Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Get out of the chair

I love what I do. 

I love that the stories and people who have been banging around in my head since childhood finally have an outlet, and that outlet is beginning to make an income. 

The issue is that writing, combined with my other source of income - sewing - means I spend a lot of time in one chair or another. And it's really hard, when the work is flowing, to remember that my body needs to get up and move around. 

I try to be disciplined about it, and set an alarm so that for 15 minutes out of every hour, I walk around the house or do the dishes or throw in a load of laundry. It gets me moving and gets a little housework done, which otherwise would only get done when I was procrastinating writing or sewing. 

But sometimes you need to get out of the house, not just the chair. And thankfully there are quite a few good walks in and near my town that I can talk myself into on a regular basis I'll stick in an earbud, put on a podcast, and just go. Sometimes if I'm working out a thorny plot point, a few miles on foot is just what I need. 

One of my favorite walks is up along the Darby Creek, to the Swedish Cabin, which has been there since the 17th century. Recently, a bridge was put in across the creek which leads up a walking trail on the other side. Last week, instead of going to the cabin and turning around, I crossed the bridge, kept going up Sycamore Road to Garrett Road, and then walked all the way down Garrett to where it intersects with Shadeland, which is the street at the top of my block. According to my phone, that was a solid 5 miles, and except for the half-mile stretch when I emerged from the trail on to Garrett where there was no sidewalk, it's a pleasant walk either through woods, a long trails, or through suburban neighborhoods. 

And at this time of year, it is green. Overwhelmingly, almost painfully green. Which I think is good for the soul.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Rufus drinks his coffee black

I've never had a cat who liked coffee before. People food - meat and cheese and tortilla chips especially - but never coffee. This one, however...


Wednesday, May 24, 2023


Last Saturday was complicated. 

One of the crazy benefits of our town is the annual town wide yard sale. When we moved here in 2018, we'd been here less than 2 months, and honestly, felt like we died and gone to heaven driving around our mile-square village with at least two participating houses on every block - selling good stuff. 

It didn't happen during the pandemic, but last year it came back. And it was still good. This year's yard sale was scheduled for 5/20, and I've been saving my money and looking forward to it.

Then, the night before, I got a phone call. A vendor wasn't able to make it to the Swarthmore Farmers Market, and did I want to fill in?

Swarthmore is less than 15 minutes up the road, it's a great town, with customers I've known for years, and I always do well at any appearance there. Also, I have a policy of never saying no to requests like that unless I'm already booked. So I said yes. Better to make money than spend money, I figured.

The forecast said rain late in the day, but the market was only from nine until noon. It was gray and drizzly when we left the house at eight, and stayed that way. Until it turned into a downpour. I had to put my books back in the car, because the covers were curling, and all three of my tables were shoved together under the center of the tent because, to make things better, it had gotten windy.

It was some of the most miserable time selling I've had since I started out. I made enough money to buy us lunch - except that by the time I was done, the only place I wanted to have lunch was under a blanket, in heavy socks, and at home.

Only one good thing happened. The vendor organizer, who owns a small shop in town, stopped by to thank me for showing up despite the weather, and fell absolutely in love with the new dressed critters I'm making. Her shop is more art then craft, so I've never had work in there before, but she left the tent toting an armload of animals and we're now talking about a special consignment for the holidays.

When I got home, I was wet and miserable. Later, I was dry, and cranky. It continued until late, when, because I had taken a crankiness-induced nap, I was up until three in the morning. But that point it hit me what a positive it had been - by showing up in crap weather, keeping a smile on my face, and doing what needed to be done, I've gotten a stockist I haven't been able to get in years, which will bear future fruit.

I would have rather made money than spent money. I didn't do much of either, but I have consolidated some future income from it, and that's not bad.

Also, the rain canceled the town wide yard sale and it happened on the next day. Win/win.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Back to my old ways

Sunday was the first craft show of my 2023 season. It should have been the previous week, but a combination of a rainy forecast and the show being located on the other side of the Broad Street Run, which would have entailed driving completely around the city and entering from the opposite direction from where we live, made it an unappealing prospect. And then the forecast made them cancel, and I've never celebrated a rainy day so much in my life. And it did rain. Those poor runners.

