Friday, June 14, 2019

30 Days


What a difference a month makes.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Sewing room update

I may not talk about it as much, but I still recycle sew and do craft shows, though I admit lately it hasn't been with quite the same enthusiasm. I think working so much from home has gotten me out of practice with my "on" personality. It wears a lot faster.

This is a recent batch of jointed bears. It's a duplicate batch - five are going to a downtown Philly shop and their twins are going to a show with me this weekend. They don't sell regularly, but when they do, it's fast, no questions asked, just "take my credit card "

Also, I give you Annie, sewing room supervisor. Yes, she sits that close. Except when she's sitting on my chair, with me perched on the edge.

It's a cat's world. We just live in it.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

This a first

In my garden, anyway.

At the old house, I always wanted to plant asparagus, but I balked at the time you had to let it grow before you could harvest.

"Three years," I grumbled. "Who wants to wait three years before eating asparagus?"

Well, considering it was readily available at our weekly farmer's market during that time, it wouldn't have been a hardship. We bought it and ate it anyway.

And three years would have passed. Hell, eighteen years passed in that house.

So this year, I bought a pack of 15 asparagus crowns from an organic online gardening place. (Couldn't buy less than that, thought I was skeptical that I wanted 15 plants). Then I read the planting instructions and realized I couldn't have 15 plants, unless I wanted to dedicate 3 whole raised beds to their planting.

I gave away 10, planted 5, hoping for the best. Since my beds are raised, I can't plant as deep as recommended. But gardening is an experiment, so I ... experimented.

Lo and behold, many weeks later, there are two little stalks of asparagus waving over the soil. BTW, I didn't keep the bed wholly for asparagus. I planted lima bean starts in each corner with a trellis, so hopefully they aren't intruding too much. Nobody gets that much space in limited real estate. They'll have to fight it out.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Updates

New bed from the corner of the drive
First, because I guess this is more important, I had my follow up exam with the eye surgeon today. We're a little more than 2.5 weeks out from the surgery, and he was very pleased. More importantly, he was pleased enough to put my next appointment at the end of September, so other than twice-daily eyedrops until I run out, I'm FREE!

Second, almost as important, the front hedge is gone and I'm well on the way to having the garden borders I only dreamed of when we bought Sleeping Beauty's cottage-behind-the-hedge. 

It's taken a few weeks, ten yard waste bags and a few trash cans full of debris, but the entire frontage is now clear of hedge, English ivy, and vinca (which I loathe almost as much as ivy for its ability to run everywhere and pop up where I think I've removed it).

I put in some plants that I split off from mine - I love coral bells' ability to increase magically during the season. Between those and hostas and a few lavender from the local garden center, and two Autumn Joy sedum picked up at a yard sale on Saturday, along with a puny hydrangea that I got at Aldi for $4, the beds are furnished and covered in leftover wood chip from the back yard.

The side bed was done last fall and some early spring
Large scale gardening is never a budget-friendly thing, but if you've got a strong back and patience, it gets done on the relative cheap. I figured out that between landscape fabric, raised bed kits, 2 yards of wood chip, 2 yards of mushroom soil/topsoil combination, veggie starts and seeds, and those few new plants for the front border, I've spent just under $500. It's a little ouchy to think about, but the bulk of that expense will never be repeated, and the plants will either give us food or more plants for next year.

So I'm calling it a win.

Obligatory before photo
And yes, I'm tired from all that digging. Mario helped when he got in from work, but since I'm home all day right now, I did the bulk of it because...impatient.

Serves me right.











Bonus tidy back yard status photo

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Research

So despite my afflictions (which are getting better, BTW, though I'm still ridiculously red-eyed), I've been getting a lot of writing done.

Since one of my eyedrops is to keep my eye dilated, I'm a little light-sensitive, so typing in sunglasses has been the order of the day.

But I've hit 65,000 words on the new book and I'm happy with it so far. Obviously it's a first draft and there will be massive rearranging, swearing, rewriting, and various other forms of self-inflicted writer torture yet to come, but still.

65,000 words is no slouch.

