Sunday, December 30, 2012


This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a month now. I don't know why I'm so reluctant to simply let go of it, one way or another, but I am. I want to keep it, to remember it, and I also want to get rid of it, to erase it. But I'm tired of being indecisive and I'm tired of seeing it in my drafts, so I'm posting it today, to let it finish out 2012, and tomorrow or Tuesday, I will write some nice inspiring "2013 will be all better" post to start off the New Year with a little more optimism.

I left a comment on Anne Stuart's blog this morning and I've been thinking about it all day. I need to revisit it. And what better place to do that than here?

Blogging is public, obviously, but my blog is also personal. Posts on this blog go back six years or so, long before I started writing fiction again, and I'm willing to bet that I'm the only person who's read some of the older posts. That's fine by me. For a long time, I posted words here but I never mentioned them anywhere else. This was literally an online journal--my memories, stored in the cloud. When I self-published my books and linked the books to the blog, I accepted that people might find it but I also never really expected that people would. I'm saying all this because I'm torn between my desire to write with honesty--for myself, for what I need out of writing at the moment, for my own experience--and my awareness of the possibility of an audience. Personal versus professional, I guess. So, warning: this is intensely personal and if you're only reading because you're hoping to find out when A Gift of Time will be available, it is absolutely okay with me if you stop reading and go do something more fun with your time.

So here's how the story goes.

R was unbearable last Sunday. Completely annoying. I finally snapped at him, "I'm done. Go away. I can't handle this. I don't want to hear it."

He did the hurt look.

I felt guilty.

I said, "Wallow in your own room. In your space. But I am not up for this level of self-pity."

He exited. Gracefully. I felt guilty. More than guilty. Evil. Mean. Bad mom.

Eventually, probably at least an hour later, I wandered over to his bedroom doorway. He didn't glare at me. He gave me the stoic, "you have crushed my spirit and wounded my sensibilities" look. It's a good look and he does it well. All his life--or at least from the time he was eight months old, which is the first time I can remember this feeling--he's been a master at the expression that says, "you have failed me, but I forgive you anyway." It's a powerful look and someday I should write the story of the only time I spanked him and how quintessentially perfect it was for my parenting philosophy, but that's not today's story. Anyway...

I said to him, "You have a genetic predisposition to depression. It is an illness. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain, a shortage of dopamine and maybe serotonin. It can be helped with drugs. And if you think that is where you're at, we can go to the doctor and get you medication and that's okay."

He shook his head.

I said, "That's fine, too. But what I'm hearing you say is that you feel overwhelmed and if you're overwhelmed, you still have options. I sort of think they're obvious. If you can't finish your English project, you tell your teacher, I can't finish, I need to work over Christmas break. And she says, well, I'll have to downgrade you a letter grade and you'll get a B instead of an A. And so what? You'll live with a B."

He glared.

I repeated, "So what? You'll live with a B."

He glared more. Maybe added a nostril flare.

I shook my head. "You have choices. You have options. It is not the end of the world or anywhere close if you get a B. Or worse. Nothing that you're doing is going to affect the fate of the world."

The glare deepened.

"Dude," I tried, "When I was in 11th grade, everything was desperately important to me. I felt like screwing up would be..." I couldn't come up with the words for what it would have meant to screw up in 11th grade. I shrugged helplessly. "I knew that I couldn't screw up. But I was wrong. It wouldn't have mattered if I did. And it doesn't matter if you do. You'll be fine. We'll be fine."

"I'm not going to screw up." His words were tight and hostile.

I sighed. Being a mom just sucks sometimes. You want to show that you understand but it doesn't come across that way. "I was desperately worried about disappointing people when I was your age," I said, trying hard to keep my voice even. "But you know what? It's okay if you disappoint me. I will love you just the same."

His glare softened slightly. But only slightly.

And inwardly, I wanted to roll my eyes. Great, I'd told him he could disappoint me. That wasn't really where I wanted to go with this conversation. He is--okay, I'm a little biased--the most amazing kid ever. He's never going to disappoint me. Not because of anything he needs to do, but because he is who he is. He could fail every class, and he would still be the gentlest sixteen-year-old you have ever met. He would still be a charm magnet for six-year-olds. He would still be himself. There is nothing he has to achieve to be wonderful. He simply is.

So I persevered. "When I was your age, I felt like I had to be perfect. I thought I needed to be perfect. But that was an illness talking. That was the wrong amount of dopamine in my brain. You don't need to live that way."

He looked away.

"If everything is overwhelming and you can't handle the stress and what you need to do is stay home and play video games all day for a few months, that's fine. We can make that work. We'd figure it out."

"I don't," he grumbled, still not looking at me.

"Okay." I stood in his doorway feeling stupid. I'm not sure what I finished with. I don't know how I ended the conversation. But I walked away frustrated and worried and uncertain.

The next day, he was sick. Sore throat, flu-ish, so I told him to stay home from school. He did the same the next day. Wednesday, he was back to himself, cheerful and positive and offering up quirkily random bits of information, like the fact that golden eagles were used as hunting birds in Mongolia. And then he said to me,

"The opposite of depression isn't happiness, it's hope. You know you’re depressed when you’ve lost all hope, and you know you’re getting better when you find it again."*

I think I said something along the lines of "Feeling better?" to which he said, "Yeah," and the conversation ended.

But I've been stuck on the words ever since.

My friend Suzanne asked me if I wanted to go to Belize a few months ago. I said yes. Since 1999, Belize has been number one on my list of places I wanted to visit. I still remember sitting in our dreary apartment in Walnut Creek, on the hand-me-down-down-down couch, and hearing the name of a completely unfamiliar country on a television show, probably Zoboomafoo and thinking "Where's that?" It was a place I'd never heard of, despite three solid years of major Model United Nations activity in high school, and it sounded wonderful.

And now--I just don't care. I want to care. I think I ought to care. I keep reminding myself that I adore Suzanne and her husband and I love going to new places and I've wanted to visit Belize for over a decade. But I just can't find ... anticipation.

I told R the words that I had quoted him as saying, and he said that he wasn't nearly so poetic about it, and that he just meant that he felt like normal life included lots of looking forward to good stuff and depressed life didn't have any looking forward.

Yes. Exactly. Depressed life has no looking forward. I am living in the absence of hope. I am trapped in the inability to believe that the future matters.

I don't want to go to Belize. I feel as if I ought to want to. But I just don't. And it is that way for everything in my life right now. I simply can't make myself believe in the possibility of tomorrow. All there is, is now. And now isn't very interesting.

I stumbled across this post the other day. I know it's long. But the part where she talks about feeling like you're living life through a television screen? I went to my favorite event of the year a couple of months ago with one of my favorite people in the world and that is exactly how I felt. I wasn't really there. I am not really anywhere.

There's a saying, "Depression lies." Yes. It lies. But it also erases. Everything meaningful gets lost in a cloud of "so what?"

*This is the motivation post. It never really got to motivation. I am just not motivated these days.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Super Secret, Super Fun Project

Dear Carol and Judy,

After the two of you commented on my one-year-anniversary post, I decided that I wanted to make you something for Christmas.

If you lived near me, I would have baked you Christmas cookies. I make really good cookies.  I've got a long list of holiday favorites -- thumbprint cookies, molasses cookies, nut roll, cupcake cookies -- but my specialty is sugar cookies, the kind where you roll out the dough and sprinkle the top with colored sugar. I've made them almost every year since I was twelve or so. Even in the days before I knew how to cook, when my sauces separated and my rice stuck together like flannel pjs in midwinter, my sugar cookies were lovely. But I don't think they'd make it to New Zealand intact and I don't have the faintest idea where you live, Judy, but I'm pretty sure it's not down the street.

