21 Oct

Finally Satisfied

C didn’t quite tell me I was crazy the last time we talked about book covers. Not quite. I could tell that she wanted to, though.

See, I made a ridiculous decision last month. I’ve been waiting for a cover designer for A Lonely Magic since April. The cover on it was a great placeholder while I was posting chapters on Fictionpress and Wattpad, but it didn’t satisfy me enough as the final cover. The designer I really wanted, though, had no time until October. While I was waiting, I fell in love with another artist’s work, and decided–much too impulsively–to hire her to design a cover for ALM. As it happens, I’m pretty sure that was a mistake, and if I had realized two weeks ago that it was a mistake, it would have been a no harm, no foul situation, as if it had never happened.

As it went, however, I had a cover designer hired, an artist working on the cover I had hired her for, and so I went another direction–I asked the designer to redesign the cover for A Gift of Ghosts. The right response is, “Again? Didn’t you just do that a few months ago? What’s wrong with that cover?” The answers are, “Yes, yes, and I don’t know. Nothing, I suppose, and yet… it always felt more like a collection of weird compromises than the right cover.”

The new cover feels like the right cover.


I’ve got a ton of work to do, getting new files working correctly, uploading them to all the different sites, changing all of my various marketing pages… but as I manage all that hassle, I’m feeling a nice happy glow of contentment. Beautiful, mysterious, a little spooky… it makes me want to read Ghosts again, as if I didn’t already know what it was all about.

17 Oct

Just write the book

My laundry is piled high. No, seriously, it’s overflowing the basket, making a mountain on the bathroom floor, in pseudo-neat piles by the bedroom door. It feels symbolic of my inability to get things done at the moment.

I’m feeling stuck. Like I want change, but don’t know how to get it. I want to sweep all the clutter in my house–oh, so much clutter right now–into boxes and throw them away so that I never have to see them again. I want to leave the ripped up floor and the peeling wallpaper behind. I want to escape, to move, to run away.

But when I start to think seriously about where I would go, what I would do, my brain comes to a dead halt. To move–well, living in a college town would be nice. Oh, wait, I do live in a college town. The weather has to be good, because I know that S.A.D. hits me hard in darker climates. Hmm, the weather is darn nice here. Cost of living has to be reasonable, like, um, it is here. And it would be good if I knew some people, like, oh, I do here. Not to mention finding a place that is perfectly balanced between a sense of nature–like spotting hawks and herons on my morning walk–and convenient urbanity, like having multiple grocery stores within a ten minute drive.

In other words, where I live is just about perfect for me. Except for the fact that I feel desperately in need of change, like I want to escape, like I’m stuck.

I’m going to guess that doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, getting the floor repaired and the walls painted, would all go a long way to making me feel better about life. And writing a book would help a lot, too.

Three years ago, I was two weeks away from finishing A Gift of Ghosts. I wish I could go back in time and remember exactly how I was feeling. I know that back then I confidently expected that I would have finished writing my million words by now. I anticipated that I’d be starting to consider how seriously I wanted to take my writing, whether I wanted to try to earn money from it. I also expected that I’d have my master’s degree and be working towards my licensure. I thought that would take me three years, but I’d be a year into it. Yeah, that’s weird to remember.

What I should remember, though, is that this week has been an absolutely lovely week. R is home for fall break and it has been such a pleasure to have him here. He’s happy–really, seriously, having fun and excited, loving school happy–and it is such a joy to bask in his stories and know that he’s feeling great. The weather has been phenomenal–it’s turned now, so is cool and lovely, but I swam for five or six days in a row. We’ve eaten good food and watched television together and I’ve listened to interesting stories about the Byzantine empire and public transit in Sarasota and yeah, life is good. I don’t know where my life is going or what I’m doing, but maybe for now, I need to let it be enough to enjoy the day.

Well, and do some writing, too.

10 Oct

Not-so-awful Offal

So the diet continues. I haven’t really started re-introducing foods yet, because I don’t feel well. On the other hand, the few times I’ve goofed, I’ve felt even worse than usual the next day. On Wednesday, I went out to dinner with the wonderful Orlando Independent Authors group and while I ordered off the gluten-free menu, there was something in my food that I probably shouldn’t have eaten. I needed a nap by 10:30 Thursday morning and spent most of the day feeling desperately in need of caffeine. Since it’s actually not a natural state to need caffeine–our bodies ought to be able to function without stimulants and I’ve been off it for over a month–it was a reaction to something.