One of the fun things about writing historical fiction is the stuff you get to research. Instead of the Tudor era, like my other book, this one is actually set in times where I can access newspapers, which I did. I made a very, very organized list of things I needed to know, and got myself a seven day free trial of Newspapers.com, and knocked out most of my list, including a few things I hadn't planned on researching, but that fit the time period and themes of the book, so they got included.

Some topics that got researched: bootleg coal mines, the Lindbergh baby, the Bonus Army, the prices of everything in 1931-1933, Hoovervilles and orphanages in and around Philadelphia. Also, what it's like to have many children - something I obviously don't know firsthand, but an online friend was kind enough to answer a long list of questions so I feel like I know my main character a little better.

I sometimes read, but doubt I would ever write fantasy: I'd rather research a world than make one up from scratch. I read, but am not sure I would ever write contemporary, either, since one of the reasons I write is to get away from the present. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Normal is good

So on Wednesday we got up at the ass crack of dawn to drive to the hospital. Know what sucks about being up that early? We drove almost a half hour, parked, and were inside before the sun even came up. The least I expected was a sunrise.

Somehow I had neglected to realize that anesthesia, even the local variety, would require an IV, and we had to do the dance of needle phobia again. They knocked me totally out for the very beginning, and then brought me up so that I could respond to directions to move my eyes, etc. Somewhere close to the end of the procedure, I realized I was listening to conversation and equipment noises, but it didn't bother me. Then they rolled me back to my cubicle and I startled the nurse by getting up and asking for coffee.

I had to wear the fly shield over the eye all yesterday, and took it off this a.m. at my follow up appointment, where I was given three kinds of eye drops, each with its own schedule.

I can see ok already. There are blurry spots in my vision,which will clear as the stitches dissolve and the swelling goes down. The white of my eye is pretty solidly red, which is bruising. I'm a little discolored, but not the shiner I expected.

Another appointment in a week to see how the healing is coming along. Assuming it's started already, because the stitches are itching like I've got sand in my eye and I can't rub or scratch.

Best part of today: the shower in the afternoon and wine with dinner. Normal is good.

Monday, April 22, 2019

I'm a grownup

In other words, I made it through my pre-admission testing last Wednesday without having a toddler meltdown.

Medical history, basic exam, blood pressure, EKG ... all normal except BP was a little elevated, probably due to my stressing about needles.

Or, as the nurse taking it said, "It could also have to do with that extra 15 pounds you're carrying."

Like I don't know. And I compared it to hers, and she said she had 20 on me, and we both started laughing.

The blood draw was remarkably painless. Which I knew it would be, I just can't look at needles without wanting to pass out. Interesting for someone who sews all the time and who has literally sewn THROUGH her finger twice with a sewing machine.

And speaking of, meet my new lovely. The hospital had a thrift store, and that was my reward for not having a tantrum. The machine wouldn't have happened except Mario pointed it out to me sitting under a table in a cute little olive green-and-gold suitcase.

It sews like a dream. I test drove it on my surgical instruction sheet, just to show it who was boss.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Small town

Speaking of my village, I just ran across this picture on my phone that I took last year. I don't know Megan, and I don't know the groom, but I do love knowing that I live in Bedford freaking Falls.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

It took a village

2018 - Before before
As always, my back yard is a work in progress.

At the old house, first it was roses, then roses and flowers, then roses and veggies, and finally, veggies with a few roses shoved in around the edges.

I'm trying to be more organized here, and I've found a way that keeps me from changing my mind every year. The front yard is flowers. All flowers, all the time. The side yard is flowers and the blueberry bushes, because the like the sun there.

The back yard is veggies, and to make me stick to that plan, I've installed eight raised beds, covered the paths with wood chip, and filled the beds with a mushroom soil/topsoil blend.

When I say I've done this, I do mostly mean I've done it. I got the raised bed kits last summer, and they spent the winter in the garage. About a month ago, I cleaned up the yard and rolled landscape fabric across the entire space, except for the back corners where I still need to get shrubs removed (I know, should have been done first, but can't anyone to do it). Then I placed the beds, and ordered the wood chips and soil to be delivered from a local place, each load a week apart.