This past weekend, though, while some people were still recovering from getting up far too early to watch the coronation, I set up my table in Swarthmore and got back to what I once thought might turn into a full-time job.

Making is not going to keep a roof over my head, I understand that now. It probably never was, but with the changes over the last few years, it's gotten even more unlikely. That being said, since it doesn't have so much weight on it, I really enjoyed getting out there and talking to people and letting them by all my upcycled goodies. They bought books.

Some shows wouldn't have allowed me to set up that book rack, because the jury process states that you can't sell anything not in the initial application, but other shows are more flexible - and after all, I did make them. 

My next show isn't until June, unless I can find something to pop in between, but certain things sold well enough on Sunday that I'll be busy restocking between now and then.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Artificial Intelligence


My color-coordinated child
Have you heard about ChatGPT or the other artificial intelligence programs out there? They've been in the news because there's a lot of fear that AI will replace real creatives and there will be no market for writers or artists anymore, it will just be people pushing buttons and spewing out whole books or pieces of art, and trying to pass them off to an unsuspecting public. 

I'm sure there will be people who will try to do that, but I think finding an audience won't be as easy as learning how to work with the AI. It may be different for art, because visuals are used differently, but I honestly wouldn't understand why a writer would use it to write books. Writing is the part that I enjoy. If someone comes up with a gadget to do the parts I don't enjoy or am not good at, I'll jump on that train.

Which is what I've cautiously done with ChatGPT. I was suspicious at first, but several writers I know, and at least one trustworthy podcast, are very pro 'AI in its place.' 

That means different things for different people. I tried to use it to rewrite my book blurbs, and it worked fairly well, because that's a structure it understands. Certain facts have to be tweaked, because it doesn't understand my book, but it gives me something to work with. 

Where I've really found it interesting is as an unpaid research assistant. I'm working on the third book in my Ava & Claire series, and part of it is set in Paris in 1935. I love Paris. I know Paris relatively well, but I'm not a time traveler, and there are certain things I was not able to find easily with online research.

So I asked ChatGPT. And it gave me what I needed, in seconds. And because several people have told me that they've been given wrong answers to research questions, I've taken to asking it to prove its work - to give me a link or a book title where I could find the information to back up their answer. Obviously if those links or books are out there, I could have found the information on my own, but it would have taken a lot longer - and that's time I don't want to spend for something that is only going to be one sentence of a book. It's much faster to follow the link given to me, confirm that the information is correct, write the sentence, and go on to the next thing. 

That's a research rabbit hole I could have fallen into for hours. So I see a purpose for artificial intelligence in writing, just not to do the actual writing. When writing stops being fun, I'll stop doing it.

And if you're curious, I asked ChatGPT to write a cautiously optimistic blog post about its use as a writer's assistant. My prompt, and its response, are below. It's not bad; it just doesn't sound like me.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Fifty years


Fifty years ago today, my dad died. How the fuck have 50 years passed? Sometimes it feels like forever, but some part of me still feels like the kid who was taken to the hospital the week before to see him, who flung herself so hard at that beloved man in his shabby blue terry robe that my mom cried out to warn me.

I know it hurt him, understanding after the fact that the cancer had not only damaged his lung but his ribs. I know that hugs for a long time had probably hurt, and also that he wouldn't have traded them for a pain-free existence.

Whenever I was sick, I would tell my mom to keep him away, out of my room. Because I always wanted to be perfect for him. Stupid kid. I was perfect in his eyes.

He sometimes said, when I was sick, that he wished it was him instead of me. I'm glad I was old enough when he died not to have taken that upon myself, to somehow have blamed myself for my ear infections turning into his lung cancer.

A lifelong smoker. An asbestos worker in the shipyards during WWII. A welder. A firefighter in the tin helmets/iron men era, when they called themselves smoke-eaters. 

It's a miracle he lasted as long as he did.

He retired from the fire department around the time that respirators came in. It wasn't the same, and he was getting old - or so I thought, though he was only two years older than I am now when he died.

There's not a day when I don't think about him.

Friday, April 28, 2023



I recently had a great discussion with author Alison Treat on her podcast, Historical Fiction Unpacked

It's been a favorite listen for a while now, giving me more book recommendations than I'll ever have time to read, but isn't that just the way it is?

It's a short episode, only a skooch over a half hour. Here's a link to listen if you're interested.