Tuesday, August 20, 2019

How it started

I wrote my first stories on a typewriter like this. Or, rather, I typed my first stories. I wrote plenty before that, but my handwriting has never been all that good, so when I discovered typing, it was the way to go.

My dad was a Philadelphia firefighter, but like most of them, he also had a part-time job (both because such an important job didn't pay enough, and because he wanted to keep me in sufficient toys; I was an only child). His part-time job was a shared maintenance gig at a local college - he and two of his friends split the job between them; the college didn't care who did what, so long as the hours were covered.

He brought home random interesting things that were going to be thrown away, and one day he hauled in this ancient, black Olivetti typewriter, the kind that was completely open on top and had black and white enamel keys.

It was very similar to this one which I trashpicked a few years ago, my old one having disappeared during a later childhood move (thanks, Mom). This typewriter lives in a corner of the room that serves as our library/my office, otherwise known as the house's original dining room.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Garden bounty

You can't afford to look away in August.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Gratitude

Cats. Walking on books for centuries.
I may not mention it here often, but I'm grateful for this blog, and for all of you who are still out there reading it after all these years.

I would be grateful to the blog, even without readers, because the one thing it has always done is keep me writing. Even when I'm writing nothing else, the blog has been there, keeping me limber.

Once upon a time, before my life was so full, I wrote all the time. Every day after work, or before bed, or in the morning. Whenever an idea struck me.

Then I got older, got busier, got married, got a lot more things to do that I didn't even always want to do, and writing for me drifted away for a while.

But the blog, which I started because I wanted to keep up with my far-flung sewing friends, remained. And I remained faithful to it, in somewhat sporadic fashion, and when the urge to write came back to me, at least I still remembered how to word.

Because of this blog.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Accidental outing

Every other Sunday, Mario and I go to New Jersey to visit his mom. She lives about an hour and a half away. Some days the ride is endless, and others, not so bad. When I'm working on a story, looking at all those trees is actually restful and my mind can drift, and make things up.

Today when we left, it was such a beautiful day, with a bright blue sky and a nice breeze, we meant to come home, but turned in the other direction and drove 35 miles to the shore. We weren't dressed for the beach, but we took our shoes off, walked along the shore and got our feet wet, had a nice early seafood dinner, and then joined the exodus home at 5:30.

It only took 2 hours to get back, and it was totally worth it. I feel like my brain has been washed out with sea water.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Annie sends greetings

Annie is still ticking along, enormous tumor notwithstanding.

I didn't think she would still be with us at this point of the summer. The heat has taken it out of her a bit, but then again, she's 18, and there's a good chance that would happen anyway. (My old vet did say old age might carry her off before the cancer got her, and he may be right in the end).

We were thinking about a trip this fall, but we're holding off. I'd feel terrible if something happened while we were gone, not only for Annie, but our pet sitting neighbor as well. No one signs up for that.

Monday, August 5, 2019

One more thing off the list

So I needed an author photo - for Facebook, for Twitter, for the publisher and all the promo stuff we'll be doing (in addition to my actual BOOK, y'all).

I hate my picture taken. I'm self-conscious about my teeth, and my glasses reflect, and I've got circles under my eyes and and and...

My friend Dianne is a pretty good photographer (she was the only friend who was allowed to take pictures at our wedding, because I didn't want to spend the day flinching at cameras), so I asked her last week if she'd take a few pictures. She agreed, but she's away this week, so...

Here you have a writer in her bathroom with a smartphone.

I took about 60 pictures, got 4-5 that I actually didn't dislike, and then futzed with them in my photo editing software. I didn't do much, really - I am what I am, so I didn't do anything to my actual face beyond smoothing out the lines in my neck and a few uneven patches in my skin. The rest is 55 year old me, happy that I'm going to be published, happy that one more item on the to-do list is checked off, happy that I don't have to wait a week for photos that I probably wouldn't like any better, and at least when it was just me, the phone and my new shower curtain, I could mutter all I wanted about bad angles and just how many colors is my hair right now?

Anyway, that's done. Exhale.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Garden goodness

I planted some new crops this year, alongside the standby crops of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and potatoes.

Watermelon (not ready yet), corn (more than ready), and lima beans.

I grew up on canned lima beans and thought they were one of the world's nastiest vegetables, and then a few years ago, we got a small bag of fresh limas at the farmer's market.

Those were a whole different vegetable.

I put in 4 small starter plants in May, and they've now covered their trellis to the point where I have to climb inside it to pick beans. But it's worth it.

Also, I now know why they're so stinking expensive at the farmer's market - there are only 2-3 beans per pod, so it takes a lot of picking and shelling to get enough for a side for 2 people.

