Hidden Treasures

It always amazes me when I discover parts of Houston that I never even knew existed. There is so much happening in this city and I feel like most of us live secluded in tiny corners unaware of the breadth and depth of opportunities.

Take downtown for instance. How often do most of us go there?

For me the answer is nearly never. In the past, when my dad used to work downtown at the federal courts, I would go have lunch with him occasionally. Most of the time, I drove up to the building and picked him up. Then we headed over to a nearby hotel, usually the Double Tree since they validated your parking, and we would valet for lunch.

A few times, I was called in for jury duty and of course I experienced the area of downtown around the state courthouses. I even got selected for Grand Jury one time and that was fun. But, again the excursions were simply to attend the courthouse in question and, for lunch, I mostly brought my own or bought something at a nearby coffee shop or deli.

I was aware, vaguely, that there was a downtown tunnel system, but I never had occasion to venture there.

Now, my brother works at the federal courthouse. We decided to have lunch together. Instead of driving up and going to some eatery, he told me to park in the garage and we would get food at the tunnel. This peaked my interest.

I arrived and met him downstairs so I wouldn’t have to go through security. We then set out across the street to the building over one block which had the access to the tunnels. This made sense that the courthouse would not have an way to enter the tunnel system. It could be a dangerous access point for the building.

Once in the tunnel we walked a ways. I felt a slight concern being aware of the fact we were walking under ground and all. The tunnel is wide enough for many people to walk in both directions, but it still felt a little tight for me. Then we arrived at a juncture.

Before us lay a wide expanse of tables and chairs around which an array of eateries had storefronts. It reminded me of the mall food courts of my childhood years. There are maps posted at certain intervals. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of them since I, at that moment, hadn’t thought to write up the excursion for the blog.

We walked further and found an area with loungers and sofas, ping pong and corn hole, and even a table shuffleboard option. Sadly, they had no wax, so we couldn’t throw any weights. Plus, it is a short version and not the 22 foot long that is the official length for serious shufflers.

As we passed this area, my brother pointed out a wide white wall and explained that during the World Cup Soccer, they projected the games there so people could come and watch while sitting in the comfy loungers and sofas. Eventually, we selected a food choice and took it to go. We went back to his office and ate there. If you go to a courthouse, by the way, don’t take scissors or lighters. They confiscate them and store them for you until you leave. Yes. I know from first hand experience.

Anyway, if you are curious and want to enjoy a fun adventure, head over to downtown, park, and do lunch in the tunnels. Buzz me and we can make a day of it. I’m not sure which building uses these Star Wars inspired elevators, but I plan to find out on my next outing.

Oh, PS. this is a picture of me and my brother. Isn’t he cute?

Galveston Beaches and Cemeteries

I’m one of those who has been very hesitant about getting back out there since the pandemic. I’ve been moving slow. Still haven’t gone back into the movie theaters; thank goodness for streaming services. Anyway, when my friend Sabina Gartler decided to take a weekend away at Galveston to look at cemeteries and tour some of the sights, I decided to go. I used to go to Galveston all the time. This was my first visit in three years.

As you can see, my time there started out a bit foggy. This is the view from my hotel room. Seawall Boulevard is just down below, but it is barely visible. Unlike some of my sun-worshiping friends, I really enjoyed these low lying clouds. It gives the city that air of mystery and charm. I sat on the balcony one afternoon and watched the fog roll in and slowly cover everything in a grey mist. Of course then I was ready to go on a tour of Old City Cemetery. Well, we went the next day after the fog had lifted.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Old City Cemetery, it is one of the oldest in Galveston and actually is made up of seven different cemeteries that were merged into one. It is at least 200 years old, but I suspect older since I saw one gravestone that was dated in the 1700s. After the Hurricane of 1900 when so much of the city and the coast was destroyed, the ground of the cemetery was raised as was the entire sea wall. That’s one of the reasons why some of the graves go down three burials deep. Families were given the chance to move loved ones before the ground was raised. Most loved ones took advantage of this, some did not.

