Monday, March 18, 2019

Book Questions

So it looks like the publication date for my book will be NOVEMBER 3, 2019. 

Having a date makes it feel so much more real.

I'll post more when I know more, but right now I'm in the midst of talking to the editor about last-minute tidying up of the manuscript, possible cover ideas, and fun things like that.

Not sure how much I can disclose here at this point, but if you have any questions about the story, the process of getting it published, or anything else, please feel free. I'm still hopping up and down in a somewhat undignified fashion, tripping over cats, and being able to share more about this might calm me down a little bit.

Or not.

Probably not.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Home Sweet Home

See under the peak
and across?
March 1st was ours first anniversary in the house. It's been a very fast year, yet in some ways it feels like we've been here forever.

Apparently we have now been here long enough for the house to throw a significant repair at us, and I'm going to deal with it before it gets worse. It's probably going to be a shared job with our next-door neighbor, because it's to do with the chimney between our two houses, and the stucco that covers it.

About a week ago, I noticed some wet marks on the stucco high up on the chimney. It had rained a day or two before, so I didn't think too much about it, but the next day, it still looked damp. And there was an area of wetness under the peak of the roof, where the chimney joins the house. It looked the same on his side, so whatever it was, we both had it.


December 2017
I called a contractor I'd used before, who found a mystery leak from our bathroom window (entry point) to our kitchen window (exit point), figuring that he could diagnose the problem even if it wasn't something that he could fix. He came tonight, and yes, he saw the problem right off, and no, it's not in his wheelhouse. We need a proper mason/stucco guy to handle it.

The problem is two-fold -- the silicone caulk connecting the flashing to the chimney has deteriorated and has wide gaps in it, and there are large cracks in the stucco itself, both on the chimney above the roof and for about 3 feet below the roof level. His suspicion is that water has gotten down behind the stucco because of the flashing and then frozen and cracked the stucco, which then will let in more water because of the cracks.

Unhappy stucco
It's going to involve all new stucco for the top several feet of the chimney, at least that's what we think at this point. Which could be worse.

At least there's no water actively coming into the house at this point, and I will do anything to stave that off. If there's anything the old house in West Philly taught me, it's that water is evil, and it goes where it wants.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Roundup

Snowing today, so I'm wishing for spring
I found out last Friday that my three-day-per-week job was coming to an end. Someone retired recently and they decided to rearrange and combine jobs so that they would only have full-time employees. Unless I wanted full-time? I did not. Full time = overtime, and I most certainly did not want that.

So here I am. Gainfully unemployed at the moment, but I'm okay with it. I have other offices where I've temped regularly, and I'll reach out soon. Right now, I'm enjoying the luxury of being home for a few weeks.

Resting, you know. By starting to prepare for spring craft show season, by finishing some house projects that have been lingering (can you believe it's been a year since we moved?), by writing every day.

I'm waiting on notes from the publisher regarding their suggested edits to my book. Then I get to go through the manuscript and see if I agree with their suggestions, make the changes (if I agree) and defend my choices (if I do not). From the discussion I had with the editor, it doesn't sound like there will be much, but that remains to be seen. Also, one person's definition of "much" is another person's "how dare you say my child is ugly?" So, we'll see.

One of the things that I really like about this publishing co-op is that I have veto power over the cover design. Because there are some awful covers out there, and I'd prefer mine not be one of them. They commission a batch of designs, present them to me, and I can say if I like any of them, and if not, I can at least say what parts of them I liked, and then they do another round of designs. Hoping for good things.

Cats are in flux. When we lose one, it always seems that it takes a while for the rest to discover the new world order, even if it's exactly the same. Annie has been a bit of a bully to Harriet lately, and Nicky, for some strange reason, is being nice to me. I'll take it.

Currently working on a new writing project set during the Great Depression, because it's an era that has always intrigued me. Not a lot to show for it yet, but these things take time. Hopefully not as long a time as the previous one, which could be going to college if it was a person.

If you have any questions about the book project or the process it took for me to (finally) find a publisher, let me know!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Nap time

What time is it?

Nap time.

It's strange, they never slept there together when Katie was alive. The one change in behavior I'm seeing is that everyone is getting along.

Also, when we leave in the morning, I haven't had to use my usual farewell -- "We'll be back. Don't break anything, don't set anything on fire."