C’est la vie. The reaction was inspiration to decide that it was time to take this stupid diet to the next level. While I’ve done great on the restriction phase, omitting a purely crazy number of foods from my diet, I haven’t done nearly as well on the nutrient-dense part of the plan. Ideally, I am supposed to eat ten cups of greens a day. Now, even that measurement annoys me. How do you measure ten cups of greens? Are they tightly-packed or loosely-packed? Cooked or raw? Is a cup as much as you can stuff into the cup? I have no idea, but I’ve resigned myself to the principle of eating a lot of greens. That one’s not hard to manage, since I do anyway. Ten cups worth? Eh, probably not. But five, easily, so I can up that.

Next up, at least a tablespoon of fermented food daily. I’ve been managing that two or three times a week, but frankly, it’s gross. I choke it down, occasionally gagging, but reminding myself that it’s medicinal, not food, and no worse than cough medicine. I still haven’t done it every day, because, well, because knowing something is good for me doesn’t make it more bearable and some days I just don’t feel like it, but I am resolved now to start. Every day, a fermented food. For… two weeks? I should probably make it thirty days, but I think I’ll start with two weeks. I suspect that’ll be enough to prove to myself that it’s worth doing, because I have definitely started to wonder whether my road map of good days and bad days might be tracking pretty clearly with the day after I’ve choked down some sauerkraut being a good day. But two weeks ought to be enough to see whether that tracks, as long as I stay good about everything else.

But the last items on the list — last because they’re the only other things I’m not doing, not last because there are no other rules for AIP — the last items are to eat bone broth every day and organ meat four to five times a week. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck some more. I honestly don’t know if I can manage these two. They say to just heat the broth and drink it like coffee or tea as a morning beverage. It revolts me. And organ meat — just no. But I want to feel healthy again. So last night I made my first attempt at organ meat.

Chicken heart pate in a christmas tree mold

Offal pate

Behold. Chicken heart pate . Yes, it’s molded with a Christmas tree on top. That’s because the only container I could find (I’ve been using my containers prolifically what with making soups and stews and freezing portions) was an old Jello mold of my mom’s. I could have made it a heart-shaped pattern or a couple of other options, but the Christmas tree amused me the most. Doesn’t it look disgusting? Grey mystery meat.

If you’d seen it cooking, it would have looked even grosser. Chicken hearts sometimes have blood in them and when you try to trim the fat off, the blood comes out in clumps. It’s revolting. Even the thought of it is forcing my cheeks to pull back in a disgusted expression. Ick.

Taste-wise, though–eh. It’s not so bad. It has pear, onion, garlic and applesauce in it and I’ve eaten it on slices of pear and slices of apple. While I wouldn’t choose to eat it regularly, it won’t kill me to treat it like the fermented food and try to manage a serving every other day while it lasts. I’m counting a serving as two tablespoons, so it’ll last a while. Three-quarters of it is already bagged and in the freezer, giving me three or four weeks worth, I hope.

But the real picture I need is one of the three dogs. For the entire hour I cooked it, they were pains. Every time I turned around, the three of them were lined up behind me, eyes intent, tails flapping on the ground, quivering with hopeful anticipation. If I decide I can’t eat it, they will happily take it off my hands. And the next time I need to get Zelda to take a pill, I know exactly what I will go for.

In a related diet note, I now weigh a number that I fully expected never to see on a scale again and … I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s definitely bringing up lots of past stuff for me, enough so that I wish I could afford to go back into therapy for a while. Not because I’m worried about my current weight, but just because I can see how I’ve got some unresolved emotional issues about the meaning of weight and what it says about how we present in the world. It might be good for me to get some clarity around my subconscious crap.

Thinking it out, I was content being ten pounds overweight. My self-image was/is that I was/am a comfortably plump, middle-aged mom type, safe and non-threatening. Safe and non-threatening. Interesting choices of words. But I’m back into the normal weight range and my collarbones are noticeable again and … it’s less comfortable for me. I feel like I’m starting to look fragile again and I don’t like it. I don’t know why it matters–I’d have to lose 45 pounds to hit my (extremely unhealthy) 23-year-old weight and that is definitely not going to happen. But… hmm. Being that thin was one way of being invisible. Being mildly overweight is another way of being invisible. Yeah, this is why I need therapy. Oh, well, maybe my nutrient-dense offal is also high calorie and I’ll drift back up to my comfortably plump zone.

And now I should go write some book words. Or maybe go for a swim. The season is almost, almost over, but I swam yesterday and it was lovely.

06 Oct

And a half

Tomorrow is my half-birthday. Not the kind of thing that one normally notices past the age of five or six, but I happened to look at the date, and it made me think of it. Back on my birthday, I wanted this year to be magical. It was a silly number game–my birthday and my age were the same, which is something that doesn’t happen to very many people, and it felt like it meant that the year should be special. Unique. Extraordinary.

