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!

Missing both my computer and imaginary friends

If you’re the type of person who likes unfocused, general blog posts, then you will love this one!

So, what’s going on with me? First, I don’t have a computer! That sucks for anyone in general, but if you are struggling to put out the last book in an urban fantasy series, it perhaps really sucks. It’s been over a month now, and I miss having a computer a great deal. However, I just started a new job after being home with the kids all summer (read: not making money), so while I’ll hopefully have one soon, it hasn’t been able to happen yet.

Another thing: I was in two regular RPGs, and now both are on hiatus. I know this shouldn’t seem like that jarring an occurrence, but these were two people who I was very close to, and I do miss them. This happened at around the same time when I finished writing the first draft of Fresh Blood, so I also had to say goodbye to my protagonist. And for those who weren’t clear from reading above, the people I am missing are the characters I played in the games.

Thing of change the third: My older son started attending kindergarten in a public school this fall. He had previously only attended a private pre-k at his daycare. For those who don’t have kids, daycare hardly ever closes. Public school is closed all the time, for holidays I would never have off from work. In addition, daycare gets out at 6pm. Public school gets out at 2:20pm. So it was a bit of an adjustment, to say the least, with a ton of scrambling for childcare. When both parents work outside the home (and in different boroughs) and both kids attending different schools, commuting can be very difficult.

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My son on the first day of kindergarten!

So in conclusion, there have been a lot of changes lately, and I am looking forward to having things calm down a bit, if that ever really happens.

Re-reading the Vampire in the City series

Last week I finished writing Fresh Blood, the sixth and final book in the VitC series. The next day, I left for a vacation to Cape Cod. We were with family, including our two children, who are almost five and just turned one. We stayed at a house on the beach, and spent most of our time outdoors doing stuff with the kids.
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My older son, buried in sand and screaming!

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Me with my younger son, not buried in sand but screaming nevertheless!

At nights, after the kids were asleep, I busied myself with re-reading the entire Vampire in the City series. I wanted to take notes on the timeline, figure out what loose ends might need to be tied up, and just have it really fresh in my head for the edit of Fresh Blood. Somehow, I managed to finish the fifth book the day after we came back, and am now set to start on the second draft. While I don’t have an official release date yet, I’m thinking sometime around October 1st.

While I was re-reading my writing, some of it from about ten years ago, I was mostly struck with how much my protagonist has changed over the course of the series. In the first book she was sometimes awkward to the point of embarrassing me as I was reading it. By the last book she is much more sure of herself and proactive, instead of just reacting to the situations I put her in. Overall, I am pleased with this progression, and I hope my readers will enjoy the culmination of a series that has been very fun to write!

Laser eye surgery — another minimalist adventure

When surgical vision correction came out many, many years ago, I immediately wanted it. But I was young and it was expensive, and a bit new and scary. But I’ve always liked hiking and outdoor things, and when I was younger, I even enjoyed camping, and always thought how much better it would be if I could participate in those activities without having to worry about my contacts. Of course, I also had a pair of glasses, which I wore at nights and sometimes if I was just hanging out at home. But I’m not one of those people who looks good in glasses, and the weight of them was often enough to give me a headache.

So a few weeks ago, I had Lasik performed. What made me go through with it, after contemplating it for so long? I don’t even know. At one point, a few years ago, when I started writing, I thought a good reward for me when I sold books would be the surgery. (Yes, I thought of surgery as a reward.) Anyway, I realized that I had made more in profits than the cost of the surgery, so I consulted a few friends who had the procedure, and went in to find out what it was all about.

One of my complaints was that when I was knitting and/or reading while doing something else that require far vision (watching television or making sure my kids weren’t dying), I would have to lift up my glasses to see the up-close activity. Obviously with surgical correction, I would no longer be able to do this. But they gave me a trial of unequal contact lens to test. In this test, my right eye (which is my dominant eye), would be fully corrected for distance, and my left eye would be under-corrected for near vision.

I tried this out for a week, and it seemed successful, so I went through with the surgery, only a day after my birthday. The day of the surgery was rough. I am a little freaked out about anything having to do with my eye, which I then realized was probably why I put off the surgery for so long. And the place forgot to call my husband to pick me up after, so I sat around for two hours, completely blind and confused as to why he wasn’t there yet.

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Not my actual eye!

That night, I had to keep on these kind of awful plastic shields over my eyes that caused beads of condensation so dense that I could barely see a thing until the next morning. And then of course, there was the endless stream of drops, which will continue for about a month. But I can see! I keep waking up at night thinking I forgot to take out my contacts, but no, I won’t need them again! It’s only been a little while, but I have to say it was definitely worth it, and I probably should have just done it sooner!

So what’s with the title of this post, me calling this a minimalist adventure? Well, there aren’t many people who wouldn’t like to minimalize the amount of things they have to do to get ready in the morning, and I’ve found another way to cut down that list. Plus, I got to donate my glasses, and give away my contact lens solution!