Some of the graves are new and spotless and some do show their age. It is obvious that surviving hundreds of years and several hurricanes since 1900 takes its toll on grave markers. But I think they are kept up as well as any other historical cemetery I have seen. Several years back I took a ghost tour of this cemetery at night around Halloween. I didn’t see any ghosts, but still found the stories of the inhabitants fascinating. As one can imagine, Galveston is one of the most haunted cities in America and there are many ghost tours scheduled throughout the city.

Later when the sun came out, I did venture down for a walk on the beach. I collected some shells. Why? I don’t really know why. I collected 5 of these marine specimens. Is there some gene within the human body that compels us to collect shells whenever we are at the beach? This must be true for me.

But I also found this creative structure on the beach. It fascinated me and I studied it for some time. How was this made? And by whom? My first thought was that this was a Galveston version of Stonehenge. But what genius mind did this? In no order whatsoever, here are my guesses for the builders: Architects, Engineers, Pagans and/or Aliens.

What’s your best guess? Whoever built it knew what they were doing. I looked at this for a long time to see if the solstices and equinoxes would make themselves known. But apparently, I am not as smart as any of the aforementioned categories of geniuses. Okay, I must go back and check to see if this structure is still there. Maybe I should go for the Spring Equinox next week. What do you think? 

Until next time.……

Managing Mental Health and a Freelance Business

One of the really great things about the work I do as an editor is that I have the freedom to make my own hours and adhere to my own schedule. I hate waking up early and have always done my best work late at night (I may be writing this at almost midnight, but shhhh), and I love being able to work around the hours my brain seems to naturally do best with.

This girl has a much nicer setup than me, but I don’t need to take a picture of what I actually look like working at night, sprawled on my bed in my pajamas.

One of the hard things, though, is having to be the one to enforce that schedule. Especially when things like mental health get in the way.

I’ve always made it a point to advocate for destigmatizing mental illnesses, and in past blog posts have certainly alluded to the fact that these past few years have been rough on me, like many others. So, leading by example, I have no problem sharing that I have had some pretty intense struggles with depression and anxiety, particularly over the last year.

Of course, I say I have no problem sharing, but there’s that part of me in the back of my mind going “NOOOO delete this and write something else, this makes you look SO unprofessional, people are going to think you’re falling apart and you’re unreliable!!!”

Which is exactly why it’s so important for me to share, because it’s not any more shameful than a physical illness. If I had chronic migraines, I wouldn’t be embarrassed about them keeping me from work or other life events.

And yet, when it’s a depressive episode or panic attack, it ends up being a big source of shame that I let something that’s “all in my head” prevent me from completing projects on time (and thus I feel unprofessional, and I’m ashamed, and that causes stress, and that makes the anxiety/depression worse, and then we get ourselves a nice little spiral). As always, not something I would ever hold against someone else, but our self standards are never as realistic or gentle.

In a way, it’s nice not having a regular 9–5 in these moments, because it’s much easier to take a day off without having to answer to anybody. I’m my own boss, and I can’t exactly fire myself or have myself written up for subpar work or unapproved absences.

But of course, I do have clients, and I do end up feeling incredibly guilty when I’m not always able to meet the deadlines I promised when I was in a better headspace, or I forget to answer an email and the anxiety of it all makes me put it off even longer. 

And so little time.

If I was injured, or came down with the flu, I would have no problem sending out emails to alert folks that I’m going to be a week or two behind schedule. But it’s not exactly a standard practice to send an email that says “Hey Jimmy, this is going to take me a while longer. Unfortunately I’m having a prolonged bout of anxiety because I had to deal with something triggering in my personal life and now I must lie in bed and watch all of Breaking Bad instead of attending to my work responsibilities while my brain calms back down.”

…Which may or may not have been what I was up to the last few weeks, hence this choice of blog post as I’m getting back to a better frame of mind and playing a great deal of catchup. 

I don’t really have much advice here or a plan of action for next time, other than therapy and becoming more comfortable at least saying, “Sorry, I have a personal matter to deal with.” But I wanted to write this anyway, to let other professionals and creatives know that if they’re dealing with similar things, they’re not alone. All we can do is be gentle with ourselves, do what we can, and nurse our souls back to a place where we’re able to pick back up and get back to our real selves.

