Friday, March 15, 2013

Yes, I was serious

New blog address:

I suspect the design will be a work in progress for a while. Learning how to use WordPress is going to take some time.

Ironically, I wrote a lengthy post over there and when I went to post it, it disappeared. Turns out that it was a Google Chrome problem. Considering that it was all about how angry I am at Google, I thought the software was probably reading my mind. I've now switched to Firefox and I know it's silly, but I miss the curvy tabs. Firefox just isn't as pretty as Chrome. But pretty is as pretty does, and since Google hates me, I hate it, too.

Anyway, please, come join me over at my new site. I promise I'll be making it prettier as soon as I can -- plus, very exciting, once I learn how, I think I can set it up so that I can post stories and stuff directly on my site, which would be very cool, IMO. Not that I'm opposed to people paying me for stories, but I'm trying to cut back on my coffee consumption anyway. Also, it looks like I might be able to set it up so that my entire RSS feed can show up in a page on my site, so you could see all the random stuff I read. I'm not totally sure that will work yet, so don't consider that a promise, it's just an idea. But it would be kind of cool if it works -- like having a continually updating blogroll.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader and Maps

Woke up to today to discover that Google is killing Reader. I'm shocked, dismayed, horrified -- and a little bit furious. 

Google Reader, if you don't know, is an RSS reader. I use it to follow (as of today) 137 blogs. My bookmarks toolbar has a Subscribe button, which is a javascript. Every time I stumble across a blog that looks interesting, I click the Subscribe button. When I want to read blogs, I use the Next button, also in my bookmarks toolbar, and it takes me to the next item in my feed. My internet experience isn't that I check out a few news sites in the morning and randomly look up a few bookmarked sites. Instead I look at information that is exactly tailored to my interests, blogs on writing and cooking, self-publishing and book reviews, some games and fan sites, mommy blogs and people that I just think are interesting. 

I used to use iGoogle for that purpose. I had a home page that was exactly what I wanted. And then Google decided to kill iGoogle. It took me months to get my web experience back to a place where it was comfortable. Losing iGoogle was like losing television -- or even more, like losing access to a telephone. I'd turn to a thing I needed, a basic tool that I took for granted, and it wasn't there anymore. Finally, finally, after months, I got settled into this new system with Reader. And now Google is killing Reader? 

Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Not going to happen. As far as I'm concerned, Google is now officially untrustworthy

Google's killing Reader?  Fine, I'm going to kill Google -- at least from my computer. 

That means saying goodbye to Google Chrome. Okay, I can use Firefox. Saying goodbye to Google Drive. No problem, I'll go back to Microsoft. Moving my blog -- that's okay, lots of people say that WordPress is better than blogger anyway. Giving up gmail means changing my email address in lots of places, but that's okay, too. Maybe I'll get my own domain with an email address or two included. I'm fine with giving up Google shopping: I usually wind up on Amazon in the end anyway, so no regrets there. I use Google Talk, but I've used other chat options, I can live without it. I've never liked Google + at all, so giving that up is not a problem.

Google, of course, has an assortment of other tools, but I can live without them, too. Google is not essential for anything, even search, except .... Google Maps. 

Which brings me back to the point of this post. I will be purging Google from my life in April. It's going to be a big project and I won't have time to tackle it until then. But when I do, how do I replace Google Maps? It's the one Google tool for which I can think of no substitute. Any ideas? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three times in my life I have been ridiculously sick. Not sick like major illness, scary life-threatening disease sick. Sick like ridiculous.

The first time was twenty years ago. I got sick over Thanksgiving and I stayed sick until February. It was the first Christmas after my grandfather died. We spent it in Florida, and I can remember being absolutely miserable, trying to be a good tourist, visiting Disneyworld, shopping at flea markets and so on, but with the energy of a sloth. I went to the doctor when I got back home with a fever of 103. She told me I had the flu. I said, "but you don't understand, I've been sick for six weeks." She said, "you've probably caught every flu going around." Gee, that's helpful.