So no cookies. Instead, I  wrote you a story. (Or finished it anyway.) I thought I'd just post it here and that would be fun, but it got sort of long for that. Then I thought I'd make it a downloadable file, but that turns out to be complicated. You can't actually post a file to be downloaded at a blogger site, so I would have needed to get a real website. I was debating what to do--new website? email? dropbox?--when I remembered this summer, at my geekgirl presentation, describing Amazon as the biggest bake sale in the world.

Amazon. Bake sale. Sugar cookies. Christmas stories.


A Christmas present for the two of you. Free on Amazon for the next three days (December 26th through 28th), two days in reserve so in case you miss it, we can schedule a free day for when you can get it.

I hope it makes you smile.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I'm allowed...

R and I went out for dinner tonight. We had Korean food, as we did last Christmas day, and the restaurant was amazing. I had exactly the same experience that I did last Christmas, though, which is that the food was so good that I ate too much and then I was uncomfortable and by the time we got home, I felt vaguely hostile to the restaurant. But really, the food was terrific: we had their Korean version of sushi for an appetizer, which was yum, and then they do little dishes of vegetables, including a pickled radish, sesame seed green beans, spicy tofu, a sweet potato thing that R decided was too good to share with someone who doesn't like sweet potatoes, fish cake, kimchi...and I'm not sure what else. But yummy food, which I say to remind myself, and which is not my story.

So this is my story: when we got home, the dog -- the naughty, naughty, BAD dog -- had gotten into a bag of Lindt truffles. R saw the ripped up bag first and he was scolding her and upset before I even got into the house. The dog is, as per usual, completely insane with delight that we're home, madly excited, dashing between us, while R stomps around, mad as anything. It was his present to me, so he's upset that his present has been destroyed, but he's also upset because we've done this with Zelda before. This being the emergency vet visit, several hundred dollars, stomach pump thing.

I'm looking at the bag and trying to figure out the math. This will be the fifth time that Zelda has gotten into chocolate, which might say that we're really bad dog owners, except that Zelda is a Jack Russell terrier who can get into anything. Seriously, she opens closed doors by standing on her hind legs and using her paws, she opens cupboards with her nose. She can leave the backyard any time she wants, through multiple routes, and the only reason she doesn't (most of the time) is that she knows I don't want her to, even if she doesn't understand why. The only object in the house that she hasn't figured out how to open is the refrigerator, which is a good argument for keeping all chocolate in the fridge, but it was a present. Who keeps presents in the fridge?

So I'm working on the math. Six ounces, partially dark chocolate, and three ounces is the magically bad number for dark chocolate for a dog of her weight, but there's some left in the bag, and how many servings are there in the bag? Even as I'm trying to figure that out, I'm also trying to take her pulse. Racing heart beat is a symptom of chocolate poisoning for dogs -- that's how they die, really. But it doesn't feel that fast. It's fast, sure, but she's excited that we've just gotten home and bouncing around's normal fast.

I lean in and take a big whiff of her breath. Her breath is not lovely. It never is. But it doesn't smell like chocolate. Or like vomit. It was the vomit that I was trying to smell. On one notable occasion, she had her stomach pumped and only a day later did I find the pile of chocolate vomit under the bed in the spare room that would have told me the stomach pumping was unnecessary. I found said vomit because she went back to it for a snack--gah, dogs--and I smelled it on her breath. So I'm smelling but there's nothing there, no chocolate smell, no vomit smell. And she's settling down. We're home, that's good, and maybe she'll just take a little nap now that she can relax.

But a dog in the midst of chocolate poisoning? Is not going to be taking a little nap.

I finish my math. Ten truffles are missing. Presumed eaten. I go into the spare room to look under the bed. I don't get there. In the back corner of an arm chair is a Lindt truffle, half under the cushion. She didn't eat it. She didn't even break the wrapping paper. I start searching. Over the course of the next hour, I find eight of the ten missing truffles. One in her window dog bed, one in the dog bed under my desk. One in the couch in the living room, another in the arm chair. One in my bed, one under a pillow in the guest room. And so on.

A 9th is, I am sure, in my closet. I can tell from how she's acting now. She keeps going into the closet but when I follow her in, she acts innocent and quickly leaves. She's figured out that I'm stealing her treats. I have no idea what that feels like from a doggie perspective. She did some perfectly good hunting, gathering, and storing for later, and her pack leader has screwed it all up. Does she think it's unfair?

Along the way I find a bag of pills -- Vitamin C maybe? -- that she has also stashed. The citrus smell reassures me that it's nothing too scary but some guest in my house, I don't know who, lost a lot of pills at some point. Oops!

By the end of the hour, I'm totally comforted that the dog hasn't eaten enough chocolate to be dangerous and the dog is sulking. And R is not happy. In fact, he's pissed at Zelda -- she ruined his present. Not cool.

I point out to him that it was actually kind of fun in a way -- like an easter egg hunt. Been a long time since I got to do that. I didn't mind it and was amused by her creative hiding with the last couple chocolates. He says, "Oh, I should view this an as an entertainment value addition to my present?"

I say, "well..." and then point out the real plus. When we got home from dinner, I thought the dog might die. I was faced with the real possibility that Zelda had eaten enough chocolate that we would lose her. On Christmas Eve. On CHRISTMAS EVE! The relief of knowing that no, that wasn't going to happen? Golden. The joy of realizing that the ridiculous dog had hidden chocolate all over the house? Priceless.

R listened to this and nodded. And then he said, "So the perfect Christmas gift is for me to threaten to kill the dog and then not carry through on the threat? Handy. And cheap. I'll remember that for next year."

I think he has not quite forgiven her.

But it made me laugh.

And I'm allowed to share it, because he told me just the other day that it was okay if I told stories about him online.

Tomorrow's menu

Tomorrow's menu for four:

Scandinavian smoked salmon on butter crackers. Highly likely to come in two varieties, one with cream cheese, a little minced red onion and a couple of capers; the other on a horseradish cream sauce, sprinkled with dill.

Cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, possibly drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

A winter fruit salad, composed of mixed greens, topped with orange, grapefruit, red onion, pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds, with a vinaigrette dressing. I know I had a recipe for that, but now I can't find it anywhere, so maybe it was my imagination. That makes me nervous about the vinaigrette, so I'll probably spend too much time looking for the recipe later today.

Break for opening presents, then I spend twenty more minutes in the kitchen while other people amuse themselves. It's my strategy for both enjoying the meal and still having hot food. We'll see how it works. Anyway, break followed by:

Roast beef with a horseradish glaze, served with a cranberry horseradish relish. Yep, I'm continuing my experiments in spicy cranberry sauce. I'm sure I'll find one I love someday.

Mashed potatoes. Per request, completely plain unvarnished mashed potatoes. No garlic, no blue cheese, not even a little feta or sour cream snuck in there. (It wasn't really a request, more of a mild statement of affection for traditional mashed potatoes, from the tolerant recipient of all of my food experiments, aka R.)

Roasted green beans with lemon and garlic from this recipe, which just totally sold me.

Break for watching some televised Christmas special, followed by:

Cherry fruit paste from New Zealand with two cheeses, a camembert and a brie, and more crackers.

A dessert to be provided by my dad's wife, maybe Christmas cookies, maybe fruit pie (because R likes fruit pie.)

