"Someone please tell me it's not a train"

(Ah, Cracker.)

So, at the risk of calling the Fates down upon my head, I wanted to let people know what's been going on in general.

A few months ago, I took over the affairs of someone who can't handle them any more. And it's been very much like when I bought my house out of forclosure last year--this person's affairs are complicated and have been badly neglected for some time, and I've been spending the past few months metaphorically getting the rats and ivy removed, getting floors put in, and getting rid of the Tree That Is Going To Fall and Kill Us All.

We're now at the point where the emergency work has been completed. (We think. Assuming there are no more surprises--ahahahahahahaha. Still, it seems quite unlikely at this point that anyone is going to have to go to jail for tax evasion, which is a definite improvement.) We could move on to, you know, planting bulbs and putting in furniture and making this house truly a well-functioning home.

Except that 1. I am getting resentful (seriously, some days all I do is go to Staples and talk to lawyers), and 2. the person whose affairs these are does not handle change well. Positive change is still change, and this person is going to need some time to adjust to the fact that the attic is a lot less noisy, there are bushes visible in the front yard, the floors are no longer bare concrete, and the tree that was growing such pretty mushrooms out of its trunk is now gone.

So we've decided that it's in everybody's interest to give it all a rest for a bit. Which should mean that I can start writing again soon (bring it on, Fates!), and hopefully I'll stop seeing searches like "Mary Sisson died" when I go look up my site stats.

The inevitable freaking out

So, looking at what I've been doing today, I think it's safe to say that I am in the inevitable freaking-out stage that apparently must precede any return to writing after a period away. Tax year 2014 is in the bag, and despite my best efforts, I cannot convince even myself that freaking out about tax year 2015 is entirely necessary. It won't happen tomorrow, but hopefully Tuesday will mark my return to the life of a novelist.

Progress report

I'm still working on the cover, but here's what the front/e-book cover will look like, minus the title and author's name (plus I need to clean up the head a bit).

So, it's supposed to remind you of the game Snake. It's a dragon (a bad dragon), and it's either going to be eating the book title or it's going to be breathing flames and the title will appear on the flames. Actually, looking at it here, the latter idea is just too complicated to work in that space. So, the dragon will be eating the title--sounds good.

It's still neat when this happens

So, yeah, things got busy again--we have to get everyone's ducks in a row before April 15, which can be tricky when you take into consideration the fact that some people weren't entirely aware they had ducks....

But I woke up this morning with a cover for the young-adult fantasy novel just completely there in my head. It's something that I think will be visually interesting, it's something I can do myself (i.e. it requires no actual drawing ability), and it would reflect certain plot points in the book. What I don't know (and I guess I won't know until I use it) is if it will trigger some sort of expectation that isn't fulfilled by the books itself. ("I was sadly disappointed by the complete absence of bananas in this book!")

Progress report

Obviously the Universe responded to my having time to write again by dropping a piano on my head (Dear Universe: Quit reading my blog!), but I seem to have things under semi-control again, so today I edited what I'd written before.

Progress report

Things are finally settling down to a point where the family stuff can just be a side project, so today I read over the last couple of chapters of the fantasy book and did some edits. Fingers crossed for writing tomorrow!

How to be one broke-ass millionaire

One of the things that I've been dealing with lately is people who are making the transition from living off a paycheck to living off a lump sum of money. Now, in these cases, it's because people have retired and are starting to live off their savings. But obviously people who switch from a regular job to indie writing can run into the same issue.

It can definitely be a tricky transition, because if you are a good little saver, you typically don't touch your savings--you salt them away for a rainy day. Then a rainy day (or a rainy rest of your life) comes along, and you don't know how to adjust

As a result not understanding how to manage a lump sum of money so that you can actually live off it, I've personally known two people who 1. had plenty of money, and 2. were broke--at the same time. (It should be noted that BOTH people were trusting absolutely everything to professional money managers.)