And for the record, my Breaking Bad binge truly was epic. Not sure it helped my stress, but DAMN that’s some great TV. And a good reminder that as down or anxious or otherwise stressed as you may be, at least you’re not trying to build a meth empire in Albuquerque.

Sometimes perspective helps.

It could always be worse. At least you’re not this guy. Or, you know, I definitely hope you’re not. Maybe consider a good therapist if you are.


It has been a while since this RoadBroad took off on an adventure. Recently, my friend, Sharon Gilmore, offered me the opportunity to take a cruise. I’d always wanted to go on one, but my family is not fond of the idea of being out in the open water. So, when Sharon said she could use a cabin mate, I jumped on the opportunity.

The Adventure of the Sea is a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and it is huge. Truthfully, I was amazed at the immensity of it, and how cozy it actually felt. In spite of having 14 decks and an expansive array of shops, food halls, show spaces, and assorted activities, the ship felt homy.

So what does one do on a cruise. Well, the center of the ship is taken up by the casino which seems like the place where most people hang out. There are great activities and sections for children of all ages to pass the time. But for the single adult travelers, the key activities revolve around eating, shopping, and watching shows. There’s also great spaces for taking in the sun and enjoying the sound of the water as the ship moves through it.

As a writer, I hung out a lot on the smoking deck with a cigar and my computer. I also enjoyed the wonderful food each evening. The chef prepares a thematic menu and on the final evening the kitchen staff come out and perform a dance. Coming back to our cabin was always exciting. You never could tell what towel animal was going to be waiting for you. We found a monkey hanging from a hanger and then there was this fellow lounging on my bed.

My ship stopped at Costa Maya and Cozumel. We enjoyed the beautiful beach, and did some major shopping. We had lunch at a local restaurant and indulged in a margarita at Margaritaville. Needless to say we took photos with locals dressed up for the tourists as indigenous Mayans.

The water in this part of the world is so beautiful. Crystal clear and blue the sound of it is so soothing. It felt so good to get out there and travel again. I am really looking forward to doing it again soon. For now, here are a few awesome pictures I took on the trip.

Kites and Creativity

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No, it’s not Superman. It’s a kite. Actually it is a bird kite. I took this picture on a warm and windy day on top of what is now referred to in Houston as the Land Bridge. It is one of the nice spots here that gives the impression that there are people in this Bayou City that care about environmental matters. In fact there are really two land bridges that span Memorial Drive and provide a great place for walking, jogging and flying kites.

One nice feature of this area is all of the green space that surrounds it. This includes an arboretum, jogging and biking trails and picnic areas. These land bridges connect two of the largest sections of the park. Even though I went there in the middle of the day during the week, there were lots of others enjoying the space. I was resting at the top of one of the bridges when I spotted this one gentleman walking along with a kite that appeared to be taller than himself.

Since it really was quite windy, I had to watch the skill involved with flying this beautiful piece of art. As you can see in two of these pictures, he flew the kite quite successfully. I watched for a while and when I moved on, the flight of the many colored bird was still in process.

These are the kind of things I like to do when I need to take a break from writing. I step away from staring at a screen and look out as far as I can see. I watch all of the funny looking people as they are looking at me thinking I must be the strange one. As windy as it was that day, it really felt like all of the cob webs were being cleared out of my mind and essence. I was ready to go back home and write some more.

There is much more to see about these new creations in the park. I will definitely go back and give you a full report in future posts.

Until next time.….

Redefining Success

If you asked me at any point during my life what the most important things to me are, I would say my friends and being creative. Art and the people I love have always been the things I care most about in the world, no contest. And yet, while I have so many incredible friends and so much time to dedicate to creativity, I’ve considered myself a failure for years simply because I didn’t have a steady job or other material things and, in my eyes, wasn’t “good” at life.