I'm hoping I may have finally figured out how to make Christmas bearable. As a kid, the only food traditions I cared about were the cookies. Our traditions were presents and jokes and music and decorations and a schedule that had us moving from one relative's house to the next in the cold, snowy weather. Aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents; sharing a basement bedroom with my sister and brother, with our parents asleep in the room next door; whispered early morning conversations while waiting for Santa; and so much laughing. So much laughter.

But I think my grandfathers were the sources of the laughter. And when they died, the laughter stopped.

My paternal grandfather died first. He loved to tell jokes. He told jokes to strangers, made people in stores laugh, was just the warmest man imaginable. His humor had not the slightest speck of malice in it. You would never have known from his friendliness and compassion of the burdens he bore without complaint. His wife, my grandmother, was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic in her 40s. As she grew older, she lost more and more of her hearing until she was really entirely deaf. He was her link to the world. Endlessly patient with her. He was a devout Christian and the closest thing to a saint that I've ever met. Also, he just loved to make people laugh. If he hadn't made you laugh at least once in your interaction with him, well, he'd keep trying. And you would laugh, eventually, or at least roll your eyes with a resigned smile.

Anyway, after his death, Christmas changed. His wife, my grandmother, had to be institutionalized. Against her will and via the legal system. I think it was hard and painful for all of the relatives in my parents' generation, but I don't know that they had any other options.

We still tried. And for a couple of years, we sort of made it work.

If my paternal grandfather told jokes, my other grandfather played jokes. Nothing made him happier than to give you a joke present that had you frowning down in confusion while he roared with laughter across the room. Well, except maybe giving my grandmother something that made her tear up with appreciation.

We had one last good year, a Christmas in New York. The only bad note was that my grandfather had a back ache that wouldn't quit. It turned out to be bone cancer and he died that April.

After that...we tried. We really did. Different places, different houses, different activities. We went to Disney one year, North Carolina once. I spent a Christmas in Seattle, another in Canada, another in Santa Cruz. My grandmothers and great-grandmother suffered through slow declines in institutions of varying levels of unpleasantness. (In a stroke of unfair irony, my aware and present grandmother lived the longest in the worst of them, while my grandmother with Alzheimer's spent her years unconscious in a much more comfortable, even almost pleasant setting.)

But I guess I've never managed to recover from the idyllic childhood. Christmas has been making me sad for close to twenty years now, and losing my mom just made that worse.

We'll see if making it all about the food makes it better. And meanwhile, I have a super-secret, super-fun project that I'm working on that I'd really like to have done tomorrow, so I had best get back to it! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The looking-straight-ahead-awkward-conversations

R and I were in the car today. I'm not sure how often that will happen now, so I figured I needed to get my difficult conversations in while I had the chance. One that I had been thinking about was about his privacy, basically about how and when I talked about him online. This week, a mom's post about her child went viral and aroused a lot of controversy, including some harsh words on children's right to privacy. It made me think. It made me worry.

So I started carefully. I wanted to set the stage. I wrote a ton about him when he was little, all on a board on AOL, and alas, most of it lost to the mists of time. The board shut down, I didn't have archives, I don't know what I said. I wish I did! But I've been more careful as he grew older. I actually started this blog to write about learning disabilities, oh-so-many-years-ago, but I never wound up doing that. He worked so hard, but his struggles felt private to me.

Lately, though, I've been less careful than I used to be. I've used his real name a few times; my written-but-not-posted-post on depression features him heavily; I've quoted things he's said in comments on other people's blogs and here, too. I didn't feel as if I was being insensitive, but would I necessarily know?

So I started talking. You know how sometimes when you know what you want to say but you don't quite know how you want to get there, you sort of wander around the point? I did that a little bit. R made a couple comments. I talked some more.

Finally, he interrupted me and said, “Mom, I’ve read what you write about me. You make me sound smarter, funnier, and far more charming than I really am. Feel free to continue.”

I laughed and laughed.

Because you know what? I really don't.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Driver's license

We are leaving the house in less than half an hour so R can take his driver's license exam and oddly enough, I am so anxious about it that I wish to throw up. But I'm not sure what I'm anxious about. If he fails, that'll be bad, but if he passes, he'll start driving my car. By himself.

If he fails, he'll be sad and mad and disappointed and that will all suck. If he succeeds, all of our car conversations -- which really are some of our best conversations these days, because it takes about twenty minutes to take him to his friends' houses -- will come to an end. No more racing to identify the pop music on the radio, no more debates about philosophy, no more looking-straight-ahead-let's-talk-about-something-awkward opportunities.

And having written it out, I feel much better.

I hope he passes. And when he does, I will simply have to make sure that we still go places together sometimes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


On 9/11, I was in California. By the time my alarm went off, the first tower had already collapsed. I heard at most ninety seconds of radio news before my five-year-old said, "What's a terrorist? What happened?" and I shut the radio off.

For most people, the next few days were non-stop televised tragedy. For me, it was the completely surreal attempt to shield my boy from the entire thing. My most vivid memory is of watching his kindergarten class play on the playground while adults stole away to listen to radio reports in the school director's office as furtively as if we were shooting up in the bathroom.

I asked him yesterday what he remembered. He thought about it then slowly shook his head. "Nothing. Not from when it happened. I remember a ceremony, some kind of memorial service, but I think that was later." Success!

I didn't realize this at the time, but by shielding him, I shielded me, too. It was years before I saw and heard the sights and sounds of that day. I wish I had done the same this weekend. I know that whether or not I put up the Christmas tree has nothing to do with anything that's happening in CT, but it feels so wrong.

Ironically, on Thursday, I was really happy. I'm working on a very fun secret project (not to be secret for long!), and I got my hot water heater fixed. It's been semi-broken for months, which is not that big a deal in Florida, really--cold showers are not usually a problem when it's 80 degrees--but oh, it was fun to have hot water again. I think I shall pretend to go backward in time to Thursday and work on being happy about hot water and being entertained by my secret project. Wouldn't it be nice if time could rewind like that?

Friday, December 14, 2012


I was in school to become a therapist before my mom died. You have to do a lot of self-analysis. In one course, we wrote papers about ourselves every week. My professor wrote a note on one of mine, almost at the end of the semester, that said, "Abused children can't." I think I stopped breathing when I read it.

A while later, I said to my mom, gently, carefully, in the car, "Did you hit us a lot when we were little?" I don't know what I thought the answer would be. Maybe, "sometimes," maybe, "once in a while," maybe, "oh, when you were bad."

She said, "Yes."

Long pause.

I wanted to know more and I didn't want to know more. I asked, "For what kinds of things?"

She said, "Anything. Everything." She was staring straight ahead, not looking at me, and I could tell how painful it was to her. So I didn't ask any more. Within the month she'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and five weeks later, she was dead.

Akira didn't come out of nowhere.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

One year

I told myself a week ago that I should do a numbers and facts post for the one year anniversary of self-publishing A Gift of Ghosts; how many copies sold, how much earned, best day, success of giveaways, that kind of thing.

Have I mentioned yet that I'm sleeping a lot these days? Yeah, I knew I had. Anyway, writing that post kept seeming like a lot of work. Really, a lot of work. Amazon does nice little Excel spreadsheets that you can download every month, but it's probably been three or four months since I've bothered and even though it's just a click, putting them all together and totaling all the numbers...well, it feels like kind of a lot of work.

(Side note: anti-depressants would probably be good for me. Caffeine is not cutting it. And no, Suzanne, I have not gotten R a passport. I feel guilty about it every day, though, which should count for something.)

This morning I woke up and thought, "Today's the day, one year, I'm going to do that post, just as soon as I write 1000 words on Time."