The second time was the summer of 2000. We lived in a second-floor apartment. The laundry room was down the stairs, across the parking lot, and down another flight of stairs. I sat on the steps and tried not to cry between loads because I was so tired that the walk felt like a marathon. At one point during that summer, I called to make a doctor's appointment. I wound up spending an hour on the phone with the nurse, because she was very committed to the idea that I should go to the emergency room right away, and I was very committed to the idea that I was much, much, much too sick to go to an emergency room. After about two months of being miserable, I was watching television and saw a commercial for my allergy medication that said "side effects can  include flu-like symptoms." I promptly stopped taking it. I promptly got better.

The last time was in Santa Cruz, right before we moved to Florida. I got sick in March. I went away on a business trip. I got better. I came home, I got sick again. After about a month, I went to the doctor, was diagnosed with a sinus infection, started antibiotics, went on another business trip, got better. Came home. Got sick again. More antibiotics. Went on vacation, got better. Came home. Got sick again. Then got seriously sick with shingles.

Some people apparently have mild cases of shingles. I was not one of them. The pain from shingles felt like bolts of electricity zapping my side. It was ... well, I did natural childbirth. I've got a pretty good pain tolerance. One time, I twisted my ankle and four days later a friend -- a former professional biker who'd quit because he'd injured himself so badly -- told me it was the worst-looking sprained ankle he'd ever seen and he couldn't believe I hadn't gone to the doctor. (I did after that; it was just a sprain.) I'm not really tough -- I hate pain, I do my best to avoid it. But I'm reasonably stoic while experiencing it. Not with shingles. Shingles was hell.

After that, I put two and two together and figured out that my house was making me sick. We had a mold problem, I have allergies, it was a bad combo. We moved out, and I got better.

All of this leads us to now. R and I have both been sick -- with ups and downs, but more lows than highs -- since he came home on New Year's Day with a cold. I am very, very tired of it. I'll be better for three days, start to feel like life is in my control again, and then, pow, back down. I'll have a day or two where I think, eh, I'm just a little allergic and then I try to get something done and have to take a nap halfway through. But it's most frustrating not to know for sure what the problem is. Is it 1) flu leading to colds leading to flu and back again, the viruses simply winning or 2) a reaction to my current allergy pills or 3) allergies or 4) something else entirely?

We are both on antibiotics now. I have a horrible history with antibiotics, absolutely horrible. Emergency room visits and side effects that lingered for months. And yet I'm desperate enough to take the chance because in nine days, we are getting on an airplane and going to Belize. And damn it, I am not going to be sick.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Long story, but I posted a bad link on and it's going to take me a while to fix it and post a better one there. So in the meantime, just in case: Menus at the New York Public Library (This is an incredibly fun site to browse if you're interested in food and history.)

I'm having far too entertaining a time writing Doctor Who fanfiction. I suppose it's good that I'm enjoying writing in any way, shape, or form, and I should just be happy about that. But it does mean that I ought to start looking for a serious job. If what I need to write needs to be free, then I need to also figure out some way to eat. In three months, R finishes school and both of us are set free. In my case, for the first time in decades, my job doesn't need to be boundaried by his school being my first and foremost responsibility. In his case, the future awaits. Whee. Sort of. Change is always both exciting and scary, and this sort of change is about the biggest there is. I think it'll be ... interesting ... for both of us. Also, I think I'll pour myself another glass of wine before thinking any more about it.

Random other note: Amanda Palmer's TED talk? Crazy beautiful. Also scary. I am not that brave. Just...not.

Edit: It amuses me that I used "free" to mean both without cost and without responsibility. They're both different and yet not.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Rational Harry Potter

If you like Harry Potter and if you also like science, then you absolutely must read this: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

It is brilliant. No, really -- incredibly, amazingly, scarily brilliant. It takes some of the history and most of the world of the Harry Potter series (the settings, the politics, the wizarding war) and gives them a twist, resulting in a totally different story. It's Harry Potter as if Ender Wiggins from Ender's Game was the hero.

It is also incredibly funny. I laughed out loud, literally, more than once and a couple times so hard there were tears in my eyes. It's over 500,000 words long so a serious investment of time, but worth every single minute. It's the best thing I've read in...I don't know how long.