Now, as my editing business has grown exponentially over several months, and I am finally starting to see a glimpse of what could be a path forward, I’ve begun to do a lot of thinking about what success actually looks like for me. For most of my life, my measurement for success in life has been completely tied to my accomplishments and nothing else. If I’m doing good work, supporting myself, and checking all those boxes, I’m successful. When I wasn’t living up to those standards the past few years, it didn’t matter that other things about my life were good, I was unsuccessful and a failure, and it became a source of major problems with depression and low self-esteem.

Now, as things are starting to pick back up career-wise, ironically I’m finally starting to unpack how unfair it is to have spent so much time giving material things complete control over my perception of whether I have a good life, and really, over my self worth. It’s not a measurement I would apply to anyone else but myself, and I’m finally beginning to accept that my standards are impossible. I’m realizing it wasn’t my lack of material success over the past few years that was causing my mental health to deteriorate, but rather the pain of failing to meet standards that don’t even matter to anyone else but me.

Of course, having that realization isn’t quite enough to suddenly reprogram a lifetime of thinking, and it’s going to take a long time to fully separate my definition of success from my concept of self-worth, but it’s allowing me to become more realistic and gentle with myself as I start to consider what I want the next few years to look like, and what success really is. I think it’s still fair to have material goals for myself, but I’m also able to start giving more weight to my personal successes as well.

In the next few years, I’d like to get back to a place where I’m able to independently support myself again and am building my work as an editor to a point where I’m able to have a full-time career that I find fulfilling and exciting. To me, that’s what being successful will look like.

But also, I want to continue building and maintaining the friendships I have, and be able to dedicate time to my non-work related passions like theatre and making art for the fun of it, not just to pay bills. If I’m able to do that, even if I don’t meet my material goals, that’s really what being successful will look like. 

It definitely makes me sad that I haven’t been recognizing my personal successes for what they are, but as I work to release all of the screwed up, impossible standards I have for myself, I’m finally understanding. Though I may not have the career I want yet, or my own apartment, and I’m not always able to pay my bills on time, I’ve still been able to fill my life with fun, rich experiences and so many incredible, beautiful people who I love and who love me right back. 

Even in the times when I’ve only had $1.25 to my name, I’ve really been the luckiest, most successful version of myself all along.

Me (top row, just left of center; I’m the one in a bonnet and gray scarf) getting to do theatre in October 2022 with people I love. <3

On Deadlines

As you all know by now, I’m very intense about scheduling. I balance a lot of things and so time management is key for me. This year, my main goal is to keep my writing front and center. To make it a priority and not let other things push it over to a back burner. After all, United Vidden — which is book 1 of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall series — released way back in 2020. Book 2, Gortive Offensive, is now late!

One of the things that I have done to work on this goal is set up times in my schedule for writing. But since I have used this strategy in the past and then re-assigned the allotted times, I knew I needed additional things to keep me on track.


Continent of Vidden
Planet Jorn

So I reached out to my illustrators. With Araceli Casas, I have arranged for her to make two maps for this novel. Because the book is about the Gortive Offensive, I felt that giving readers a couple maps that show the movement of troops and where key battles take place would be a good idea. In order for her to have them done in time for the production of the novel, I have to have the rough drafts of the maps by February 15. Which means, I have to finish the book before then. This pressure helps me focus on getting the book finished.

Another way to push myself is by working with Arthur Doweyko, who made the beautiful illustrations of the Gortive for my book’s cover. I arranged with him to have illustrations of a jorse and a jippo in the book. A lot of readers like the idea of the AI horse and wish they could have a picture of what I imagine it looks like. Again, by arranging this with my team, I am pushing myself to get the book done.

Royal Crown of Auldivia
Planet Jorn

Editors & Readers:

Of course, the most important people on my team are my editors and beta readers. Max Regan is my primary developmental editor and writing coach, and he is ready to get his hands on the book. The subtle and yet persistent pressure of “When is that coming to me, Fern?” from him is a good motivator.

As is the gentle push from Rachel Connelly. Her input on the book as my second editor is super important to me, especially as she has helped me compile a cheat sheet of my universe as set forth in book one, United Vidden. This has been an invaluable assistance, because it helped me realize I had already given some characters names in that book so changing them in book two was a big no-no. Plus, it will be a great resource to offer my readers either in the book or as a separate giveaway piece that helps them keep track of the world with greater ease… it certainly is helping me do so.