Beds in, wood chips down
Last week, two yards of wood chips. I borrowed a wheelbarrow from a neighbor, and it took about 2.5 hours to wheelbarrow all of it from the driveway and spread it around the yard. I was tired, but not too bad. I figured the soil would take longer, it being heavier.

I was right. Soil arrived yesterday, mid-stucco repair. The driver, deciding for himself that I hadn't ordered enough wood chips, added an extra half yard on the house, and he shoveled those out first. (I was actually fine for wood chips, but my policy is never to say no to a freebie, so...). Next he dumped two yards of soil.

It didn't seem like a big pile. The driver actually shoveled the first barrowload himself, because he said he needed exercise. The stucco guys did a few loads, while I brewed them all a pot of coffee. Then the men got back to doing what they were being paid to do, and I started shoveling. And shoveling. And shoveling.

Even more than it looks like
The soil arrived at 11 a.m. My next door neighbors, whose half of the drive was filled with my dirt, came home around 3 p.m. and told me to sit while they shoveled for a while. The brother was strong, but a little too energetic with the wheelbarrow, so the extra wood chips will come in handy to cover where he dumped soil on the paths. They eventually went in to start dinner, and I continued shoveling until Mario got home at 6. By that point, there were about 5 barrow loads left, plus the sweeping. I sat on a raised bed and directed him, because by that point I couldn't raise my arms, my legs were shaking and my feet hurt from being on them non-stop for hours in cheap sneakers.

Just as I was heading up for my shower, I got a text from my neighbor down the street. "Saw your madness, you must need food. Clean up, be here at 7." She fed us a lovely roast chicken with Thai rice and string beans, and we brought a bottle of wine.

I was in bed by 9:30, and I can't say I've ever been happier to go to sleep while the rest of the world was still wide awake.

As done as it gets - for now
Today I'm mostly okay, and the parts that hurt at least tell me I was lifting properly - my hamstrings, inner things and my abs are killing me. My back and shoulders are just tired.

But now I have a clean slate, and when I can look at it without flinching, I will plant it.

In the meantime, I'm happy to know that while I can do it myself, it's nice when my village chips in to get it done.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

If I'm being honest

To work or not to work, that is the question.

Whether to suffer the slings and arrows of public transportation, annoying lawyers and crowds of people, or to stay home, in my happy place...

I got a call the other day from one of the offices where I've temped in the past. They're doing a bit of staff reorganization (where have I heard that before?) and need coverage during the period of disruption.

I said that I was still only willing to work three days per week, and they're fine with that, after the first week or two where they need some extra help.

I'm waiting to hear back regarding salary and hours - this preliminary call was just to confirm that I was still looking for part-time work - but now I'm reconsidering.

Do I want to go back into an office? I don't need to right now - and part of me would like to work from home, getting ready for craft show season and seeing how much I can get done on this new book.

I've never tried writing one flat-out because of interest before; it's always just been something I did because I enjoyed it. But now that the first book will be published in November, I need to think about a follow up. I'm never going to make a living exclusively from writing - the days of that happening are pretty much over unless you strike it REALLY lucky or are able to churn out a half dozen books a year.

But I also don't need much money. I figured out when I left full-time employment six years ago just how much I need to get by, and that was when I had a $1K per month mortgage. Life costs less now.

Plus, show season starts at the end of April, and my surgery is scheduled for May 1st. And somewhere in there I'll be dealing with the stucco contractor rebuilding the top portion of the chimney, and I'd really like to be around to supervise him. (Or get under his feet and annoy the crap out of him, if I'm being honest).


Friday, April 5, 2019

It's going to be something good

Harriet, being adorable on the kitchen table
Random roundup of news here.

Back in January, I got my eyes examined. For the first time in probably five years. I hadn't noticed my prescription changing much, but I'm basically blind as a bat, so hard to tell. I've been ordering new glasses online every year with my old prescription, and they've seemed fine - I always saw better, but that could simply be that the lenses weren't scratched.

Eye doctor writes new prescription, says he'd like to have me back for a few more tests because I'm so nearsighted; there are a few things he'd like to rule out. That turns into him sending me to a retina specialist, to further rule out things, and instead having them ruled in. Basically, I'm having eye surgery on May 1st to repair something that isn't quite broken yet.