A little tiny sample:

"I... see," Professor McGonagall said. "And if, perhaps, you were to discover the entrance to Salazar Slytherin's legendary Chamber of Secrets, an entrance that you and you alone could open..."

"I would close the entrance and report to you at once so that a team of experienced magical archaeologists could be assembled," Harry said promptly. "Then I would open up the entrance again and they would go in very carefully to make sure that there was nothing dangerous. I might go in later to look around, or if they needed me to open up something else, but it would be after the area had been declared clear and they had photographs of how everything looked before people started tromping around their priceless historical site."

Professor McGonagall sat there with her mouth open, staring at him like he'd just turned into a cat.

"It's obvious if you're not a Gryffindor," Harry said kindly."

Yes, it's a Ravenclaw version of Harry. He calculates the odds, he thinks ahead, he uses reason and Bayesian probability and ...  really, you should just go read it right now, because it is that good. No, even better than that. Really.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Implicit memory

Have you ever tried to teach someone else to tie their shoelaces?

Tying shoelaces isn't hard. Until you explain it. And then the whole thing falls apart. I never managed to teach R to tie his shoes. In fact, what happened was pretty much that I lost the ability to tie my own. He finally fumbled his way through figuring it out himself when he was about ten or so, and meanwhile I haven't tried to tie a shoelace in about a decade.

I had the same experience with teaching him to drive, aka failing to teach him to drive. The more I thought about how to shift smoothly from one gear to the next, the more I couldn't remember how to do it myself. I finally made my dad give him a lesson and Chris an explanation of what was happening, and he worked the skill out on his own.

I think the same thing is happening to my writing ability. I read a story last night that I wrote a year ago. I remember writing it. It took me about an hour. I didn't agonize, I didn't think. I just had an idea and I wrote it. I never revised it or even edited it. It's a darn good little story (although if you've never seen Eureka you won't get the context.)

All the reading about writing, learning about writing, thinking about writing, that I've been doing is just making it harder to write. Sure, I understand filter words and point-of-view now, I see repetitions and cliches -- but I used to just be able to tell a damn story and everything I'm learning about writing is getting in the way of *that*.

Writing was an implicit memory skill for me. I need to stop paying attention to how I'm doing it and just get back to doing it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The mom, getting madder and madder

I am now the mom, sitting at home, getting madder and madder. I'm not quite pacing the floor, but I've definitely wandered around a little more than usual, and I'm having to fight the urge to grit my teeth.

R is an hour late getting home from school. He is not answering his phone and he has my car. He does NOT have my permission to be keeping my car.

He called from a friend's house and wanted to discuss dropping economics. Um, no. No. That's not a discussion to have over the phone. That's not a decision to make because you don't feel like working for one afternoon. He's going away for the weekend, and he's behind in economics, so the simplest solution to him is to quit. Yeah, no.

We're busy making all sorts of interesting plans: he's going away this weekend to visit a friend, we're going away together in March, he's making summer plans, and next year if I can get all the stupid paperwork arranged, he's going to have a hugely fun and exciting year, so I think he's suffering from an acute case of senior-itis. Unfortunately for him, he's a junior.

I don't want to be the authoritarian dictator saying 'if you're not getting As, you're not going out,' (for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that I believe the right time to screw up is now, not later) but at the same time, I'm frustrated when I see him making decisions that seem short-sighted. I suppose that every parent goes through this.

Hmm, I just realized that part of my frustration is because I'm getting over-invested due to dealing with all this complicated paperwork. Maybe I should be making him do that. It's his year, after all. But I don't think he even can: it all calls for my signatures.

If we were birds, he'd be the baby bird sitting on the side of the nest and I'd be the momma bird screeching, "flap harder, flap harder, you're not flapping hard enough" while simultaneously trying to decide whether to give him the big kick out or grab on because he's just not flapping hard enough. Metaphorical birds, of course. I'm pretty sure real momma birds just fly away and leave the babies to figure it out on their own when they're ready.