Chief Lorgarn of the Pathos Gortive Leader; Planet Jorn

I also have some hard core fans who are awaiting the opportunity to read the pre-published draft and give me their opinions. These help me a lot to see how readers are experiencing the novel’s events. It is also great inspiration to me as I try to make my super fans love the work even more.

This Blog:

So, basically, what I am saying is, I have to finish Gortive Offensive by February 15th.

There. Now this blog is another tool to push me to get it done. I’ve declared it here and I am committed to meeting that deadline. You all now, dear blog followers, have become a part of the pressure campaign to keep me on track to make this DEADLINE!

Wish me luck!

February: What Is This Month For?

Oh my, what time of the year is it? I am beginning to see red heart decorations everywhere I go. It’s got the skeletons all kinds of excited. They have started trying on costumes to decide what they want to wear when I decorate my balcony for Valentine’s Day. It’s so much fun to watch their excitement.

I understand that there are other parts to February that some folks seem to enjoy. There is Ground Hog Day, which seems to be very important in the northern parts of this country. Here in Houston, We are enjoying winter weather with the temperatures resting around 40 to 45 degrees. It’s been rainy and grey, but since I spend most of my time writing stories about ghosts and grim reapers, the weather seems perfect to me. Some parts of Texas are getting ice and snow, but so far the Texas power grid is holding up.

There are two other February holidays that I don’t celebrate. The first one is the Super Bowl. Since I am not a football fan, all I know is that this is a big game with a big half-time show and lots of commercials. Really, that’s all I know. One of the teams will win and everyone will have a party. Then there’s also Mardi Gras. This is another occasion that I know little about except it’s very big in New Orleans and Galveston. There are parades and lots of people party and throw beads at each other. So far the skeletons have not shown an interest in either of these two occasions. I have never caught them tossing a football back and forth; nor have they ever expressed an interest in throwing beads at any of my neighbors.

What I have been spending a lot of time with is my health. A couple of months ago I fell several times. I checked with a neurologist who suggested that I stop doing that and sent me to physical therapy. I also got a lot of tests like MRI’s and an EMG. If you’ve never had an EMG it’s the next best thing to being electrocuted. I still don’t know what made me fall, but I have a long list of things that are not wrong with me. I haven’t had any strokes recently, I don’t have a brain tumor and I don’t have neuropathy. Good for me. Physical therapy is working and I have been using a cane. The fun part is using a cane. I already have one with the head of a skeleton on it. People are nicer to you when you walk with a cane. That alone is reason enough to keep using it. Plus I plan to make it a grand fashion statement.

Picture, if you will, an old broad walking down the street with flowing white hair going out in all directions, dressed primarily in black and using a cane with the head of a skeleton for a handle. Sounds like fun to me and the skeletons and skulls inspire my work.

I saw this picture of Patti Smith on the Art Issue of Harper’s Bazaar and immediately felt inspired. While I don’t think she uses a cane, she has the rest of the look down. In this publication she is quoted as saying:

I’ve survived [because] I want to live. Even in our troubled world. Even with all the greed and stupidity and terrible things that we’re all facing…I want to be alive. I want to breathe. I want to do my work.”

I have never had any desire to grow old gracefully and I’m certainly not going to start now. With role models like Patti Smith, I know which roads to choose in my journey.

Until next time.….…

Becoming the Perfect Adult

When the pandemic hit and we all went into quarantine, I was twenty years old, and had just moved out of my childhood home barely three months before. That means I only had from December 2019 to March 2020 to experience “normal” adult life, on my own in the real world, before everything shut down. I had finally made my big move to join the world, and then the world went dark.

Most of my first year away from my family was spent in near complete isolation, followed by a serious relationship that, without going into too much detail, ended up being even more isolating than the quarantine. 

Now the world has opened back up, and I’ve long since reconnected and made amends with the important people that got pushed away, but three years later it feels like I’m more or less right back where I started in late 2019. I’m back living with family and once again fighting for the ability to support myself and get back out into the world.