Twelve hours later, I have 400 new words on Time. That does not include the 81-word paragraph that I wrote ten different ways. If I included all of those words, I would easily have my thousand words, but since I cut most of them eventually, I can't.

So no book numbers--well, a few approximate numbers. I don't know precisely how many copies I've sold or given away or how much money I've made, because to figure out would require math. Lots of math. And I don't have the energy. But I do know that I have sold more than 3700 copies, given away somewhere in the range of 45,000 and made over $9000. I spent $50 on CreateSpace's extended distribution (for both books), probably about $50 on paper copies to give away (not to reviewers, just to friends and family), and $20 on artwork for covers, although $10 of that was for the cover of A Gift of Time, which I haven't even finished writing yet.

Economically speaking, self-publishing was undoubtedly the best investment I've ever made. If I was being purely economical, I'd have to calculate a value for my time, of course, but I wrote the books for fun and not because I ever thought I'd make money from them, so I didn't punch a time card and don't really have a sensible way of measuring dollars per hour. I should probably start trying to track hours, though, because it would be interesting to know if I ever start earning more than minimum wage on writing. At the moment, hmm...well, I might have. I didn't have a lot of days like today when I was writing Ghosts, so I very well might have made more than minimum wage on that one. Thought, probably not yet. And Time, ha. It's like a sinkhole of hours. But moving on...

Emotionally speaking, it's been truly different than I expected it to be. My plan was then--and still is, really--to write a million words and then decide if I truly want to try to be a professional writer. I worked in publishing so I have no illusions: writing is a grueling way to make a living. A nice hobby, but a painful career.

Posting Ghosts was a way to make it easy for the people who knew me to read it. Well, and for them to buy me a cup of coffee. It was Christmas and I was an unemployed graduate student with a fondness for Starbucks gingerbread lattes, so telling my dad and my brother and my sister and my closest friends to buy my book/me a cup of coffee seemed fitting. (Posting Thought, on the other hand, was meeting a commitment I made in the back of Ghosts--I probably won't be doing that again.)

And Ghosts--well, I love it. I love Akira. I love Zane. I love Dillon, I love Rose. (Oh my, do I love Rose! She is, at the moment, one very disgruntled angel. But I digress.) Honestly, though, I never expected other people to love it, too. Akira is anxious. And cautious. And casual about sex. And only very, very reluctantly heroic. Zane -- well, he's a hero who didn't even manage to save the heroine's life. (Although maybe he did, one could definitely argue that the CPR keeps her alive until Natalya shows up.)

As it turns out, I was wrong, and that has been such an unexpected pleasure for me. I was braced for the mean reviews, for the people who would not appreciate my geeky heroine or my slacker hero, who would criticize my commas and question my pacing. I told myself not to worry about them, people have different tastes, etc. But I was not remotely prepared for how much the nice reviews would make me melt or how I would savor them. "Well-researched" left me floating on air (thank you for noticing!), "delightful" is a hit of bliss on a gray day, "wish I could visit the town" makes me wish we could live there together. Nice reviews are like stars in a night sky, little dots of light in an otherwise endless darkness. Okay, maybe that's a little hyperbolic. Still, as of today, Ghosts has 52 five-star reviews, and 21 four-stars, Thought has 17 five-stars and 9 fours, and I treasure each and every one. They make me feel like the world has more potential friends in it than I would have ever imagined.

So...enough sappiness...on the one year anniversary of publishing Ghosts, I can say a few things. 1) It hasn't changed my life and there is no overnight success story or million dollar publishing deal here. 2) It has enormously exceeded my expectations, both financially and critically. 3) I'm glad I did it.

To you who are reading this, if you're a fellow writer, I don't have any secrets. "Write the book, let it go, write the next one" is the advice I'm following and it seems to be working pretty well. If you're a reader, thank you so much for sharing your free time with my world and I hope I can keep entertaining you. And if you're a real-life friend, then your name is Suzanne and I'm sorry about the passport thing. You might need to call R and get him to start nagging, because I'm just not managing to get it done on my own.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I walked into R's room and said, "I know you hate it when I rant about television. I know. But do you mind if I do it anyway?"

He said, "What show?"

I said, "Sherlock."

He said, "Yeah, I don't like that one anyway. Go ahead."

I said, "Forget the sexism. Take it for granted that Steven Moffat is completely insanely sexist, doesn't understand that women are human beings, whatever. Assume that and let it go. The show is still completely maddening."

He wrote something on a note card. I think he was prepping for his drama class.*

"It's like World of Warcraft, really. Irene Adler is a rogue. So, whatever, she's an evil female character, yeah, so what? Really, she's a rogue. Everyone hates rogues. They're annoying. But they are what they are and when they're played well, they kick butt."

He says, "What are you talking about?"

"I don't care whether Irene Adler is sexist. Yes, women tend to be rogues. They learn how to manipulate and back stab and stealth, because what the hell, those are useful skills when you're small and weak and somewhat defenseless. And they're really annoying skills when you're PVPing against them."

He blinks.

"I'm serious. Irene Adler is a rogue. Which is fine. Rogues suck, but it's a legitimate character class. But then -- then -- then he turns her into a pally. What the hell is up with that? Rogues don't act like pallies. Rogues don't do front-on confrontations. Rogues don't call people 'junior' and get all triumphant about defeating them. Rogues that do that kind of thing get their butts kicked."

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm saying that the ending of episode one of season two of Sherlock isn't annoying because it's sexist -- although god knows it's sexist -- it's annoying because it violates character class rules. It's annoying because it is absolutely crappy characterization. It's annoying because turning a rogue into a pally for ten minutes because it helps your script is lazy, lazy, lazy screenwriting."

He writes something on his notecard. "Done?"

"Yep. And I feel much better. Thank you."

"No problem."

I will probably have to give up watching television when my boy leaves home.

*He doesn't read my blog, but I was writing when he came into my room to say goodnight. It was government, not drama. Also, he doesn't think he said, "Done?" which he felt sounded pejorative. He thinks he said, "Feel better?" This could be true. But it would be unduly repetitive and he was willing to grant that it was okay as is.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Random Thoughts on a Random Monday

1) I'm a terrible manager of myself. If I was a good manager, I'd fire me for being a rotten employee.

1a) If I was my employee, I hope I'd fight my firing and try to get disability for depression instead.

1b) If I was a really good manager, I'd make my employee-self get treatment for depression.

I have a really long post half-written about depression. Not so much fighting it, because I'm not fighting it very successfully, but about the ironies of needing motivation to fight an illness when a symptom of the illness is lack of motivation. Actually, it's not really about that at all, but that's what it will get to eventually if I ever finish writing it. I promised a friend that I'd get medication in August. It's now December. Time moves very quickly when you sleep through it.

I suppose that counts as a random thought, but that wasn't where I was going with my randomness.

2) UFYH had a post about how doing one dish was better than doing none, although technically the person posting had done ten. For a brief moment in time, I found that motivating. Then yesterday I looked at the kitchen and did the math. If I wash one dish but use three, I am on a path of inevitable decline. My lackadaisical dishwashing simply staves off the moment when there are no clean dishes left and makes the misery of a mostly dirty kitchen last longer. Possibly much, much longer. So we did a 20/10 and Rory did the kitchen.

3) Walked the dog after dark yesterday. Not my usual habit. Instead of chasing lizards, she chased frogs, and instead of terrifying squirrels, she frightened a rabbit. My neighborhood has just as much animal life at night, but totally different. This morning I saw a hawk, sitting high up on a street light and I wondered whether an owl took its turn on the same post the previous night. I should walk the dog at night more often.