I have a small hole in my retina. Specialist says it could have been there for years - I could even have been born with it - but myopia is very stressful on certain parts of your eyes, and, like every other part of us, even the muscles and tissues surrounding our eyes stiffen up with age. Something could detach, and soon.

So. Surgery.

Doctor says it's actually very routine (though it's not HIS eye), and will only take 30-45 minutes tops. I'll go home with a patch and eyedrops, lose the patch the next day and keep up the drops for another week or so.

Truthfully I'm more freaked out about the pre-admission testing, but that's because I'm a huge needle-phobic baby who has never yet managed to get a needle without either hurling or passing out.

I know. I come off as such a hardass sometimes, but show me something with a point that isn't intended for sewing, and off I go..

I'm trying to decide what kind of reward I deserve for getting through the testing without hitting either a tech or the floor. It's going to be something good.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The benefits of insomnia

We went to bed at 11:30 the other night. I'd had one of those "I'm going to do all the things" days -- successful, I might add -- and I was ready to sleep.

I woke up at 3:50 a.m. with a hot flash. The kind where you have to get up and go outside in your nightie to watch steam come off your body. That's always fun. I came back in, and tried to go back to sleep, but the cold and the effects of the power surge had me wide awake.

Since I have a custom bear due to ship this weekend, and I hadn't started it yet, I decided to go into the sewing room and cut out the pieces. It's a cute little pink footie pajama, but it was newborn size so I had to pair it with some solid pink fabric to make it stretch. I got that done and pinned for the morning (I'm not so bad that I'll sew while Mario's sleeping; he's a sound sleeper, but sewing machine on the other side of the wall might be a bridge too far).

Still not sleepy. Started cleaning up the sewing room, which has to be kept tidier these days because of the size. Also, because I have it laid out well, it's not difficult to clean. So I did that.

And then I sat down, pulled out a pad and pen from the drawer, and started what I thought was making notes for the next day's writing. Those "notes" turned into 6 close-written pages that felt almost like dictation. When I typed them up yesterday, I was surprised at how clear the writing was (both in thought and in actual handwriting), and more than that, I had middle-of-the-night scrawled more than 1800 words, 300 more than my word count goal for the day.

It was a section of the new project I hadn't even planned on starting yet, so I just inserted it where the outline says it belongs, and today I went back to trying to write in order.

If my characters wake me up in the middle of the night again, who knows what gets written next.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Cat Tales

Nicky says he doesn't get enough attention on social media, so here's Nicky.

He's 14 going on 15, and thinks he's a tiny kitten. He's about 18 pounds of tiny kitten, so...no. But I won't be the one to tell him.

Along with his sister, Harriet, who is a perma-kitten (1/3 his size), he is one of the last remaining Vlad kittens.

And doesn't he look like his daddy?


Friday, March 22, 2019

New Project

Can't stay with one book forever. Now that my Tudor-era historical is with a publisher, and I've already made it through first pass edits, I'm knee deep in something new.

When I first talked to the publisher's rep, she asked if I had ever thought of turning my book into a series (series are hot right now and I understand that especially from the writer's standpoint--you don't have to research and create another entire new world, you can just continue on with the one you've made), but I said no. I felt like I'd taken my characters as far as they needed to go. Maybe some day I'd consider doing something with one of the side characters, but otherwise not.

So I've gone from 16th century England to 1930s Pennsylvania. How's that for a switch? I've always been fascinated by the Great Depression, the creativity and resilience people needed to survive. My family, of course, being the people that they were, lived through the Depression but wouldn't talk about it because it wasn't "interesting." As if telling the same fourteen stories about the neighbors was fascinating.

So I'm going my own route. It's a tale of two very different sisters--one still lives in the coal mining town where they were born, and the other, who married well, lives in Philadelphia. It's interesting to see my own city through a scrim of 1930s history, what was there, what wasn't, and what I need to make up to fill in the gaps.

I've been searching the internet, as one does, for inspiration photos, and this is a collage I've put together of images that fit the project.

Let me know what you think, and if you/your family have any Depression tales to share, I'd love to hear them!

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.