So far… yeah. I’ve been sick a lot, and most work-related things have been a bust. I hoped I would find an editor who I loved but instead the editor I hired was a huge waste of money and time. I had fingers crossed for a marketing intern, hoping she’d be an enthusiastic assistant, but she quickly figured out that she didn’t want to be in marketing. Good for her, but a bust for me. For the first time, I was optimistic about a book before release, but… yeah. It was misplaced optimism. I hired a cover designer because I fell in love with her work and thought she’d give me something extraordinary, but many empty promises later, I haven’t seen a thing. Honestly, my magical year has, work-wise, been enough to send me looking for a job in retail. Not to mention that I haven’t done any good new writing since April, which probably ought to be first on that list.

All that said, though, I fired a gun for the first time. It was fun, like holding an explosion in your hand. Heavier than I realized it would be. I traveled in the RV as the adult-in-charge for the first times. It was awesome, a serious feeling of competence. I drove a tractor and played with the shovel lifter scoop thing and just the memory makes me smile and feel joyful. I had a dinner party, with games, for ten people, none of whom I knew two years ago. So I don’t want to wallow in disappointment. Those are the things that I want to remember–the unexpected moments of trying something new, doing something different, enjoying an experience that pushes my boundaries.

26 Sep

Swimming dogs

Last Sunday, in a brief spurt of feeling well, I went swimming. The water was wonderful, a little cool but clean and with the hot sun beating down, it felt lovely, a perfect swimming day. Zelda, of course, was playing with her basketball, so I’d swim to the side of the pool and throw it for her, and then swim some more. None of that is anything exceptional.

But Macie–Macie, who hates the water!–really wanted to play, too. She’d splash into the top step of the pool and bounce straight out again. For most of August, she’s watched me bring Bartleby into the pool with mild horror in her eyes. That day, it was more like speculation.

Little digression: I want Bartleby to be comfortable in the water–it’s safer, obviously–so most days when I swim, I scoop him up, bring him into the water, hold him loosely, let him relax, then have him half swim, half be supported to the steps when he’s ready to get out. He’s gone from being resistant, growling and trying to get away from me, to amenable and tolerant, if not enthusiastic. Given that he’s got a ton of black fur, I think hanging out outside with us in the Florida heat is probably a lot pleasanter when he’s wet, anyway.

On this day, I brought him in, then let him out, and apparently that was the cue Macie needed. The water–the horrible, horrible water–couldn’t be that bad if Bartleby was okay with it. So three or four times, she made it to the second step, then turned and fled and raced around the backyard as if she were being chased by demons. On the fourth time, she actually made it to the third step. Her entire head went under and when it came up, her eyes were so wide she reminded me of a cartoon character, with eyes popping out of her head. She immediately turned around, swam the step back to the stairs, and that was it–she wanted to go inside after that.

Ten minutes later, I was floating in the water, face up to the sun, eyes closed, when I bumped into something. It took me a minute to realize that Bartleby was swimming in circles around me. It’s the first time he’s ever come into the pool by himself.

The irony is that it was cool this morning when I was walking Zelda, and the love bugs–these atrociously maddening Florida bugs that swarm in late fall and late August–were out. Lovebugs are harmless but during their mating seasons, they get everywhere, and then die. You can wind up with four or five of them crawling on you at once if you try to sit outside and their bodies stack up on the tables, by the doors, in the pool, everywhere. Completely harmless, but oh, so gross. Anyway, both those things–cool weather and lovebugs–mean that swimming season is probably over or close to it. The dogs might have tried swimming on the very last day of swimming until next spring.

That somehow feels poignant to me. There are times when everything seems possible, but this year, fall feels like endings and lost opportunities and great moments already gone.

20 Sep

Day 30

Today is the miracle day that I’ve been waiting for: reintroduction! Except that I feel like crap, so reintroduction is sort of pointless. I wouldn’t be able to tell whether I was reacting to the food or whether I was still in the remarkably slow recovery stage of this cold. C keeps telling me I should go to a doctor, but I am fatalistic about doctors’ abilities to help one with cold/flu symptoms. I’ll get better eventually, just in time to start reintroducing foods and seeing what I react to by what makes me feel lousy. Hmm… that does sound bad when put that way, doesn’t it?