I’ve heard a lot of early 20-somethings say the same thing, that the events of the past three years somewhat forced a false start, and now we’re all trying to remember who we were and who we wanted to become before everything was put on pause. It’s difficult enough to figure out your early 20s when the world is normal, and I know I’m not the only one who feels like they’re only a few baby steps into climbing what looks like an impossible mountain.

I’m struggling to figure out the next half of this post, because I’d really like to spend it laying out what my plan is and how I intend to relearn who I was before global isolation and a damaging relationship made me forget, but honestly, I’m still not sure. And that’s okay I think.

Growing up as a massive perfectionist, it’s hard to accept that I can’t write out a step-by-step checklist with “HOW I’M GOING TO FIND MYSELF AND STARTCAREER AND BE THE PERFECT ADULT” at the top of the page and expect it to work. I thrive when I have structure, and the realization that I’m just as much of a mess as everybody else is a truly scary one for me.

But that’s the thing. I’m just as much of a mess as everybody else. There’s not a person in the world who doesn’t feel messy on some level, and it’s silly to think I’d be the one exception. I don’t love my friends or family any less when they’re not perfect. It wouldn’t even cross my mind. Every single organic being in the world is a little imperfect, and it doesn’t make them any less lovable or important.

Four-leaf clovers come from genetic imperfections or developmental errors, and they’re considered lucky. We’ll spend hours in a field seeking them out, not caring a bit about their normal three-leaf neighbors.

My black cat (ironically, an unlucky symbol), Nero, had an infection as a baby that caused him to go blind. He has no eyes, technically an imperfection, and he bumps into things and misses the litter box and one time accidentally headbutted me so hard my lip was bruised for a week, but it doesn’t make him any less lovable, important, or smart.

If we can recognize that in nature and in our pets, we can recognize it in ourselves. I am imperfect, and messy, and certainly very lost after the last few years, but it hasn’t made me any less smart, caring, talented, funny, and creative. I may not have a good grasp of who I am and who I want to be outside of those things, but those are the most valuable anyway, I think.

I may not have a plan, but I am still important, imperfect, and alive. And that’s enough.

I am a Writer

Before I was a writer, I was a writer. I wrote as a child, making up all kinds of stories and performing plays for my family. I even charged my mom 10 cents for the popcorn she prepared for us.

Later, I became a journalist, and worked in public relations. I wrote news articles about the cultural events in Houston. I provided a calendar for the Daily Bulletin of what was playing in the theaters, exhibited in the museums, and festivals that were coming up. Because I needed a job that paid enough to cover my bills, I became a teacher of reading and writing. Wrote with my students and modeled writing for them.

But I never thought of myself as a writer. It was something I did as part of being a kid playing, a journalist reporting, a person promoting some event, or a teacher guiding learning. It was never something I consider an essential element of who I was.

The day I realized that being a writer was my core identity was when I met and connected with the people of the Houston Writers Guild. I began the journey of discovering and connecting to who I’ve always been. I went to conferences and networked with people who were passionate about writing. I learned about the industry and about the varied paths a person might take to getting work published.

And then, one day, I understood that I was not only a writer at the very core of my identity — that my voice and the stories that sought to come forth from me were in fact who I am — but that I wanted to be a working writer.

You see, a working writer is a writer that is actively engaged with writing, seeking to bring forth into the world the projects that need birthing. So, I stepped out of teaching and focused on writing as a profession. Got side tracked with publishing other authors, but that was a critical part to understand the journey for my own publication process, and it is a very rewarding part of my life in many ways.

This year, it’s time to put my writing front and center; to prioritize working on my projects and getting my books out into the world. Today, I can, with the full confidence of knowing what I was born to do and the security of understanding who I am, move my life in a balanced way towards fulfilling my purpose as a working writer.

Towards that goal, I have spent the first two weekends in January doing an intensive retreat to kick off my writing year. I’m also ready to enjoy and learn at the Houston Writers Guild’s Love Your Writing Seminar. It will take place on Saturday, February 18. Check it out if you are a writer. It’s a great place to get started on the 2023 road to birthing a legacy in words. www.houstonwritersguild.org