These three don't look like they have the combined motivation to do any of that.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A little news


Not sure what else there is to say here. I wish I had video of the happy dance I've been doing around my living room ever since I got the official news.

I'll talk more about what's going on soon, including snippets from my upcoming novel, but for now -- I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

And then there were 3

Katie. Katydid. TaterTot. Tayto. KitKat.

I've been expecting to lose Annie for so long, this one came as a surprise. I wondered how Katie would manage, losing her sparring partner. Apparently she managed it by going first.

Quite unexpectedly, too - as far as we could tell, she was as healthy as she'd always been, until she suddenly wasn't. Which, as things go, is probably the best way to go about it. She didn't linger, and I doubt she knew what was going on.

The last few weeks, Katie had been looking a little stringy. Seeing that she was 17, I didn't find that unusual, since people tend either to gain or lose weight as they age. In all other respects, she was herself.

She'd always been a big drinker, so her water intake didn't seem unusual. But Thursday, I picked her up and she suddenly seemed abruptly lighter, in a way that didn't feel right. I got a vet appointment for her, trying the vet here in town, and he ran basic blood and urine tests on her, and gave her a round of IV fluids because she was dehydrated.

At that point, I was pretty sure that it was either hyperthyroidism (which Lily had) or diabetes (Max and Cosmo). I was hoping for thyroid, because my diabetic cats have had really bad luck. Cosmo was never able to be regulated, and he went into a coma. Max took to insulin okay, but he developed a lot of other associated problems, including asthma, and died about 6 months after his diagnosis.

The vet called about an hour later with her test results. Diabetes. I thought about it. I called Mario. I talked to Katie, and soaked her calico fur, but I knew what we were going to do. 

Yesterday morning, she made another trip to the vet. They gave her treats and spray cheese before giving her a shot, and she was so busy snacking she didn't realize what happened. As deaths go, it was pretty good.

I could have let her linger, tried to stabilize her blood sugar, and keep her on twice-daily insulin for the rest of her life, however long that would have been. But I didn't think that was right for her. She'd never been sick a day in her life - she'd never even been back to the vet since she was spayed in 2002 - and I didn't want to end her life treating her like a pincushion.

I let her leave the party while she was still enjoying herself. And since she was the official greeter, dinner guest, and all-around pain in the ass, the house is going to be much quieter.

Friday, February 1, 2019

55 and up

A little corner of my writing space
Somehow or other, Thursday was my 55th birthday. I have no idea how that happened. I think that every year, but 55? Really? That puts me in a whole new age category, the dreaded "55 and up."

There is some news, though. Nothing definite yet, but an offer of a publishing contract from a small publishing co-op. It's worth thinking about. Even if I had literary agents clamoring for my book, and even if they sold it right out of the gate (which wouldn't be likely), it wouldn't be published for at least a year.

I'm thinking it over, and a lawyer friend is reviewing the contract. I'll know more soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Annie Update

We're holding at four cats at the moment, but I have an update on Annie.  You might remember that she's had surgery twice in the past to remove tumors under her right front arm.  The last one was two years ago Thanksgiving, and she had such a bad reaction to the anesthesia that time that I decided then I wouldn't put her through it again.  (She came out of it in a full panic, and paced and cried nonstop for over 24 hours, and she still wakes up anxious and disoriented more than two years later). 

She's seventeen now, and that only adds to the risk.

About a year ago, one year out from surgery, I noticed a tiny bump under her arm.  Tiny, smaller than a lentil.  I decided to stick with my resolve and just keep an eye on it. 

Flash forward a year, and it's conservatively about the size of a Cadbury chocolate Easter egg, on her chest and under her arm on the right side.  Like the two previous tumors (which were still tiny when removed), it seems to be encapsulated - it's completely smooth and there are no other lumps, bumps or irregularities anywhere on her.

Now that I'm faced with the realization that this is going to kill her sooner rather than later, I'm regretting my decision not to treat it.  But then I second-guess my second-guessing, and have to admit that I've got a living cat who doesn't realize yet that there's anything wrong, and that the surgery might have done more harm than good and I might have lost her sooner.

So we're in a holding pattern until she tells me she doesn't feel right.  At the moment, she's still eating and drinking normally, her fur is still shiny and not falling out, and it doesn't impede her movement at all - she still jumps on and off the bed and chases Katie like a kitten.  She sleeps more than she used to, but she's also seventeen. What does that make her in cat years, 85? I'd be sleeping more, too.