Friday, February 8, 2013

ThinkGeek contest

So, Kathy from Kindle-aholic and Stellar Four, posted links to a ThinkGeek donation contest this morning. (Yes, I know that line was link-insane -- sorry about that!) If you're willing to give ThinkGeek your email address, you can pick a classroom at to possibly get a donation.

I'm pretty sure that ThinkGeek is donating $1000 no matter what, so it's not as if giving them your address has any intrinsic advantage to the outcome -- someone's getting that money -- but I picked a classroom anyway, Mrs. DeVille's ESL elementary in Seattle. If you're willing to let ThinkGeek have an address, her number is 1627207291, if you'd like to vote for her, too.

Why did I pick her? Um, mostly, because I looked for a Seattle ESL teacher thinking I might find a classroom taught by a friend, and then found this one and really liked her name. Well, or had sympathy for her name, anyway. I wonder how many Cruella jokes she's heard in her life? And yet she's listed as a "Mrs." which probably means that she changed her name, so I wonder what it was originally? Was changing it a hard decision or an easy one? Yep, questions like this are the kinds of thing I can ponder for hours. Anyway, it's a minor thing, but it only takes a minute to vote, and she, poor teacher, posted her request in November and is almost out of time, with the entire amount to go. And a printer is really a pretty nice thing to have.

I can't decide whether this is mean of me or not. If you're from the northern US and in the midst of a major blizzard, you probably want to stop reading now. But I rearranged my bedroom and this is now the view from my bed.

It makes me think that possibly I should be working a little harder toward finding a job that would let me stay in Florida. I've mostly been thinking that when R graduates from high school, I'd head off to someplace where I'm more employable. But I should stop taking my palm tree for granted.

On February 7th, Ghosts reached a milestone on Amazon -- 100 reviews. I don't know why 100 is any different than 99, really, but it was somehow a thrilling moment in a pretty rocky week. Onward, upward, back to Time!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


A year ago today, my best friend died.

I don't actually believe in ghosts. I do believe in an afterlife. Quite firmly. I have solid reasons, reasons that are as convincing for me as the evidence of gravity that we all have any time we drop a glass and wind up with milk spread all over our floor.

My grandmother had Alzheimer's. Long before her actual physical death, she had mentally left her body. She was alive but absent. And yet there were times when I felt her in my life, when I knew that even though she was actually trapped in a nursing home, a prisoner of a body that no longer worked, she was with me. I felt her presence in a room. And I knew it was ridiculous, because she wasn't there. But I felt her love for me, her affection, nonetheless. And then she died, and I stopped feeling her. She moved on.

My grandfather died much sooner. But he left behind one of those plastic circles with a rough surface that you use to open jars. It held the name of his hardware store. It was a promotional thing, just a piece of plastic. Except when I couldn't get a bottle of pickles open, I could say--can still say--"Boomie, give me a hand,"--and the jar would open after having been stuck for minutes. Okay, sure, it's ridiculous. It's psychological. It's just some subliminal thing that lets me think that those words mean something. No one with any sense would believe that he's actually helping me. But I feel him with me in those moments and he is helping me. Sometimes he's laughing at me, not in a mean way, but in a loving way. So, okay, it's just some quirk of psychology. "I feel" proves nothing.

My father-in-law, Malcolm, didn't believe in life after death. He was a wonderful human being. At his memorial service, people talked about what a curmudgeon he was. Yep, he was a curmudgeon. It didn't stop him from being wonderful. He was filled with energy, with life, with persistence, with joy. He wasn't perfect, but no one is. I think, if he could have gone back in time, he would have been a different kind of parent. But he did the best he could with the information he had available to him at the time that he had it. Malcolm was...oh, love is such a strange thing sometimes. Malcolm was technically my ex-father-in-law--I divorced his son. Realistically, he probably had lots of people in his life that he loved more than he loved me. Except I don't think so. Honestly, I don't think so. He had four sons. I think his life would have been different if he'd had daughters instead. He probably should have had daughters instead, but he loved me like a daughter. And I was lucky to have him, to know him.

I'm not actually easy to love. I'm kind of a pain in the ass. I'm rigid, I'm stubborn, I'm opinionated, I tend to be sure I'm right. Malcolm and I had one final conversation, in which I said to him, well, we'll see. He knew that death meant dead, gone forever. I knew that he was wrong.