4) I was seriously considering skipping Christmas entirely this year. My entire gift budget disappeared last week in a -- wow, so I wish it had been an electrical problem, so I could write "crackle and pop", but no, it was more of a "thud" -- when R dropped his computer. Or dropped something on his computer. Or possibly both, I'm still not sure I understand the story. But the computer was dead and he needs a computer for school and thus, he has an awesome Christmas gift -- relatively, that is, it was the cheapest laptop we could get -- and there will be no other Christmas presents.

And Christmas was my mom's holiday. Last year I cried through decorating the tree and took it down the day after Christmas with relief. Why put myself through that? Then I read this post on Momastery. You know how sometimes you read something that doesn't really fit your circumstances but still strikes a chord? That's what happened. There's no line or sentence I can point to that was the meaningful one, but as I said there, "You’ve reminded me why I should care (about the holiday). We celebrate the light in the darkness. If it was just light in light, what would there be to be thankful for?"

I have a lot to be thankful for. (But I should probably still figure out how to get some anti-depression drugs.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


So...I will not win the lottery, because, let's face it, no one you know ever does. And at this moment in time, supposedly 130,000 people are buying a ticket every single minute (that stat courtesy of the WSJ) so the chances are insanely small. I suppose they always were, even before people went insane. It's not as if the mathematical odds change at all based on the number of people going crazy. Not the point, however.

After I picked up the kid from school today, we were talking about what we would do with our lottery winnings while on the way to the grocery store. For me, that mostly included paying for people to go to college. Many, many people. My nieces and nephews. My cousins once removed. My step-grand-niece. It just seems like the thing to do with a lot of money.

On the way home from the store, I said, "Let's pay for Cheyne to go to college, too." The kid said, "Um, why?" I said, "Why not? If I've won the lottery, then all your friends can win the lottery, too. We'll pay for everyone to go to college." The kid said, "Let's buy a ticket."

And so we actually bought a ticket.

Ooh, radical.

Most of the time, I am perfectly capable of enjoying the lottery without wasting money on it. The money is just to buy a couple hours of dreaming, imo, it's not like you'll ever win.

But that said, buying a ticket meant that I really needed to get my money's worth from my $2 so tonight was much lottery dreaming.

Twenty minutes ago, the kid came into my room to say goodnight and I told him of my new lottery plan. Okay, there's the $200 million to college tuition for random people, but also, wouldn't it be insanely fun to pick people and give them $1 million dollars where they get to keep $100K but then give away $900,000? It could be like a reality television show.

He frowned, skeptical, and I tried harder to persuade him. No, seriously, I said, we'll give Wil Wheaton a million dollars and he'll give $900,000 to the Pasadena Animal Shelter and we'll get to go visit. What cooler way could there be to spend a million dollars? We'd have so much fun.

He stayed skeptical. I tried harder. Nathan Fillion, I offered. We'll give him a million dollars, and see what charities he likes. Felicia Day. She'll probably go for something musical. Jenny Lawson. She'd go for mental health, I bet. The Vlog brothers. They'd definitely have fun with a million dollars to give away.

(I can think of others, too. Patrick Rothfuss would be on my list -- he'd give the money to Heifer International and that's pretty much the best destination I can think of.)

Finally, R nodded. Okay, he agreed, to my imaginary disbursement of millions of dollars that we don't have. That sounds good. But can we give money to Hyperbole and a Half first? I'd really like to know that she's okay.

My boy.

Holy shit, do I love him.

I would also really like to know that the creator of "All the Things" is okay.

And if we win many millions of dollars tonight (which we won't, because buying lottery tickets is really just throwing money away) that will be the very first thing we do.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Dialog avec boy.

Him to dog: All right, I'm going to unload the dishwasher and then go to bed.

(Departure from my room to kitchen.)

Me, realizing the opportunity: Yo! If you feel so inspired, set up the coffee for the morning.

Him, calling back from the kitchen: I'm really tired.

Me: Yo! Set up the coffee for the morning.

Him: Ugh.

That better mean that I have one-button coffee in the morning. Really, that's what it ought to mean.

Today would have been my mom's 70th birthday. A few years back, we talked about doing a cruise for her 70th birthday celebration. I was more okay than I expected to be with today being an entirely solitary day at home because honestly, she would have liked it that way. And I woke up this morning to Ghosts at #1 on the best giveaway Contemporary Fantasy list, which...well, those lists are kind of a joke. A) So what if you can give away more books than anyone else? Talk about a meaningless metric! And B) Amazon lists are fluid and flexible and really don't reflect anything much at all. But still, it felt like a nice birthday present when it wasn't really my birthday.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Free books

I set both books to be free this weekend, A Gift of Ghosts free today and tomorrow, and A Gift of Thought free on Sunday and Monday. I did nothing about mentioning them to anyone, mostly because I've told everyone I know about the books at least two or three times already and submitting to the sites that list free books has never, to the best of my knowledge, accomplished anything for me. So I set them free and let it go. (I love the image I just had of the books flying away into the sky, soaring on the wind, up into the clouds. Ha. Wouldn't it be cool if books came with wings? Ghosts would look lovely with white angel wings and Thought would be very cool as a raven.)

Anyway, no surprise, very few copies have been downloaded this morning. Total free downloads was 13 when I checked. But funnily enough, 13 copies downloaded over more than 4 hours was actually enough to put Ghosts onto the free bestseller list, at #6,896. Not a niche bestseller list at that number, but the main one. That has to mean that there are less than 10,000 books free on Amazon right now. And that I find fascinating.

I checked the bestseller list and it contains the usual suspects -- Tolstoy and Dickens and the Bible -- which means it's not likely that Amazon has started eliminating perennially free books. They could do that if they wanted to, and I've wondered if they would someday since there's an incremental cost to them in providing those downloads. The hundreds of free downloads a day, every day, of A Tale of Two Cities, never earns Amazon a penny, so if you accept their estimate of costs as being real costs, then they're probably spending $10/day to give Dickens away. (I'm going by the .06 download fee they charge me for each book downloaded.) That's nothing, of course, for them and when they were growing the Kindle market, the advantage of having classic books available was obviously worth the expense. Probably it always will be.

So if the small number of free books isn't because the classics are gone, therefore did Amazon crack down on people using price-matching to give away free books? A quick check of one that I know is price-matched shows that it's still there, so nope.

I think that adds up to there simply not being nearly as many free books on Amazon as there used to be. Or, of course, it could be the day--that most publishers and authors decided the biggest shopping day of the year wasn't the right day to go free. I'm intrigued to see what Monday will be -- will there be more free books or fewer? Monday is the day when people are supposed to be shopping online, of course (the famous Cyber Monday), so I would have thought it a good day to give away books. It'll be interesting to find out.

I'm not sure what conclusions I have. None, I suppose, except that the day of plentiful free books might be over. Maybe people have decided it's not worth giving them away.

PS SPOILERS Colin and Rose are currently flirting over Colin's dead body and oh, my, it's amusing me. First time I've felt enchanted while writing A Gift of Time, and it's such a great feeling.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Capturing a memory

Tomorrow ends my two dog weekend.

The most entertaining part of the weekend has been watching the two dogs negotiate. They are so incredibly different. I call Zelda "fluffhead" sometimes and it's because she's a long-coated JRT, so if I don't chop off her fur, which I routinely do, she can wind up looking quite fluffy. Gizmo deserves the name for other reasons. The difference between them is the difference between a guinea pig and...well, honestly, a human being. A small human being. A preschooler. Or maybe a toddler. The kind of human being who understands some of what you say but is often confused by your choices and motivations. Versus...a guinea pig. Poor Gizmo might, in fact, be the dumbest animal I have ever met. Cute, yes, but completely oblivious to everything.

