Reading for a Snowy Day

The weather yesterday in New York City was great if you love snow and cold and wind and want a day off from school but terrible if you hate the snow and cold and wind and have to work from home while supervising two small children. I find myself in the latter group, of course!

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The younger and I watching the husband and elder son shovel. I didn’t want to let him outside because of the 50-mile-an-hour winds (he’s only 29 pounds)!

Being on a conference call while people are demanding juice and Peppa Pig videos is pretty tough, and trying to get through almost a full day inside with minimal screen time while you are working on your day job stuff is tougher. While I was making dinner, I had them clean up about 50 pounds worth of Legos, race tracks, puzzles, and the like. However, during the day the whole house was a minefield of toys.

But, we got through it, and today schools are open again, and while we deliberately went in late to avoid the rush, getting there was not totally terrible. In any case, I wanted to make my first book, New Blood, free for yesterday for snowed-in reading. But, in the stress and insanity of the day, I forgot to announce it. In the spirit of better late than never, it’s free today as well. Please feel free to download your copy here!

 

 

 

 

The most anxiety I have felt about 2 paragraphs

The other day, my child, who is in the second grade, came home with an essay assignment. Basically, he has to write two paragraphs and draw one picture about a holiday that we celebrate as a family, one associated tradition, and a food consumed during said holiday. Of course, this has spiraled into a massive amount of anxiety for me.

We are atheists, so I would rather not mention any specific religion’s holiday. Granted, I know that 95% of the kids, at least, will be writing about Christmas or Hanukah. I looked through a list of non-denominational winter holidays, and some of the possibilities I came up with were Festivus and Decemberween. And who could forget Boxing Day? But I realized that we don’t actually celebrate those holidays, so back to the drawing board.

Then, I thought about the Winter Solstice. After all, that’s what our kids think they are celebrating when they celebrate Christmas. But I got stuck in the facts of this astronomical yearly occurrence, and had my son draw something like this. Then, I remembered this was a writing assignment, and not a science project, so most of that was scrapped.

It’s important to remember that this assignment is of writing TWO PARAGRAPHS, and this entry is already twice that. Finally, I realized I was thinking too much about it, and I think I will encourage him to write about Yule, which is the name I grew up calling the winter solstice. He can write about the days growing longer, and how we like to bake cookies, and then we will bake and bring in cookies. And on the plus side, I already know what we can do for science project this year!

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Happy whatever you celebrate! (photo from 2014)

The magical world in the clouds

I have previously shared that when I wrote my first two novels, I did so on an archaic device known as paper! The only benefit to that was that it made me really analyze the story and do significant rewrites during the second draft process, which included typing the book on my computer. It probably also helped me figure out the process of writing a book, as it was my first time doing it.

When I got to my third book, I realized the hand cramps were not worth it, and switched to typing directly on my computer. It was a real time-saver too, as I can obviously type faster that I can write. But, I sometimes wrote on my work computer, and sometimes on my home computer, so I ended up emailing myself the file several times a week. Apart from being a version-control nightmare, this was really stressful.

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My new book is safe up there in the magical cloud!

So finally, in the year 2017, I have finally realized what everyone else realized a long time ago, namely that if you simply use cloud storage, you will never ever run into these types of problems. I am at home today because my son’s daycare is closed, and I had a moment of sadness that I forgot to save my file of my new book, and would not be able to work on it until Monday. But then! I opened up Google Drive and there it was, right up to the very last word I typed yesterday! Thank you, the magical cloud, for saving my writing!

Trying to pick up where I left off

Apparently 2017 is almost over, and, when it comes to volume of writing, I have done very little this year. After finishing my six-book series of urban fantasy, I wanted to do some personal, reflective writing. I did so, but it took so much more time than I had anticipated.

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My children reflecting on their actual reflections in a pond, upstate New York, summer 2017.

The original, finished but as-yet unedited piece was about 12K words, and that took me more than a year to write. Then I worked on editing it. That took about two months and left it at about 7k words. And now I’m left with a piece that was extremely cathartic to write, but I don’t want anyone to read it, because of the personal nature. But I hate to think the year-long process was just an exercise in journal writing, so I may look to publish it in a magazine, under a pen name.

However, all this said, what I need now is a break from this gut-wrenching introspection and get back to something that’s, at times, only slightly less painful, and that is fiction writing. Ten years ago, in 2007, I decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), and that was when I wrote approximately 60% of the first draft of my first book, New Blood. When December 1 came, I just kept on writing until I was done, and then put it in a drawer for about 3 years. Because I find meaning in symmetry, I am thinking now would be a good time for me to put aside my personal troubles, and start thinking more about the topic of my next series, werewolves!

Never let your past happiness get in the way of your future happiness

Like most mothers, I’m very good at mentally torturing myself. Mostly, I think: “If I hadn’t been so bad with the credit cards years ago, I wouldn’t have to work so hard now and may have even got to stay home with my baby.” Sometimes I even think I would have been just able to stay home and write for a living, making less money, but needing less. But I have bills to pay. And that’s the awful thing I realized about credit cards: most of the time you are sacrificing your future happiness for your immediate wants.

I’m not talking about necessary things, of course, but imagine this scenario. You want to start a new exercise regimen, so you go out and buy an expensive treadmill. Maybe it’s $2,000. To pay for it, you sign up for a store payment plan in which you can take 18 months to pay for it interest-free. But then it’s 18 months later and you still have about $1,000 left to pay off, except now you have to pay the 20% interest rate, so you may end up spending about $3,000 on this treadmill by the time it’s paid off in three years.

Meanwhile, what has happened to that treadmill? After using it for the first few months, it has become an extremely overpriced, unsightly clothing rack. Maybe you can offload it on Craigslist, and get $300 for it, but meanwhile you are still paying for it via the credit card bill.

I’m not saying this is the fate of every treadmill, but it is probably what happens to most of them. And to this I add the somewhat obvious comment of how much cheaper it would have been to just go outside and walk a bit, instead of buying the exercise equipment. No, I didn’t buy a treadmill. And I don’t know what I bought to equal the amount of credit card debt I have, but it was probably just random crap.

Since starting on this minimalist journey, I have begun looking into the best ways to pay off debt, and I recommend Ready for Zero. It’s a free site and pretty easy to use. This Christmas, I gave myself the gift of cancelling my highest interest credit card. Now I only have one, and the interest is pretty low. No, I didn’t totally pay off the other one; I just cancelled it so I can never use it again. And I have been able to decrease the debt by about half in a few months.

In the past, I’ve given into the quick fix of a bad mood, bad day, bad whatever with buying something online. Because I was only using one card for my online purchases, I could see how much I was spending a month. It was pretty scary. And I have to admit that sometimes I give in to this behavior still, but will just add items to my cart and then turn off the computer. Almost always, by the next day, I will decide that I don’t really need the item and delete it. In fact, I just checked, and I have not ordered a single thing online in the month of January!

So where is all this rambling going? I know I had a point. Here it is: Never sacrifice your future happiness for a short-term burst in happiness.