizzard warning! Six to twelve inches, consistent winds around 30mph and gusts over 50mph. Set to begin in the very early morning, and be at its worst just about the time I would’ve been attempting to drive home had I stayed that extra night. Yep, I’d have been looking at a 100-mile drive in blizzard conditions.
Had the winds not been so terrible in Pueblo, I would have stayed that extra day. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to check the weather in Denver. I’m not an experienced enough Colorado resident to assume blizzard potential in March. Lesson learned.
Over a foot of snow has fallen here already, and it’s just early afternoon. We’ve at least three more hours to go. Denver International Airport shut down, as have numerous roads. Even the snowplows are getting stuck. And the winds around Pueblo, where I was camping? Today, they’re gusting over 80 mph.
Home is good. Really, really, good.