Gizmo doesn't jump, Zelda does. So Zelda can get places that Gizmo can't. I give them treats. Sometime later, I discover that all the treats are buried under my pillow. I scowl at Zelda. There are enough treats to go around. There is no shortage of treats. And then I lift Gizmo onto the bed, so that he can choose from the treats. Five minutes later, I'm watching Zelda try to sneak the treat away from Giz. She doesn't just take it, she stealths it away. She's like the pushy salesman, who steps a little too close so that you step away and then suddenly you realize you've moved halfway across the room and are looking at exactly what he wants you to be looking at. Manipulative.

And my lap--oh, so funny. Zelda demands her space like a cat. She doesn't debate the rules with Giz like a dog should. She just squeezes him out. If he's going to be near me, she's going to be nearer. If he's going to be on me, she's going to be more on me. It's nice for me, except for the few brief moments when I've had two twenty-pound dogs sitting on my chest (not a lot of room for air in that scenario). Then I shove them both away and say, "You're dogs! Cut it out!" and Giz looks at me blankly, with his trademarked "the lips move, I wonder if that means something" gaze and Zelda looks shame-faced before starting to lick my hand and snuggling closer and closer until she can get her tongue onto my face, too.

Giz doesn't care about rides in the car. Not at all. And when you come home, he's like, "Oh, hi. You left the room a minute ago, didn't you? How've you been?" Zelda knows exactly what's happening when we head toward the back door and does her best ears up, eyes alert, plaintive plea to come with us. When we get home, she has an extremely finely tuned sense of time. If I've been gone for just a few minutes, she's hoping that I'm changing my mind and am going to bring her, but she's not going to get too excited about the unlikely possibility. If I've been gone for more than twenty minutes but less than an hour or so, she's happy to see me, with an enthusiastic hello, paws up, tail wagging. But if I've been gone for several hours, it's insanity. Dashing from room to room, desperately trying to get into my arms, must, must-must-must, have a chance to lick my face and have me rub her belly. It's that returning-vet-greeting every time I'm gone for a few hours. When I've been gone for days, though, totally different story. It's "Oh, you're back, great, I need to go to sleep. Right now. Preferably on you, but okay if not." I come home from a trip and she crashes as if she hasn't slept in days. I'm wondering how Giz is going to react when he sees his people tomorrow. I bet he dances.

Two dogs is more than twice as much work as one dog. Walking them is not the peaceful, meditative, story-planning walk that I'm used to but more of a tug-of-war, constant attention scenario. I know that they're both perfectly capable of walking nicely on leash, but together, they get distracted and excited. Still I really like having them both here. At the moment, I'm sitting on the bed with a dog on my feet, another snuggled by my side. Also on the bed are multiple stuffed animals (Giz really likes to sleep with his toys around him) and three rawhide bones. It's almost like having a toddler again in terms of distractions and toys, except a toddler that can be left home alone.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Arsenic research

I think it's pretty unlikely that I'll write a historical anytime soon. It seems like the kind of thing that would make someone like me become completely obsessed. I can picture myself spending a month researching the proper types of silverware for a throwaway line in a single scene. That said, I stumbled across a reference to Scheele's Green today and thought, wow, I wonder how I could use that?

Scheele's Green was a pigment used in wallpaper in the 1700 and early 1800s, and it contained arsenic. In a damp climate, a mold could grow on the wallpaper and release toxic arsenic gas into the air. It's a really creepy idea. One modern study says that the gas wouldn't have been strong enough to actually kill people, but still, what a fun plot twist for a Regency murder mystery.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner

Yes, we're a week away from Thanksgiving. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner tonight anyway. Long story, having much to do with the fact that last year Thanksgiving fell on what would have been my mom's 68th birthday. And my sister's best friend died the night before. I told this story once in a setting where my point was how reality actually does have worse coincidences than fiction and it was received with awkward, frozen smiles which reminded me, oh, yes, this is truly awful, but mostly we've come to accept it as just, like, you know, life. (And yes, my best friend also died last year. Unrelated. It was a rough year.)

So yeah, last year's Thanksgiving sucked. Big time. In the kind of way that leaves you shell-shocked and unwilling to celebrate the holiday forever after. Except I really like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It's one of my favorite holidays, because, hey, food, what's not to love? Except last year dinner conversation consisted of things like one dinner guest talking about how grateful he was for his wonderful wife (dude? Your semi-host's wife is DEAD and today is her BIRTHDAY, so shut up now) and another talking about how her mom cried all night long because Sharon was dead and we would never see her again, which we have to forgive because the guest in question was eight years old but wow, if you want to have an uncomfortable giving-of-thanks, just ask an eight-year-old to talk about death. That'll do it.

And yet...I like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So on actual Thanksgiving we will have a seafood buffet -- I'm hoping for sushi, personally -- but today we had the traditional foods. And yum!

Turkey, obviously. Stuffing and potatoes, c'est la vie. But our sweet potatoes were these and wow, it was so good. I could eat that celery topping all day long. And for cranberry sauce, I made two different kinds. The first was straightforward and yet yummy; a bag of cranberries, plus a cup of orange juice, plus 3/4 of a cup of sugar, plus a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, plus a handful of chopped pecans, all simmered for a while. It's the most traditional cranberry sauce I've ever made (I tend to go weird on cranberry sauce) but it might have been one of the best. Then the second cranberry sauce was hardcore weird: a bag of cranberries, plus half a cup of sugar, plus a cup of cranberry grape juice, plus a tablespoon or so of sriracha sauce plus two teaspoons or so of unsweetened chocolate powder. And it was also yum, although yum with a serious kick.

We had pumpkin cheesecake (Sara Lee) for dessert, which is not typical for me -- dessert is definitely the area I most tend to go crazy and creative in but my mom made excellent pumpkin pies and last year I tried and failed to make her pie and so this year...yeah. It just fell into the Do-Not-Touch category so pumpkin cheesecake seemed like a good option and, in fact, it was quite yum. Good crust and tasty filling. It's a good thing I liked it because I've got half the cheesecake left.

Plus, best news, I've got my dad's dog visiting for the next few days. Gizmo is some wacky mix -- half Pekeginese, half poodle, I think? But soft and fluffy and just as willing to snuggle as Zelda. Rory was mopey this morning and I told him that he'd have Giz to console him for the whole weekend and he grunted and said bitterly, "No, that just means you'll have two dogs to adore you." Which, okay, sort of annoying when you're trying to cheer someone up and yet, so true. I adore my dog and she fully reciprocates so for two days, I get to experience double adoration and double snuggles and double demands for attention and love and walks and food and that is all double-good by me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Gift of Time update

I finally figured out how to solve a nagging problem with A Gift of Time today. Yay! Only, boo-hiss, it would mean, yet again, going back to the beginning and rewriting. So far with this book, I've written the first 5000 words about ten times. Over and over again, I write the first 5000 words. The thought of going back one more time -- ugh. It just doesn't inspire me.

On the other hand, it's a fix for a thing that's been bothering me about the beginning for weeks. And at least I don't keep solving the same problem. First was a character problem, next came a point of view problem, this is a plot problem. It's like different layers every time.