How could it be that people can have plenty of money, and yet be broke?

Case #1: This was a few years ago, when my father was still alive. One of his relatives was ailing badly. She desperately needed to move into an assisted-living facility, but she just couldn't afford it.

Except that it turned out that she could. Remember how I mentioned that a million dollars, invested relatively conservatively, could give you an income of $20,000 to $30,000 a year? Well, you can also invest it so that it gives you an income of ZERO dollars a year. Which was how this woman's money was invested.

Worse yet, she didn't even know she had it. Perhaps her husband (who had died) or perhaps a professional money manager (who had since moved on) had made that investment--she didn't know. She was a woman of a certain age, and in her mind, it was somebody else's job to worry about that kind of thing.

You can say that she deserved it for being so oblivious, but she suffered quite horribly as a result of "not being able to afford" appropriate care. Things got pretty bad before my dad decided to intervene and figure out what the hell was going on--because it really didn't make sense to him that she should be so broke.

Because she wasn't.

Case #2: This has been more recent, and it's been a real eye-opener for me because we got focused on this early, so I've been watching the process unfold.

So, again, let's say there's a million dollars that is invested to give an income of $20,000 to $30,000 a year. And it has been providing a lovely supplement to this person's Social Security and pension income, except that she decided that managing the lump sum was too much trouble, so she called in the professionals.

What was the first thing the professionals did? They took that $20,000-$30,000 a year away.

Oh, they didn't steal it, of course not--that would be illegal! They just put it someplace where the person can't get to it. Unless she makes a special request for an "allowance," which will be--well, you know, they have to pay her taxes and of course their fees (which are not low) get deducted out of everything first, so maybe $250 a month? Or less?

The knock on her income is kind of an issue, because this person's cost of living is increasing as they get more frail, and Social Security is looking at her assets and saying, "Why are you getting so much money from us?" She really does need the additional income. And of course the professionals are more than happy to provide her what she needs--by selling off her investments.

Oh, boy.

Not shockingly, we are intervening. There are people in my family who have made it well past 90, and we're not thrilled at the idea of this one running out of money and getting evicted (most likely from a nursing home) 15 years from now. That's where the professionals will lead her--and once they ruin her, they will just walk away. Because their work will be done.

This Is a Really Good Film

Things are, as expected, kind of crazy right now--it's family stuff that I can't really talk about, but we've made some legal moves that will hopefully allow everyone to be taken care of in a way that is both effective and manageable for Team Responsible Adults. In the short term, it does mean a lot of extra work for me (I'm going to computerize things! A shocking idea, I know), but I'm hoping I can set things up so that I budget a certain amount of time for all that, and then can budget a certain amount of time for, you know, the stuff I actually enjoy doing. Like writing.

In the meantime, I watched This Is Not a Film, which is a movie about the Iranian film director Jafar Panahi and his experience being under house arrest and banned from making movies by the Iranian government.

It's excellent, but it's one of those movies (like Barton Fink or Adaptation) that is very much about being a creative person, which means that 95% of the people who watch it (even if they like it) really have no idea why it was made. The thing is, here's this guy who really is compelled to create, and he is prohibited from creating--so he's incredibly frustrated, which really brings out so much about the creative process because he's so nostalgic about it (plus he just can't not do it, no matter how dangerous it is).

The result is a movie that basically goes step-by-step through the various aspects of creativity: There's world creation (he literally tapes out a set onto his living-room rug), there's a whole meditation on how you start out making something but then it starts to make itself, and there's the fact that it's really therapeutic. At first Panahi's art is a welcome distraction from everything that's going on in the real world, but then what's going on in the real world become impossible to ignore (and there's that moment of guilt about having used art to escape). Finally, he gets behind the camera and starts making art out of what's going on!

Anyway, it's really brilliant--it's so much more than, "House arrest sucks!"--and I heartily recommend it. And obviously I hope Panahi gets his freedom sooner rather than later!