The day after he died, I woke up to weird light. The sky was strange. I went outside and I didn't see it. I knew that something was odd, but I didn't know what. I went back inside. Then R went outside and called me to join him, his voice hushed. A double rainbow was spread across our house, starting at one side, ending at the other. I absolutely believe, one hundred percent, not a doubt in my mind believe, that Malcolm was responsible for that rainbow. That his spirit broke out of the shell that had been trapping him for so long and danced across the sky. That he found my mom--who had died exactly one month before him, to the day--and said, come on, let's paint her a picture. You don't have to believe that. It's okay if you don't. But I know, absolutely, that Malcolm and my mom painted me a double rainbow.

Michelle died a year ago. I've felt her with me. And she's mostly exasperated with me. I can feel her kicking me. I know she's telling me to get over it.  I hear her voice saying that I should use the time that I have. I know that's what she wants from me.

But I miss her.

I called tonight. I've been thinking of doing it for ages, weeks, months. Chris hasn't changed the voice mail. It's still her voice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tactical mistake

I made a huge mistake last week. Time was going well. I knew what was supposed to happen and it was happening on plan.

Why, why, why did I go back to the beginning?

Actually I do know the answer. I finally figured out how Nat's gift works, and it's pretty cool. It's way more fun and interesting than it was in the beginning and it even has a touch of plausibility. I've been stuck all along on how it would be possible to see the future and not have the future be pre-determined. If you know what's going to happen, doesn't that imply that what's going to happen is fixed? I don't like determinism, I don't believe in it, but a logical proof of precognition would seem to require it. But I finally managed to wrap my brain around a way that Natalya could have foresight without violating the uncertainty principle, and even managed to bring in a nice use of the observer affect. Yay, physics.

So I went back to the beginning to fix the early references to her gift.

Gah. So much easier said than done. One little tiny change and yep, I've spent the past five days revising Chapter 1 for the ... I don't know how many-ith time.

I really wanted to have this book written and ready for beta readers by the first week of February. Instead I might have the first chapter finalized. I keep telling myself that as long as I persist, I will get there in the end. In the long run, persistence is what matters. And it'll be a better book because of all this. But I am seriously missing writing fan fiction where if something didn't work, a new episode would change everything anyway.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I dropped my computer on Friday.

It broke.

I realized almost immediately that I'd cursed myself. I told someone in a comment or email that A Gift of Time would be ready in March or April as long as I didn't lose any more time to colds or flu or minor disasters. Saying something like that is like asking for the universe to start laughing. Whoosh. Have a cold. Ooh, and here's the flu. Almost done with that? Okay, next up, minor disaster...hmm...I know, broken computer!

I'm so glad I specified minor.

Fortunately, I appear to be up and running again, and it was indeed minor. I thought I might have broken the power jack on the computer itself, but I got a new power cord and it works. Yay!

Several days without a computer though was...strange. I don't know that I would say that I'm addicted because that implies that it's optional in my life when the reality is that for me it's an essential tool for work and communication. I managed to do some useful household chores that I've been wanting to do--my bedroom has new curtains, which is something I've been intending to do for months--but I also spent a fair amount of time at a loss for what I ought to do next. Even my fallback entertainment options are linked to my computer. I read books on my computer, play games, watch television and movies, talk to friends. Anyway, I am quite glad to have it back and not just so I can start writing again.

Speaking of that, though, I tried to write on paper. With a pen. And no. Just no, no, no. I've thought more than once when I felt stuck that I should try going offline and writing in longhand, but...No. Not gonna happen.

This feels like a really boring blog post. I should probably title it that, for full disclosure early on. But I'm back online and wanted to type, so this is a little warm up to get me back to Natalya and Colin. :)

Friday, January 18, 2013


I've been pretty quiet for the past couple weeks: this is because January is off to a rocking start. (Not.)

R whined to me the other day that it just wasn't fair that he was sick again. I responded matter-of-factly that often when you're sick, your immune system is depleted and it makes it easier to get the next virus that comes your way. That was before I caught his latest virus and holy cow, it's a misery.