I think, for the moment, I'm not going to make the fix. I'm going to keep it in reserve for when I actually have a completed first draft. After all, it's NaNoWriMo and if I'm going to make 50,000 words by the end of the month (not yet impossible, although definitely not looking terribly likely), I need to stop revising and get on with it. Excellent plan. So good I'm going to start right this very minute!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I went and talked to my dad's computer club yesterday about self-publishing and how it works. Ahead of time, I was feeling as if I really hadn't prepared. I only had about 20 slides for a 45-minute presentation, and I hadn't bothered to run through what I was going to say, not even to check timing. I had a vague idea of what I'd talk about, more or less, and a little bit of structure prepared. Some talk about writing as a hobby -- since this was the computer club, I figured not everyone would be writers; some warnings about keeping expectations reasonable and avoiding scams; and then a walk through CreateSpace. Nice and simple. But still, driving over, I was feeling a little insecure.

It was great. I talked smoothly, my audience was attentive and appreciative, and I got lots of interesting questions at the end, plus plenty of positive feedback after we wrapped up (and not just from my dad and step-mom, who are sort of obligated to tell me I'm wonderful!)

I forget how much I truly enjoy presenting when I'm not doing it. I'm such an introvert that I mostly dread interactions with lots of people, but put me on a stage or in front of audience, and I...well, it's not relax, exactly, but sort of it is. It's the lovely combination of a little bit of adrenaline, pumping me up, plus a -- OH! It's a flow state!! How exciting to realize that. A flow state is when you're fully present in the moment you're in, focused and concentrating, but also energized. Wikipedia says "In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand."

When I give a presentation, I go into flow. For that time, I'm just there, just trying to convey something to my audience, to connect with them and figure out what they need to learn and how to reach them. It's a lovely feeling.

I think I should be looking for a job that gives me an opportunity to talk in front of crowds a lot. Or maybe start a business? Except that I can't really travel. Oh, but in 14 months, the kid will be 18. So fairly soon, I really can travel all I like. Wow, that's such a strange thought. I could go places without worrying about who will take care of my boy. Hmm, so maybe I should start thinking about what kind of jobs involve presentations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I could make lots of excuses for why I disappeared for the month of October -- I actually have a few good reasons, including a couple of fun projects that took up some brain space and writing energy. I'm working on a presentation about self-publishing for my dad's computer club, which ought to be fun if I can pull all my thoughts together. I'm also editing and formatting my son's paternal grandfather's memoirs, which I thought would be a little project, but requires some serious thinking in order to respect his voice and story while still making sensible edits.

And I started some Doctor Who fanfiction, which has been fun but gives me an excuse for lots of research. Bacon cost 38 cents per pound in 1938, which sounds faked, because of the 38-38 repetition, but was actually from a site about prices in 1938. I spent quite a while wavering over whether a made-up price -- 39 cents? 37 cents? 42 cents? -- would sound more realistic than the real price. Plus, of course, the research into Doctor Who itself, which means watching episodes -- where was River in prison? When was River in prison? (Stormcage, 51st century). Who arrested her? Back to the television!

And, of course, I'm still struggling with rewriting A Gift of Time. I've done the first chapter so many times now, so many different ways. My new plan is to NaNoWriMo it -- just write, write, write, get the idea down, and move on. I did this analysis of my current writing process with a friend today:

Line: Half the town filled Maggie's place.
Thought: That's terrible. Well, rewrite it. Get the idea across in a better way.
Line: Maggie's place was packed.
Thought: Is that passive? Is it dull? Sentences with "was" are boring. I should change that.
Line: Half the town packed into Maggie's place.
Thought: Okay, that's just stupid. You're talking about people, not the town. A town can't fit into a restaurant.
Line: People packed Maggie's place.
Thought: Ugh, that alliteration is like bad poetry. And could 'people' possibly be a duller word choice?

And twenty minutes later, I have accomplished nothing. And all I wanted to do was to say that the darn restaurant was crowded!

Mostly, though, my disappearance has been due to none of that. Actually, I've been living in Azeroth. If you've ever played WoW, the Pandaria expansion is really fun. It combines so many good qualities of play and story, humor and tension and excitement and gratification. The makers have put serious work into finding out what makes a game fun and satisfying and trying to build in aspects of the game that will make it enjoyable for everyone. The only problem, of course, is that in order to get to Panda-land, you've got to work your characters through all of the other levels. Huge, huge time sink. I suppose when we're starving because I haven't found a job (<--hyperbole, highly unlikely to happen) I will regret the hours spent immersed in someone else's imaginary worlds, but honestly, I've really enjoyed this past month there.

That said, I'm going to try to cut way back in November in order to spend more time in my own imaginary worlds. And I'll be giving the 50,000 words in a month thing a try. I probably won't do the official NaNoWriMo, because I want to work on Time, of course, and since I've been working on it for, ulp, three or four months already, it doesn't fit within their rules. But in principle, I'll be trying the crazy writing schedule for a month. Anyone else doing the same?

PS The number on the Halloween candy is because it's for a scavenger hunt for Project Team Beta. Welcome, Project Team Beta folks! Good luck with the hunt! And Happy Halloween!

PPS A Gift of Ghosts and A Gift of Thought are both free on Amazon on October 31, from midnight to midnight Pacific Standard Time. If you're reading this, you've probably read them already, but if you have friends who might like a free ghost story or two on Halloween, please spread the word!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Malware and motivation

My computer has become infested with malware, making the internet essentially unusable. I've tried a variety of things to fix it, but every time, either I get frustrated after an hour or two and decide to try again later (fast-forward another week or ten days before I'm willing to tackle it again) or I think I have it fixed only to discover a day or two later that I'm wrong, wrong, wrong. By unusable, I mean that when I'm typing, it may take seconds between letters. When I'm browsing, clicking links takes me to random sites, not related to the sites I've clicked on. Filling out forms is simply impossible, and I'm not willing to go to any secure site (ie banking or business related) in case a keylogger is waiting to steal my password. In other words, unusable.

I have to fix it. I know I have to fix it. I know that I'm the only person who's going to fix it. But somehow, I'm just stuck. It's so much easier to turn the computer off and play Sudoku on my iPad. It's a problem at exactly the wrong level of serious annoyance but not quite completely incapacitating.

But there is hope. I've been following a site called Unfuck Your Habitat . . .

You know, I got exactly this far in writing this post, and then I heard the voice of Ms. UFYH in my head and it was saying, "Excuses are boring." It was a nice voice. Friendly, maybe a little tiny bit southern, in that way that some southerners can pull off of saying something mean in such a way that it sounds gentle, even though it's not. But firm, very firm. So away I went and now, four and half hours later, my computer is reformatted and I'm online again and my most important software (Word, so that I can keep writing) and my most important files (the Time files, of course!) are all back online.

Not only that, the two most recent boxes of stuff from my mom's house are unpacked and somewhat put away, and the kitchen cupboards are reorganized so that some of the china can fit into the kitchen, making it far more usable than if it were stuck in a box in a closet somewhere. And the coffee plus coffee supplies are actually next to the coffee maker. If the camera battery was charged, I'd go take pictures.

I've needed to fix my computer since July. It's October.

Typing at full speed. Checking my email in seconds instead of tedious minutes. Clicking on a link and having it go where I want it to go...It wasn't 20 minutes. But I'm so, so, so glad that I finally just stopped making excuses and got it done!

Thank you, #ufyh!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grief for the 10,000th time

I started using a site called OhLife last year. It's sort of a diary -- it sends you an email every day and you reply and it saves your messages and then sends them back to you. The ideal scenario is that five years from now, you see something you wrote and feel charmingly nostalgic. Oh, I remember that, what a good choice I made, how fun that was, whatever.

Holy bad words, I picked the wrong year to start using it.