My actual dream is to open the very first sock puppet school

Supposedly, we learn from our mistakes. It just takes some of us a little longer than others. One of my (many) mistakes that I have done over (and over) again is go back to school. In (some year, a long time ago) I graduated Pace University with a Bachelor degree in literature and communications. Never being one to leave well enough alone, I decided only a few years later to go back to school for something else. After all, if one degree is good, two are better, right?

What did I go to school for? I don’t exactly remember. I did take a bunch of anatomy classes, which I enjoyed. I also took pottery, which I enjoyed somewhat less. There may have been business, which I didn’t enjoy at all. At one point, when my mom had just died, and I was not exactly in my right mind, I even quit my job to go to massage therapy school. Where did rational thinking come into play during this decision? It did not. How much, in general, do I enjoy touching people? I do not. It has been pointed out to me that when a person tries to hug me, I will pat their back once and then pull away. The only good thing about massage therapy school was that I was able to give all non-massage presentations by sock puppet theater.

Nevertheless, I went to massage therapy school for almost two years. Please take note that I said “almost two years.” How long is massage therapy school in New York? Two years. That’s right, I dropped out with about a month to go. I developed painful bursitis in my hands, and also was offered a job as managing editor of a medical journal. After that epic fail, I stopped thinking about school for a few years. I would like to say more than three, but in reality it was exactly three. This time, I applied to acupuncture school. Although that sounds like it’s really out there, it did use a lot of the classes and credits from massage school, so theoretically that time and money would not be totally lost.

I am happy to report, however, that even though I applied, interviewed, and was accepted into acupuncture school, I did not go. It was around that time that I decided, after not wanting anything to do with children the first 34 years of my life, that I did want a kid. So at that point I concentrated on getting pregnant and having my first son, and temporarily gave up on the idea of school.

A few years later, after my son was born and my first book was published, I realized I no longer had the desire to go back to school. It took me a bit to think about how these things are related, but they very much are. My job did not fulfill me as a person, and I was looking for something that did. For whatever reason, my thoughts always lay in academia rather than, say, world travel or volunteer work. But by publishing my first book, something I had wanted to do since I was in elementary school, I fulfilled my inner need to express myself and do something I love, and thus did not need to go back to school.

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My elementary school, PS 229 in Woodside, Queens. It was there that I first said I wanted to be a writer. And made sock puppets.

Walking the walk

Both my favorite form of meditation and my favorite form of exercise is walking. Sometimes I try to notice tiny details about the world around me that would otherwise go unseen, sometimes I use the walk as a time to work out a problem in a story I’m writing, and sometimes I just let my mind go blank. This love of walking started way back when I was too young to even think of it as exercise and just did it for fun. My grandmother would take me to our local cemetery (which had enough flora to seem more like a park) and we would wander around looking at the trees and interesting gravestones and then eat a picnic lunch on her mother’s grave.

When I was 18 and had just graduated from high school, I made the somewhat odd decision to live at my parent’s summer house upstate and go to college there. Having lived with family in the city for my entire life, I don’t think I was prepared for just how bored I would be, living by myself in the country. Out of sheer boredom, I just started walking down the road one day. I ended up walking for about two hours a day, every day. Years later, living in Westchester county (north of NYC by about a half hour), I found myself still in this habit of long walks. But by this time, it was less out of boredom and more out of desire. I always walked alone and found I liked the quiet and solitude. If a few days went by and I didn’t get my walk in, I would start to get stressed.

Eventually I met and married my husband and moved back to NYC. And while I do and probably always will love it here, there are not many places where one can find a walk in solitude. Not having as much free time as I used to pre-kids, out of necessity I’ve learned to make due with the mile-long walk from the subway station to my house. It may not be as green and peaceful as a country road or a park, but when I put on my headphones and tune out the world, I can sometimes grasp that tiny bit of quietness in a busy day that can keep me sane.

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Me on a wooded trail in FDR Park, Westchester County, New York.

Minimalism Game–Finally Complete!

At long last, I am finally done with the minimalism game I was doing in January. Of course, now it’s the end of March, so, yeah. But the point is that I did it, and in the process, got rid of hundreds of items that were filling up my house with their uselessness, ugliness, and stress-making.
By the end of the game, you will notice that I included things in categories rather than individual items. Some may call this cheating, but these projects were very time-intensive. For instance, we had several hundred CDs. I had to go through them, separate the cases, paper materials, and actual CDs, and then put the CDs into a very large storage folder, and put the paper and the cases into recycling. This took many hours. Likewise, shredding several years worth of my husbands pay stubs took a full weekend of intermittent shredding.
Also, I am still going at it! My current two projects are to flip through old magazines and recycle them, and to make stray yarn into either preemie or chemo caps (depending on yarn weight).
But right now, I need to shift my focus and get back into writing, if I am to meet my self-imposed deadline of this summer for the next book in my urban fantasy series, plus do some writing for an RPG I’m going to be taking over for a few months, plus another writing project.
So below are the final days of the minimalism challenge. The next time I do this (probably in the fall), I will probably only commit myself to one item a day!

