Monday, April 26, 2021

Live Reading Accomplished

On Saturday evening, I locked myself in the bedroom with my phone, my tablet, and a case of the nerves. What follows is a brief intro, the first three chapters of A Wider World, and answers to a few questions after. Also: I survived, and it didn't come out too badly. Let me know what you think.

Friday, April 23, 2021



Just a reminder that the Facebook Live event will be TOMORROW,
Saturday, April 24, 2021 @ 7:00 p.m. eastern

Tune in or catch it later when it's posted on the blog.

Friday, April 16, 2021

And then there was one

Once upon a time there were thirteen cats.

Now there is one.

We had the mobile vet come out today to help Nicky leave the fold. He had been to the vet back in early March for a minor issue, got a clean bill of health - x-rays, bloodwork, urinalysis - but in the last few days, he dropped a ton of weight and lost interest in everything but sleeping. A sudden, massive weight loss is never good, and it can bring on failures of various systems, 

I thought about taking him back to the vet, but decided against it. Nicky was eighteen, more than a good age for a cat, and other than that trip last month, he's needed very little healthcare in his life. Whatever the problem was, whether it was something missed in March or a totally new development, it's unlikely that it would be treatable at his age, and I hated the idea of putting him through more testing, much less multiple car rides to do it. Plus we're still not able to go into the vet's office with him, so he wouldn't have even had the moral support of his people.

The mobile vet was willing to come to the house and euthanize him in the comfort of his own home. It may have been a little too soon - why do we always second-guess ourselves when we try to do right by our animals? - but she confirmed that the process wasn't going to reverse itself, and that there didn't seem to be anything specific wrong other than advanced age.

Now we have one cat, Harriet, who was Nicky's littermate. I never imagined she'd be the last cat standing - and although she's also eighteen, and has some of the same intestinal issues as her brother, she's round and pudgy and bounces around the house like a kitten. So fingers crossed she'll be with us for a while to come.

Bon voyage, Nikolas Vladimirovich von Putintat. I hope the Great Litterbox in the Sky serves abundant salmon and knows that you like it well-watered. You were a good cat.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Good News


We had our second shots on April 1, and now, two weeks out, we're considered to be fully vaccinated.

That doesn't mean we can hop in the car and drive to NJ to hug Mario's mom - vaccinated or not, her nursing home has rules about those things - but maybe if we're outside we can at least stealthily pat her without worrying about getting her sick.

We're also going to get together soon with a few friends who've also been vaccinated. Honestly, I feel like asking everyone I meet for their papers right now before I'm comfortable enough to sit down and take off my mask.

Speaking of masks, I know we all got tired of wearing them, but is it just me, or did almost everyone seem healthier over the last year, other than Covid? I didn't have a cold, the flu, my semi-regular bronchitis, or any allergies. It's enough to make you understand why they're effective.

It also feels like progress. I admit to getting a bit weepy when I got my second shot, and not from any kind of pain. It really feels like we're coming to a point in this long, hard road where we can actually see an end that's not a mirage.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Live reading

It's that time again, almost.

A Wider World comes out on Sunday, April 25, 2021, and I'll be doing a live reading - and answering your questions - on Facebook on Saturday night, April 24, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. eastern. You can find the reading by following my page here. If you're not on Facebook, I'll be posting the video within a few days, just as soon as I remember how to do that.

Either way, live or catching it later, if you have any questions about me, writing generally, Songbird or A Wider World, Henry VIII, or something I haven't thought of, please comment and I'll try to answer them all.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Fun with audio

It's a busy time right now. 

I just finished the final edits on the third book in the Tudor Court series and submitted it to the publisher. While I wait for them to look it over again, I'm working on the audiobook for A Wider World. As I work, I am ever more grateful for my years of volunteering with local theater, because it has given me a pool of actors to barter with. 

This book is turning out to be easier than Songbird, probably because it's more recently written and edited, and I don't have to read along at quite the same level this time. I know these words; I've been over them half a dozen times in the last year. Some parts of Songbird were so old that they surprised me when I heard Jen read them out for the first time. 

The actor and I have a system going. He records several chapters and uploads them to a shared Google drive. I download and listen to them through Audacity, which is a fabulous free audio recording/editing software. I do basic cleanup then, looking for background noise or breath sounds, but what I'm mainly listening for are mistakes or mispronunciations or incorrect emphasis. 

I make notes of the sentences that need re-recording and send them back to him. When he does those edits, I can then cut and paste them - just like in Word - into the original audio file. After that, I check the levels to make sure that they're even, divide the files into chapters, and put the correct, Audible-mandated amount of blank space at the beginning and end. Then I convert them into .wav files.

Once that's done, I upload the files into another shared folder (this time with my publisher), and they'll take it from there for final mastering. It's more of a process than many authors with publishers go through, but they understand my control freak tendencies, and I really enjoy being involved in all levels of the production process. 

Eventually, when I self-publish my 1930s book, I want to be able to do all the steps myself - other than logical things like paying for cover art, etc. I might know what I want, and I might know the trends, but I don't have the graphic design background to make it good enough. My time is better spent on words than pictures. Part of being an effective control freak is knowing when somebody else does something better than you do. 

I guess that's also called delegating.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021



I do still sew, in case anyone is curious. Not as much as I used to, especially since in-person craft shows didn't happen in 2020, but I do still enjoy it.

What sewing I did last year was mostly custom work, and this was a job I was happy to get. A former co-worker reached out to me in February. Her mother-in-law had just died and her husband wanted to do something with four of her favorite nightgowns. (She had been house/bed bound for a long time and cycled through the same several gowns, and they were what everybody thought of her wearing). 

Remembering what I used to do on the days when I wasn't in the office, she suggested that I make bears out of them - and then ordered ELEVEN.

She drove out to visit and we had a lovely masked chat on the back porch when she handed over the gowns.

Sewing-wise, I flinched when I opened the bag, because they were all very stretchy polyester, and not even all the same. Some were two-way stretch, and some were four. Some were fuzzy and some smooth. All were going to be a nightmare to make small pieces with.

I decided that it would slow the process initially, but speed things along in the end, and I used fusible interfacing on all of it, then cut out the pieces. It kept them from stretching in every direction at once, and saved me from embedding too much profanity into what were supposed to be nice memorial bears.

A while back I had ordered safety joints for use in future bear projects, and I tried to use them here. First off, I think I ordered them slightly too small, but also, the fabric was just so limp that no matter how I tried, the arms and legs just dangled off the body. I removed them - no small feat with a locking joint - and went back to my original method of stringing them through the shoulders and hips with hemp cord.

The longest part of the process was trying to decide on the fabric arrangement. A red plaid, a pink and gray paisley, an ivory with navy blue toile, and a bright white with red cardinals. Other than the plaid/cardinals, none of it really worked. After some thought, I decided to tie them together by using the plaid in the same place on each one - head panel, inside arms, and foot pads. Then the rest of the pieces could be of the different fabrics, and each bear would be trimmed with lace from the neckline of the "head" nightgown. Each bear got a red ribbon to finish.

She picked them up the other weekend - another coffee/chat on the patio, this time rainy and chilly - and she carried them off to Delaware. They'll be distributed to her husband's various siblings and relatives once it's safer to gather as a family, but judging from the photo she sent, he seems pretty happy with them, and maybe his family should be worried about getting them from him at all.