While the rest of the country wallows in coughs and sore throats, we're hovering by the bathrooms and discussing which foods might just possibly, maybe, not make us too much more miserable. My vast expertise in vomiting would be useful if I was willing to go to the grocery store to get us some nicer foods (popsicles! mint ice cream!) but meanwhile, we're debating the plain pasta vs plain eggs repertoire. Again and again and again. First time I've had a stomach virus that has lingered for more than 48 hours. I'm ready for my immune system to get itself back into gear.

Every once in a while a list of the things that are piling up drifts into the back of my head and I start to feel a little panicky. It's not that anything has a deadline of tomorrow, but the number of small and mildly urgent errands that I should be taking care of seems to have gotten scarily long. I think next week I will make a literal list so that I can start crossing things off.

Unsurprisingly my New Year's resolutions fell by the wayside. 20/10? What's that? 1000 words a day? Hahaha. But I decided today--possibly in a symptom of getting healthier, possibly just to relieve my sense of guilt--that I will start New Year's over again after Martin Luther King day, which is Monday. I sort of like the idea of MLK day being a day for saying, "Hey, you had great ideals and hopes, but they didn't quite work out the way they should have, now it's time to try again and do better this time." A fitting MLK quote: "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle." Okay, so I'm quite sure that he wasn't talking about my personal struggle to get undepressed/motivated, but it still seems nicely fitting.

Oh, and the real reason I decided to write something today--it's Zelda's 9th birthday. Nine years old! I hate that number, although I like it better than double digits. Here she is with her siblings, eight years and several months ago. Of course she has a ball in her mouth.
IRL, she's staring at me now, trying to tell me that it's time to get off the computer and do something. She'd prefer a walk, but she's going to have to settle for a greenie. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

So many stories, so little time

I hit a point where I had to stop and think for a while in my writing today. I'm at an important scene, where the characters are emotional but also revealing for the first time the heart of the conflict between them, and I don't want it to wind up hokey. It's one of those times when the scene is so clear in my head that it's not creating, more transcribing, except I'm not getting it right. And it has to be right.

So I take a break. I decide to nap for an hour. Sometimes naps are just pretend sleep, where I'm closing my eyes in order to better imagine my world and sometimes they become real sleep, but either way, it's a Sunday afternoon and I need a chance to think a little.

Think a little about Natalya, that is.

Somehow I wound up, half imagining, half dreaming, Grace and Rachel. What are they doing in Seattle? How do they know each other? Did they even meet when Rachel was in Tassamara? Grace wasn't at the diner that night. And wait, shouldn't Rachel be in San Francisco with her mother?

But no, they're walking along a waterfront in Seattle. It's not Pike's Place market, but it's someplace I know. There's maybe a fish hatchery? A canal? I know it's familiar. The grass slopes down to a sidewalk and there's concrete and people and they're talking. Poor Rachel. She wanted a fresh start, but her D.C. neat perfection is an awkward fit in Seattle. Her clothes are wrong, her style is wrong. And she's at a school with boys, which is completely scary and strange. No one's mean to her, but it's like she's invisible. She might as well not exist. She can't ask her mom for help because she begged to go to public school. She can't tell her mom how unhappy she really is.

Oh, I just realized. Dillon sent Grace.

Huh. I wonder how?

I wonder why?

And mostly, I really, really wonder how Rachel and Grace wound up being the story in my head when I'm supposed to be thinking about Natalya and Colin?!

(Grace, incidentally, decides that they need to pick the girl whose style Rachel most likes and hire her. Not as a friend, because that would be awkward and creepy, but as a style consultant. Shopping ensues. I think Grace likes shopping. I have never shopped at anything other than a thrift store in Seattle in my life, so it just might be that Rachel's style consultant/future friend is a thrift store kind of shopper. That would sure be a change for Rachel.)

But what the heck are they doing in Seattle?

An hour past the end of my scheduled nap time, so it's time to get back to Nat and Colin. Or maybe start thinking about dinner. But it occurs to me that writing a story set in Seattle makes visiting Seattle a tax deduction, as long as I do some research.