Yesterday, we worked on cleaning out the house. It had to be done. I have no argument with that. It should have been done nine months ago. Maybe a year ago even. I think a year ago I might have cried my way through packing up my mom's things for Goodwill with resolution and dignity and sorrow, but not despair. Yesterday, not so much. I want to keep it all. Everything. She cared about those things. She valued them. I look at them now and think, this was from the trip they took to Russia and they bought this in New Orleans and we got this together on our trip to London and she loved these dishes and I am just unwilling, unable, to let anything go.

I hate clutter. But I miss my mother.

So today's OhLife? Said, "Michelle's tumor is back. She's having surgery on Friday. Pretty sure that's enough said, but until I found that out, it was a nice day. I feel...numb. Not sure there are words, really."

 I stayed numb for a long while. I wish I was still numb. The hardest part is the moments when I think, I am so, so, so sad, I should call...and there I stop. Because I should call my mom or I should call Michelle. They are who I reach out to when life is simply unbearable -- my mom for the unconditional love, Michelle for the unconditional support.

And they're gone.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book covers

I've not been much of a blogger lately, or much of a writer. End of summer is always such a transition, and not one that I do well. But we're finally starting to settle into the new routine. This week I meant to do lots of writing, but instead I did lots of cover designing. I know that I'm not enough of a designer to make a living at design, but it really is awfully fun.

Well, sometimes it's fun, I suppose. The first cover of Thought never made me very happy. But I went to a meeting of the Orlando Independent Writers this week and a fellow author inspired me to do a redesign. I didn't even stick to my own cover principles with that cover. I do know what I was thinking with the decisions I made, but, eh, better to stick with cover rules. So, new cover for Thought, first cover for Time (unfinished, since I have no quote for it yet), minor re-design on Ghosts for consistency. Let's see how they look at small sizes!

Updated: Immediate changes. Rejected the first round, let's try a second!  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yesterday's words

Yesterday was the first day I managed 1000 words in weeks. It's too bad the words weren't on A Gift of Time! But they're sort of fun, so here they are:


“It’s so bizarre,” Akira said thoughtfully, staring up at the motionless ceiling fan. 

“Is the baby moving?” Zane asked, sliding a hand along the slight curve of her belly. He hadn’t been able to feel a kick yet, but that didn’t stop him from trying. 

“No, not that.” Akira tilted her head sideways, letting it come to rest against his shoulder. She sighed, feeling content with her position although mildly exasperated by her body’s demands. 

“Bizarre,” Zane repeated. “Would that be the miracle of life growing inside you?” 

“A natural process that women have been managing for thousands of years.” Her voice was dry. Of course, it was a little strange that she’d met her baby’s previous incarnation—she imagined that not too many women throughout history could claim the same. But no, that wasn’t what she’d been thinking about.

“What then?” Zane stroked up, long fingers reaching the underside of her breast and lightly tracing a pattern along her skin. 

“How much I want red meat.” Not just red meat. Steak. Gorgeous steak. Red in the middle, seared dark on the outside. Mmm, with salt. Luscious salt, bursting with flavor on her tongue. Or maybe a hamburger, juicy and rich, dripping with . . . ick. Fat and blood. That’s what hamburgers dripped with. But even knowing that didn’t change the way her mouth watered at the thought.

Zane chuckled. 

“It doesn’t make sense,” Akira protested.

“Sure it does. The baby needs some protein.” 

“I ate a pound of edamame last night. A whole pound. That’s about five times the amount of protein the average person needs.”

Zane’s hand stilled. “I read something . . .” He pulled away, Akira’s head dropping to the pillow as he got out of the bed and crossed to the dresser on the other side of the room. 

“Hey!” She complained. She’d been comfortable. And his clever hands had been starting to stir up something a little more interesting than hunger for steak. 

He looked back over his shoulder and grinned at her. “Coming right back,” he promised. He grabbed his smartphone and started tapping.  “Soy,” he reported, “contains phytic acid.”

Akira raised her eyebrows. “And?” She’d never even heard of phytic acid. Why had Zane? 

“It blocks the absorption of minerals.” He joined her on the bed, lying down and putting a proprietary arm across her. 

“Minerals such as . . .”

“Calcium, magnesium, and iron,” he said cheerfully. “Also zinc and mercury, if they matter.” 

“Let me see that.” Akira held out a hand for his phone and he passed it to her, a small smile playing around his lips. 

She read the information on the website he’d found, scowling. “Damn it. All right, maybe I’m craving meat because I need iron. Fine, I’ll eat broccoli.” She couldn’t suppress a shudder at the thought. Broccoli. She loved broccoli. But not for the past few months. Just the thought of it brought a nasty taste into her mouth. 

Zane leaned down. “Good job, Henry,” he whispered to her abdomen. “You and me, bud? We’re gonna be friends.” 

Akira groaned. What was a semi-vegetarian doing getting involved with a confirmed meat-and-potatoes man? Worse, having his baby? 

Zane grinned. “How about I pick up a couple filets? Fire up the grill? We can have steak and baked potatoes for dinner tonight.”

“Steak and salad,” she answered grumpily. 

“Baked potatoes. With butter. Maybe some sour cream.” 

Akira closed her eyes. Why did that sound so good? What was Henry doing to her? Having her body taken over by a creature with his own tastes and desires was not what she had expected from pregnancy. Was it like this for every new mother? 

“Knock, knock!” The cheery voice from the other side of the bedroom door stopped Akira’s response to Zane before she could make it. It was almost with relief that she called out, “What is it, Rose?” 

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but . . .” Rose paused and Akira’s eyes narrowed. Was that nerves she heard in the ghost girl’s tone? Rose wasn’t the nervous type. “I need your help.” 

“I can’t believe I’m doing this.” 

“I’m sure it’ll be okay. She acts real mean, but she wasn’t like that when I knew her.” 

“When you knew her? When she was alive, you mean?” Akira didn’t bother to look toward the ghost seated in the passenger seat next to her. Florida drivers were insane. She needed to keep her eyes on the road. 

“Uh-huh,” Rose responded eagerly. “She was a few years younger than me in school, so I didn’t know her well, but she was nice enough.”

“Nice enough. Huh.” Akira thought back to the mean old woman ghost she’d met briefly on her first day in Tassamara. Meredith, her realtor, had been showing Akira houses supposedly available to rent. Akira hadn’t even been willing to go into the little lakefront cottage. The angry ghost grumbling on the porch had made it clear that she wasn’t welcome. “Is that what they call damning with faint praise?” 

“No, really,” Rose answered. “I’ve visited her a few times recently. As long as you’re not planning on moving into her house, she’ll be perfectly friendly.” 

“That’s the problem, isn’t it?” This time Akira dared a glance at her passenger. To Akira, the ghost looked almost like a typical teenage girl—only her full skirt and blonde curls showing that she was out of her own time—but Akira knew she was more than that. And more than simply a ghost, too. 

“Yes.” A little frown between her eyes revealed Rose’s worry. “She’s determined to get rid of the new tenant.” 

Akira turned her gaze back to the road. Determined. She didn’t like determined ghosts. She didn’t like angry ghosts, either. She sighed. “I was supposed to be writing wedding invitations today.” 

“Zane said he’d take care of them,” Rose said.

Akira didn’t roll her eyes, but a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, as she tried to imagine Zane’s version of formal invitations. It wouldn’t be careful calligraphy, that was for sure. If she had to guess, he was picking up the phone and calling most of the people on their list. And then he’d tell her it was all taken care of. 

She dropped a hand to her belly.