Week 4

Day 22–(1)Tank top too big. (2)Alka-seltzer that’s ten years old. (3)Small white onesie. (4)Small blue onesie. (5)Small pajamas. (6)Many old cards. (7)Broken AC. (8)Old underwear. (9)Birthday gift bags. (10)Gross bowl. (11)Gross toothbrush holder. (12)Decorative pillow. (13)Decorative pillow. (14)Earring unmatched. (15)Sock unmatched. (16)Earrings I’ve never liked. (17)Hockey puck. (18)Many broken discs. (19)Plastic toys I hate. (20)Disgusting cat toy. (21)Husband’s underwear that I hate. (22)Baby pjs too small.

Day 23–(1)Old notepads. (2)CD sorter. (3)CD sleeves. (4)Ripped towel. (5)Unmatched sock. (6)Small baby hat. (7)Boots that never fit. (8)Small plastic toys. (9)Old magazine. (10)Ugly underwear. (11)Knife that has no purpose. (12)Useless shelf. (13)Surgical tape. (14)Broken plastic toys. (15)Shirt my husband hates. (16)Son’s ripped pants. (17)Very old shirt. (18)Faded t-shirts. (19)Old face mask. (20)Broken Tupperware. (21)Unflattering shirt. (22)Shirt that hasn’t fit in years. (23)Plastic wreath left by previous owners.

Day 24–(1)Decorative pillow. (2)Another decorative pillow. (3)Baby hat I didn’t like. (4)More old underwear. (5)Husband’s shirt that I hate. (6)Old belt. (7)First scarf I knitted but don’t like. (8)Broken CDs. (9)T-shirt that looks ridiculous. (10)Jeans that are too big (Yay!). (11)Weird food items we won’t eat. (12)Plastic baby toy. (13)Razor holder never used. (14)T-shirt that hasn’t fit in years. (15)Husband’s very old white undershirts. (16)Belt missing buckle. (17)Inedible goodie bag contents. (18)Razor holder that’s never used. (19)Pumice stone. (20)Socks with runs. (21)Ugly barrettes. (22)Last of the maternity shirts. (23)Huge men’s shorts I can get both my legs in one leg. (24)Old robe.

Day 25–(1-6)Bowls left in cabinets by old owners. (7)Old pajamas. (8)Old nightgown. (9)Sweater with broken zipper. (10)Plastic game. (11)Broken toy. (12)Broken suitcase. (13)Old lanyard. (14)Old character sheets. (15)Granola bars no one likes. (16)Goodie bag rejects. (17)Fish tank. (18)Fish tank stand. (19)Fish tank light. (20)Fish tank heater. (21)Fish tank plants. (22)Fish tank gravel. (23)Fish tank hose. (24)Fish tank filer. (25)Fish net.

Day 26–(1)Fish tank cleaner. (2)Large box of other fish equipment. (3)Broken toy. (4)Old lipgloss. (5)Bucket with a hole. (6)Old herbs. (7)Broken bucket. (8)Second diaper genie. (9)Small hat. (10)Broken light box. (11)Small baby hat. (12)Dress way too small. (13)Shirt way too big. (14)Shirt missing buttons. (15)Pens that don’t work. (16)Ugly underwear. (17)Faded out shirt. (18)Horrible shampoo. (19)Baby outfit with broken snap. (20)Tupperware lid. (21)Worn out tank top. (22)Shirt with hole. (23)Worn out shirt. (24)Rubber ball too small. (25)Ripped bra. (26)Wicker basket.

Day 27–(1)Deflated balloon. (2)Cloak cat peed on. (3)Mixer. (4)Blender. (5)Broken toy. (6)Brita filter not used. (7)Kid’s old socks. (8)Socks with holes. (9)Tiny baby pants. (10)Crappy knife. (11)Shirt I thought I was sentimental about. (12)Cute but tiny baby jacket. (13)Weird lace thing. (14)Crap plastic toy. (15)Dirty rubber ducky. (16)Tons of underwear I don’t like. (17)Very old frying pan. (18)Tons of husband’s underwear I don’t like. (19)Too small baby socks. (20)Binkies baby never liked. (21)Sentimental old t-shirt. (22)Old robe. (23)Ugly pajamas. (24)Another old frying pan. (25)Blouse no one liked. (26)Granola bars we hate. (27)Key to my office (given back).

Day 28–(1-10)Very small onesies. (11-28)Old magazines.

Week 5

Day 29–(29+)Like 8 years worth of my husband’s pay stubs (shredded and recycled).

Day 30–(30)Books.

Day 31–(31)CD cases.