Why Grace, though? Why not Akira? Well, no, she'd be useless. She's not good at making friends herself and she doesn't care about clothes much. And Sylvie...yep, equally useless. My subconscious got it right.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 3rd--Books Free

It is an extremely weird and sort of surreal experience to be coasting through your RSS feed--which, in my case, is a very random conglomeration of science, politics, mommy blogs, writing, book reviews, friends, and World of Warcraft--and suddenly see your name in the title of a blog post.

It's like the internet just yelled at you.

Fortunately, for me, in this case, it was a nice yell. Mean Old Bat liked the characters, enjoyed the read, and gave it a C+, which from her is a solidly acceptable grade.

Anyway, I decided to use a free day so that any of her readers could pick them up if they felt so inclined, so tomorrow, January 3rd, both books and the short story will be free on Amazon. If you know anyone who might be interested, please feel free to spread the word. Thanks!

Happy New Year!

My resolution of last year was pretty simple: be kinder to myself and others.

I'd say I didn't really do so well at it. Not that I was unkind to anyone else, but then I'm generally not--it was more of a mental change I was looking for rather than an actual behavioral change. And mentally, wow, was I hard on myself last year. C'est la vie. I should probably keep trying, but it's not going to be my resolution again.

No, this year, my mental goal is to try to appreciate the moment. I started with "remember to appreciate the moment," but that's very in-your-head. I don't want to be thinking, "Enjoy this, this day will never come again." Instead, I want to be enjoying it. So that's the goal. Appreciate where I am. (At the moment, the dog is licking my foot with deep concentration. It tickles.)

On a few more practical goals, I'm going to start tracking word count. I made myself a little Excel spreadsheet. I've never done this before: I've never liked the focus. What good is it write 1000 words if the words go nowhere and do nothing? But in the interests of seriously cultivating better writing habits, I'm going to give it a try. (Resolution failure waiting to happen is when you say you'll "give it a try!" So maybe I'll be a little more specific--for the next two months, I will track my word count and if it's helpful to me, I'll continue.)

I'm also going to try to do a 20/10 every day. (If you're not a #UFYH follower, that means 20 minutes of cleaning, followed by 10 minutes of rest.) Every single day. There's always plenty to do--there are some deep goals, like cleaning out closets and the spare room and the garage that I never get to because they seem so overwhelming. So this year, when things are in shape, I'm not going to say, "well, it looks pretty good, I think I'll skip today." That way lies the descent into "ugh, how did this place become such a disaster area?" Instead I'll use my 20 minutes to tackle one of those seemingly irretrievable areas and/or to drive to Goodwill and donate.

Last, but not least, I'm going to really teach myself how to format ebooks. I've trusted in the software process so far, but I'm tired of never really feeling certain what's going on behind the scenes. I want to feel safe that my books are as perfect as I can make them and--okay, it's a little obsessive of me--I'll feel that way not by paying someone else but by knowing how to do it myself.

Do I have writing goals? Probably. Finish A Gift of Time for March release, finish A Gift of Grace with less pain and suffering than Time has already caused. Maybe write a couple more Akira short stories for the fun of it. I have to think that their wedding ought to have some associated drama. But I'm not going to stress too hard on those.

This year might be the very last year that R lives at home (or it might not, life is long and strange) and I want to be sure that my focus is on having a healthy life/family/work balance. I don't get these days back again. If I've spent them all grinding away trying to become a successful writer...well, honestly, I still think it seems really unlikely. Most writers can't earn enough to live on by writing except by making the 18-hour day commitment that JA Konrath and Bella Andre talk about. And for me, making that kind of commitment now means giving up something that matters more to me. Maybe it's worth it if being a professional writer is the only job you've ever wanted, but I've had plenty of other jobs I've enjoyed. Every job has trade-offs. The writer trade-off tends to be that it has to be the only thing you care about and for me, right now, that's just not how it is. Maybe in 2014--especially if R is living elsewhere--it will be.

So! 2013, here we are! May it be a joyful and lucky year for all of us.