As an illustration, the bean photos here - it took 3 bowls of pods to get that single bowl of beans for dinner.

But again, worth it.

And fresh corn, picked right before dinner, is a revelation. Since it's been really hot, I haven't wanted to heat up the kitchen with cooking, but I've found out you can quickly steam corn in the Instant Pot. Also the lima beans. Also the stuffed peppers I made the other night. Instant Pot, where have you been all my life?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

It's coming


Here it is, the official banner for my upcoming novel. This is now my header on Twitter, and on my new author Facebook page

I would be thrilled to death if you followed me there -- not much happening yet, but that's where I'll be doing a lot of the promotional fun stuff for the book before and when it comes out, including readings, giveaways, and who knows what else.

A brief excerpt, coming soon...



Sunday, July 21, 2019

Early harvests

The garden is coming along well.

We've alternated biblical rain storms with 90 degree weather, and the vegetables, especially the tomatoes and peppers, really seem to appreciate it.

This is today's harvest. The tomatoes are Juliets, smaller than plum tomatoes, which don't work well here - they tend to get blossom end rot, and I've just given up on them. The darker green peppers are chipotle, and the lighter green are Padron, a Spanish variety we loved in Barcelona and which I grow evert year.



This is what happens to them.

It's a very simple preparation, they just get blistered in hot olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, thrown on a plate very briefly and then swallowed whole.

Dee-licious.

Friday, July 19, 2019

O what a beautiful morning

How high is an elephant's eye, anyway?

I'm not sure if we're there yet, but it's coming close. The corn is anywhere from six to eight feet tall, two ears on each stalk, and they feel like they're developing nicely.

It's kind of hard to tell how they're doing, since I've never grown corn before, but they aren't quite full-sized and they don't feel quite as thick as they should, so I think they'll be ready to eat in another week, maybe two.

Corn is something new for me to grow, and I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy it, but even without getting something to eat at the end, this has been fun to watch develop. I'll definitely grow it again next year.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

I feel seen

First off, I want to thank everyone who left a comment on my last post. I'm not sure which, if any, will end up being used, but they are all food for thought.

I saw this sign on Facebook the other day and had to share it. I don't think I've ever felt so seen in my life. This is definitely me. Especially the weird stuff on the curb bit. Far too many treasured possessions started out as weird things left on the curb.

What about you? I know I'm not the only trash picker out there.



Monday, July 8, 2019

Mother always told me

I'm looking for some input here. I'm moving along pretty quickly on my Depression-era story. The first draft is basically done, but now is the fun part, where I can start refining the voices of my two main characters.

The book is told from two different points of view: Ava, the slightly older sister, who stayed in the coal town and got married, and her sister, Clare, who married well and moved to Philadelphia.

They've lost their mother, and one of the things they do (separately and together) is remember her words of wisdom. Lillie's advice - good, bad, quirky, or otherwise - is scattered throughout the book.

Here's a snippet:

    Ava shook her head. "This is fine." She sat down heavily on one of the beds. "How did you manage this? You've been with us all week, helping with the move."
    Clare leaned against her shoulder. The baby sat solidly on her lap, reaching up to play with her hair. "I sent Harry home with a list, and Katie and her parents put it together. There are some clothes in the drawers for each of you. I had to guess at the sizes."
    "Oh God." Ava clapped her hands over her face and bent double. "What's happened to my life?" Her voice was muffled, but Clare didn't think she was crying.
    "It's like Mama said," Clare told her. "Sometimes you just have to relax and trust that the Lord knows what he's doing."
    Ava brought her hands down. "God doesn't give you more than you can handle," she quoted in return, "unless he wants to know what you're made of."
    The sisters stared at each other for a moment before dissolving into laughter.

Did your mother (or grandmother) have any sayings they repeated that you still find comfort in? They don't have to be religious (though my characters' mother was).

I asked on Facebook and got an interesting collection, some of which I can probably use, and some of which would shock all my characters (apparently my mother wasn't the only salty one in the bunch). If you have anything to add to the conversation, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

New addition

Don't worry, it's not a cat or another sewing machine.

It's just a little something to make life more pleasant. We sit out front nearly every evening, when the sun is at the back of the house, but there are plenty of mornings when I would like to take my coffee in a book out there after Mario leaves for work, or even have breakfast with him there on the weekends. And if it's hot and sunny, I can't get him to like that much of the Great Outdoors.

Enter my new umbrella and stand, courtesy of Amazon's evil empire. I had an umbrella at the old house, but it was much heavier and harder to get up and down. This one has a crank and I can bring it down easily so that it doesn't tip over when we're not out there enjoying the shade.

It even matches the trim on the house. Sometimes little things make such a big difference.

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.