Saturday, September 28, 2019

Another snippet

I'm going to feed you this book in bite-sized bits.

This is Bess's first look at the King.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Free at last!

Pre-surgery. That dark triangle in the center shouldn't be there
Yesterday was my FINAL follow-up appointment with the retina specialist. He poked and prodded and dilated and numbed and finally, FINALLY, gave me the all clear.

He showed me some of my scans and I took pictures, for my own reference and also so everyone can see what kind of weird things your body can do in places you can't see.

I'm at about 90% now. He said I may improve beyond that, and I might not. But I'm no longer at risk of anything becoming detached, and I see just about the same as I did before the surgery. My vision was never an issue - I'm massively near-sighted, with or without other problems.

One thing he mentioned to me today that I thought was interesting, or at least his explanation of it was. My right eye, the one that was operated on, is also a lazy eye. That was diagnosed when I was 9, when I got my first glasses, and they made me do all kinds of exercises like focusing on a pencil and drawing it toward my nose without crossing my eyes. It helped. Maybe.

From another angle. You can actually see the hole at the top
He said it really didn't, and that the only way to completely correct a lazy eye is to diagnose it at a much earlier age. He's actually working on a toddler-age video game that can test vision, for this reason. But he said that my eye is still lazy, and though I think I'm looking through both eyes equally, my brain isn't used to focusing that one, so I need to try harder.

He explained it like meditation. "You're supposed to be emptying your mind, but a thought will creep in. You notice the thought, but then you bring your mind back to the meditation. Same thing - you'll notice that you're not fully focusing with both eyes. Just bring the right eye back, and keep going." His theory is that by doing it that way, I'll build up more of a habit.

9/23 - almost smooth again. It still might flatten out more over time
PI don't know how right he is. I'm just glad to be seeing the last of him, for reasons having nothing to do with him personally.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Friday, September 20, 2019

Coin of the realm

I want you to show you two of my prized possessions. I got these years ago, and they've been hidden away in a box in my dresser ever since, because while they are amazing and cool and I love them, they're all so ancient, fragile, and totally impractical.

The larger coin is from the reign of Elizabeth I, and the smaller one in the badly-fitting coin holder / necklace thing, is from Henry VIII.

I can't believe I own something this old. I like thinking that my characters could have handled these coins. One of these days, when I have the spare cash, I would like to pay a jeweler to make a proper necklace from them, with the kind of holder that allows the coin to float, so it doesn't touch your skin.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Not throwing away my shot

I don't play a lot of music while I'm working - if I'm writing, it's too distracting, and if I'm sewing, not a lot gets through over the sound of the machine.

Hamilton gets through. I discovered the soundtrack a few years back, after the show hit Broadway but before it hit total public consciousness. It started with the King's songs, which I think are the gateway for people who don't think they'll like a show about a founding father, performed in hip-hop (trust me, you will).

Of course I wanted to see it in NY, but I also want to keep both my kidneys, and that's pretty much what the prices felt like. There were road companies, of course, but I figured eventually one of those would make it to Philly.

Eventually, one did.

And we went to see them last week.

And it was freaking amazing.

That is pretty much my review. We were up high, so I couldn't make out faces, but so much of the show is about the spectacle - the stage, the movement of the dancers, the lighting, and of course the music - that it didn't matter.

It was freaking amazing.

Also, one of the things I really love about Hamilton is the same thing I love about historical fiction. It takes an era, a person, something that people might think of as dry or boring, and returns them to their flesh-and-blood reality, full of urges and desires and bad behavior and good behavior - all the things that take them from cardboard cut-outs in historical dress to living, breathing people who just happened to wear funny clothes and live in a different time period.

No one leaves that theater thinking of Alexander Hamilton as some dry-as-dust founding father. I guarantee it.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Seeing red

Last year I didn't can any tomatoes, but then again, last year the garden wasn't knocking at the back door, or leaving tomatoes on the neighbors' porches during the night.

This year, I canned tomatoes.

Even though the other reason I put it off is the bad layout of our kitchen (to be remedied in the new year, once craft show season and book release are dealt with, and I've recovered from what part of the holidays I choose to participate in).

But I did it anyway. Instead of using my ginormous canning kettle, which can only sit on the extra-large burner next to the fridge (which doesn't like the extra large burner and makes resentful clunking noises), I borrowed a high stockpot from my neighbor and canned in smaller batches on the regular burner.

That meant I could only do 5 jars at a time, but they're done.

Since most of my tomatoes were Juliets, which is a large grape/small plum size, I didn't bother to skin skin or core them. I just cut off the stem end, cut them in half and put them in my crockpot to cook down. Once they were mushy, I hit them with the immersion blender, which conveniently clogged with the larger bits of skin, so they were retroactively skinned.  I did two full crockpots of tomatoes, then today I got them into jars.

I also made candied jalapenos for the first time, using both jalapenos and poblanos from the yard, and a few Spanish padrons which had turned red (and hotter). The syrup on those is cider vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, mustard seed, cayenne and garlic powder. It smelled delicious.

Today's high only hit 80, so the kitchen wasn't the worst place to be, and I won't remember the heat when I crack a jar of tomatoes in February and the whole kitchen smells like summer.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Sometimes old is best

Technology is all well and good, but sometimes you just have to go old school and break out the index cards.

Working on my Great Depression book - currently called Dear Sister - and I got stuck at about the 3/4 point. The chapters were supposed to be alternating between the two sisters, and for the most part had been cooperating.

Then I hit a snag, which I didn't realize until I was 3/4 of the way through my second draft. I'd been so busy thinking about changing the point of view from third to first, that I forgot I had this issue where each sister had two consecutive chapters and they threw the timeline completely out of whack.

The whole point of writing from both their viewpoints is to contrast their lives, and there I was, leaving readers in one place for far too long, with nothing to compare and contrast with. Thus the cards.

Each scene is written on a card, with the character's initial and a general idea of the date. I laid them all out, figured out which dates were written in stone (i.e., something that happened for real) and which were not. Then I drank some coffee and rearranged. More coffee, more futzing. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

I finally got the storyline where I wanted it and took two days off writing to let the ideas marinate. And last night, before bed, I realized that I didn't actually want the second sister's POV in the book after all. It takes away from the character I really want to write about, and Clare's story, and the all-important contrasts therein, can be shared in their frequent letters, which is where the Dear Sister title comes from.

So, draft 3. I see you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


I have an ISBN!

This is another step closer to actual publication, and I did another little dance of joy around the house yesterday when I received the email from my publisher.

Now I've set up an Author Page on Goodreads so you can follow me there if you want to. Songbird is already listed (because it has an ISBN and is a pending book, if not an actual one at this point in time).

The cover here is not the cover that it will be published with - I haven't received proposed cover art yet, but I've made a placeholder that I'm quite happy with. Let me know what you think!