I've done this before, and I'll do it again.  Annie will let me know when to do it. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A special doll

This was a really special custom project I did back in late December.

The customer - the mom - contacted me and said that her adopted daughter had had cleft repair surgery, which left her with a scar.  She felt self-conscious about the scar, and said that there were no dolls out there that looked like her, both Asian and with the cleft scar.

So, being a good mom, my customer reached out and asked if I could make one for her daughter.

I was happy to oblige, and I think her daughter was happy with the result. 


Monday, January 7, 2019

Scraps

As I start to excavate my workroom post-holiday, one of the first things I do is clean up the scraps that have fallen everywhere.  By the end of the season, it feels like I'm just throwing stuff over my shoulder to be dealt with in January.

The general rule of scrap is that sweater bits, if they're too small to use, get shredded up and used for stuffing.  The cotton scraps get saved for doll clothes, if they're big enough.  If they're not, they go into the potholder stash.  If there's enough fabric left that I can get a 3" square from it, then it's not trash yet.  After that, well, if it's 100% cotton, it goes into the compost. 

Most of these will get put away for show season.  A few specific sets - cats and dogs, and a three pack of chickens - were intended for Etsy, but a friend already purchased the chickens. 

I've been asked why I bother to make potholders.  They sell well during the holiday season, but aren't much of a moneymaker, since people generally don't want to pay much for something that they'll either burn or get filthy in the kitchen.  But they are a nice add-on purchase, and it alleviates my guilt that I don't use up every piece of cloth that enters my hands. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Putting it in writing

I also think the quiet out here helps me write
So one of the reasons I've been AWOL lately (aside from the move, the pack, the unpack, the house sale, the other house sale, vacation, and craft show season), was writing. 

A few years ago - 2015, to be exact - I got an agent for a novel I'd written.  She submitted the book over the course of a year, but it never found a home.  Agent and I parted company, and I spent a fair amount of time muttering about people who didn't appreciate a story I'd spent years of my life working on, and then I moved on.  Sort of.

Fast forward to October, when I decided that I should, once and for all, see if the thing was worth publishing.  I opened the document and started reading.  And immediately started rewriting.  Things that seemed fine then were glaring now.  I'm not sure if it's because I've been listening to a crap ton of writing podcasts lately, which are really inspiring, but I started having all these ideas about how to fix things that I hadn't thought needed fixing.

I cut 15,000 words from the manuscript without losing a scene or a character, and actually added to it.  I convinced Mario to read it.  He didn't want to read it because, "What if it's awful? I can't tell you."  I told him that while I didn't know how good it was, I knew it wasn't awful, and if it made him feel better, then he could only say good things, even if that meant my spelling and punctuation were good.  Thankfully, he had more positive things to say than that.

I decided that I would save the book as it was, and start working on my query and synopsis, which to me are the hardest parts.  I can write long form, but to boil the entire plot down to 3 paragraphs?  That's hard.

Cue December, when I ran across this weird hashtag on Twitter - #pitmad.  Basically, it's a challenge to pitch your book in 280 characters, including the #pitmad tag and whatever tags apply to your form of book - #h (historical) #r (romance), etc.  I looked it up, and apparently it happens as few times a year.  I thought to myself, "I'll do it in March.  I'll be ready by then," and went on about my business.

Fifteen minutes later, I was back at my tablet, dictating a 280 character pitch, and hitting publish.  Because what could it hurt? 

By the end of the day, I had likes from 3 agents, which meant that within the next few days, I had to actually complete my query and synopsis and send it off to 3 real agents, not just the vague agent-y idea in my head. 

And guess what?  I did it.  Best way to get me to do something I don't think I can do?  Give me no time to think about it.

One of the agents got back to me and requested the full manuscript, which I sent off the next day, after doing one more frantic read-through for typos, wonky spacing, etc. 

And now we wait. 

But since I now have a decent query and synopsis, I won't just wait.  By the midpoint of January, I want to send out 5 more queries.  Because I can. 

And because this is the year that I will finally do this.  If it doesn't get agented, or if it does, but doesn't find a publisher, I'll do it myself.  I've looked into self-publishing, and if I can figure out how to write a book, I can certainly figure out the mechanics of publishing it.

And so it goes.  Onward, people, onward.