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 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!

My love of the library

Growing up in an urban area (Queens, NY), I was able to walk to many different stores that were within a few blocks of my house. There were no bookstores, but there was a library. Sadly, most of my family members were not very into reading, so I was not taken to the library until I noticed it one day on the way to the grocery store, and specifically requested of my grandmother that we go there.

I still remember the feeling of amazement when I realized I was able to not only read any book I wanted, but I could also borrow them and take them home. After that, I visited the library at least once a week. Today, I am fortunately enough to live within three blocks of my local library. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, it’s not open on the weekends, but I do take my sons to visit whenever I’m home with them during the week.

Last week, we stopped in and my older son immediately picked out two books for me to read them. He’s only four, and thus has very limited reading ability as of yet. But I do love reading to them, and hope they grow up to love books at least in part due to my efforts. Anyway, we got through the first one okay, but then I realized the second one was quite long, and my ten-month-old had already fallen asleep in his stroller, and my older one’s lids were fluttering.
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Of course, it’s also very important to read to your cats.

Suddenly, the idea came to me that we could borrow these books! I usually don’t borrow books because I’m afraid I’ll loose them and never return them, but due to my recent experiments into mimimalism, my house is (slightly) less cluttered, so I decided it was worth the risk. My son was so excited at getting to borrow a book, and it brought me back to my childhood library experience. I realize I’m very lucky to live where I do, and hopefully the library will be around for my sons to enjoy as they grow up.

Little break down in tears on the prairie

One of my favorite book series when I was young was the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books. I read them at least once a year while I was in elementary school, and then every few years as I grew older. Now that my older son is almost five, I decided to start reading them to him. Of course, I started in chronological order, with “Little House in the Big Woods.” It was less exciting than I remember.

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Poor Jack had to walk all over the prairie through the first few books!

For those who haven’t read this series as recently as I have, “Big Woods” basically goes through a year in the life of the Ingalls family, without having much of a plot. The most memorable part for me was when the kids blew up the pig bladder and tossed it around like a ball. The next book, “Farmer Boy,” about her husband growing up in upstate New York, was memorable for all the vivid descriptions of the food. In the next book, “Little House on the Prairie,” the family attempts to settle on the Osage Indian reservation, and there were a lot of very negative things said about Native Americans, so I ended up skipping over quite a bit. “On the Bank of Plum Creek,” which comes next, has my very favorite part in all the books, where Laura has a party and takes all her school friends to go wading in the crick, and there scares Nellie Olson with the crab who lives in it.
A few nights ago, we started on the next book, “On the Shores of Silver Lake.” There is a gap of a few years between the start of this book and the one before it, and Laura is now 13 years old instead of 9. The tone is very different, and a lot of horrible things have happened, such as Mary going blind and the death of an infant. I knew I had to read the part about Mary going blind, because it is such a prevalent plot point in the rest of the books, but I paused in my reading to make sure my son understood what blindness was before going on. (I edited out the part about the “Scarlet fever settling in her eyes,” because Scarlet fever doesn’t make one go blind. One theory is that she actually had untreated meningitis. But I digress.) And although I swore the part about the baby dying happened right away, I didn’t see it. Perhaps they cut it out of the book, since I have a very new edition? Whatever the case may be, the youngest sister is already born at the beginning of this book, and she was their last born child, so chronologically, it already happened.
The second chapter of the book is memorable because Jack, Laura’s childhood dog, dies. I was prepared for this and fully expected to be able to read it. It’s an important part of the book, because it’s supposed to represent Laura’s transition from childhood to adolescence. But I’m not deluded enough to think my four-year-old child would grasp the significance of that. So as it went on, I started breaking down and crying, and eventually had to stop reading at this part:
“Good Jack, good dog,” she told him. He turned his head to touch her hand with the tip of his tongue.
Then he let his nose sink onto his paws and he sighed and closed his eyes. He wanted to sleep now.
Strangely enough, I don’t remember crying quite so much about it when I was younger. Since I’ve had kids, I’ve definitely gotten more emotional, and everything I see I tend to imagine seeing through their eyes. And while I want to be able to talk to my sons about anything, the death of a fictional bulldog is obviously too much for me right now.

The one in which I explain why I couldn’t write for nine months

Just over a year ago, I had one of the biggest shocks of my life when I found out I was pregnant for the second time. And in those early weeks, when the belly hasn’t grown yet and there is little to no physical manifestation of said pregnancy, I actually did not believe it. Then, about nine weeks in, the extreme tiredness set in, followed very quickly by the pregnancy brain.

For those who have never experienced pregnancy brain, this is how it goes: “I am pregnant! Holy crap! How did this happen? What’s going on? I need to sleep!” These thoughts are quickly followed by somewhat of a period of non-thought, in which you may fall asleep, or simply stare blankly into space. As soon as you come out of it, these thoughts occur:  “I am pregnant! Holy crap! How did this happen? What’s going on? I need to sleep!”

Repeat this for about seven more months. I’ve even woken up in the middle of the night to pee, tried to roll over and get out of bed, failed, and then thought “Why am I so fat?” before remembering I was many months pregnant. Basically, it was a nine-month period of having no short-term memory and barely functioning as a member of society.

I’m sure there are women to whom this doesn’t happen. Those women might be able to do awesome things like hold a coherent thought, leave a room without forgetting why they left in the first place, and believe that they are pregnant and are able to make plans for said baby or even buy a diaper before said baby is born. I am not one of those women. My brain only started functioning again about a day after the baby was born, and I then had the wherewithal to order diapers and formula online to be delivered before we got home.

Anyway, the point is that even though I was about 5,000 words into Demon Blood at the end of last year when I found out I was pregnant, my writing immediately dropped off. I was somehow able to get another 5,000 words done by April, which is when I became too pregnant to function. The baby was born on July 10th, and by the end of August, the thought occurred to me that I was in the middle of writing a book.

Fortunately for me, the baby had not been informed that newborns are supposed to be bad at sleeping, so I was able to pick up writing again more quickly than I anticipated. My maternity leave was over October 2nd, and through a shear force of will, I somehow managed to finish the first draft of Demon Blood at 5pm on October 1st.

Since I’ve started writing the Vampire in the City series, I’ve been able to get out one book a year, and I realized that the end of 2014 was rapidly approaching and the book wasn’t ready yet. So from the beginning of October until now, I’ve been working on the editing of Demon Blood almost without break. (I have several types of edits I go through, and usually give myself a few days off between them.)

In short, I have given up things like my lunch hour at work, sleep, and the playing of video games, but finally, with less than a month to spare, Demon Blood is coming out on December 5th! Here’s where you can reserve a copy!

My love of printed materials

In these days when everything is on Kindle, Nook, PDF file, and the like, one has to wonder if paper books are on their way to becoming extinct. While I do prefer to do most of my reading electronically, I feel a bit nostalgic about the paper book, and any printed material, really.

In high school and college, I had a quarterly magazine that I wrote for and edited. At first, I just sold it to kids in my high school. But when I went to college, I began selling it in local bookstores and offering subscriptions as well.

And then my first real job when I got out of college was as an editorial assistant for a medical journal, and I ended up working in print journals for the next eight years. To this day, I distinctly remember being excited the day when we would get a new issue. I loved being able open the journal to the masthead and read my name, and flip through the articles to see all the work I had done in a tangible form.

So I guess it’s only natural that I feel a crazy amount of glee when I see the three books I have written all in print format. As my two-year-old son would say, “I did it!”

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And here’s a link to the new one, Witch Blood, in print:

http://www.amazon.com/Witch-Blood-Vampire-Three-Volume/dp/1482310015