I’ve been having a terrible time trying to write. I decided yesterday that it wasn’t writer’s block so much as profound writer’s self-loathing. I just seem to hate everything that I write. It’s all wrong, wrong, wrong. But I told a friend yesterday my entire plot for A Precarious Balance and it sounds so fun. The complications and the twists and the cities, the emotional conflicts, the characters and relationships… I really like it. In my head. On screen, no, not so much. “One word after another”–the only writing strategy that really works for me–has turned into lot of spinning wheels and deleting drafts. It reminds me of writing A Gift of Time. I don’t know whether that means I should stick with it, the way I did for the interminable 18 months spent writing Time, or leave it for now and do something else. For the moment, at least, I’m going the stick-with-it route. And I think I will now open up the file and stare at it some more. I can tell myself that I’ve already written 300 words and that all I need to do is keep my fingers moving. Maybe it’ll work.

15 Sep

Clever Title Here

Not a very clever title, is it? But it’s Monday morning and I’m sick. The dog has been trying plaintively for two hours to get me to take her for a walk and I’m just not up to it. My muscles hurt, my chest is heavy, my throat itches, oxygen isn’t making it through my sinuses… so I have to type. Zelda is smart enough to know that when I’m engaged in any other activity, I *might* be willing to take her for a walk, but when my hands are on the keyboard, I’m working and it’s not going to happen. So writing is, at the moment, a self-defense against a dog who doesn’t understand the difference between a human with a cold and a human who’s being lazy.

I really resent this cold. I’m three plus weeks into the 30-day autoimmune protocol diet, and I have been so, so good. I haven’t cheated once. To the best of my knowledge, not a single bit of any of the forbidden foods has crossed my lips. I say “to the best of my knowledge” because a couple times I used something, then later looked at the ingredient list. Green ginger tea apparently has “natural flavors” in it. I have no idea what those natural flavors might be so maybe they’re okay and maybe they’re not. I stopped drinking ginger tea after I figured that out.

I figured it out because eh. Even before the cold, I wasn’t feeling as good as I had hoped I would. So maybe I need to stick with it longer or maybe I need to up my doses of fermented foods and organ meats or maybe I need to try the FODMAP version… but at the moment, I’m not convinced it’s worth it. On the other hand, I have a cold. I feel like crap. So possibly now is not the best time to be making this call.

The good news of having a cold: I binge-watched Once Upon A Time over the weekend. Just the first season. I don’t think I would have gotten into that show without a need for sleepy sick television, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have stuck with it–it gets quite slow during the middle of the season–but I’m happy I did if only for the sake of the story of Red Riding Hood. What a great twist on a fairy tale! I won’t provide spoilers, but watching the whole season was worth it just for the development of that character.

The bad news of having a cold: well, it’s a cold. Sufficient bad news, yeah? But writing just hasn’t been going well at all. I’m not finding Fen’s voice again. I’m going to go back and start the first chapter over–I think it’s the right time, the right place, the right overall experience, but there’s something wrong with it and I think it might be Fen. But I suspect that’s probably not going to happen today. Today feels an awful lot like a lie in front of the television drinking green tea and piling up tissues sort of day, and good news for me, I still have two more seasons of Once Upon a Time to watch.

As for my website redesign… well, I changed the site. But I realized as I spent hour upon hour trying to create materials that would be my “landing page” on the Web, my “portal” to selling my books to new readers, that I really just don’t want to turn my blog into that sort of space. I’ve been posting here off-and-on for eight years and it’s personal, not professional. Changing it, fine. Making it a “sales tool”–nope, not okay with me. So I’ll have to think about that some more, I guess. Maybe I can optimize the Rozelle Press site so that it becomes top of the search results for my author name and then it can be the professional marketing space and this can stay my nice little casual, low-tech, unprofessional corner of the internet.

10 Sep

Re-designing everything

I realized this morning that I’ve been on a redesign binge. I think it started with the pantry, but I suspect I should be blaming it on the insurance company.

So ten days ago, I decided the pantry needed to be cleaned out and re-organized. I threw away a bunch of expired food, gave away a bunch more that I will never eat (products containing gluten), shifted the shelves around so that the stuff we need is in the middle, moved a bunch of appliance-type items into the garage, and wound up after a couple of hours work with a very user-friendly and half-empty pantry. It’s nice.

A few days after that, I decided to attack the spice cupboard. I took everything out, sorted through what we have and don’t have, put a couple of items on a grocery list, and arranged the rest according to categories. All the pepper-based products (red pepper flakes, chili powder, paprika, tabasco, sriracha, Marie Sharp’s, etc., etc.,) are in one group, all the green herbs in another, all the seasoned salts and spice mixes in a third. Frankly, it mostly made me want some really good spice racks or lazy Susans, but for a brief moment in time, it was organized.

Then I did my bathroom. The tea cupboard. The baking cupboard. Finally, I realized that I’m currently waiting on news from my insurance company about whether they agree with the damage control people that I should have all new cupboards and perhaps it’s not really the best time to be re-organizing all of them? Just guessing.

So my attention went bookward. This weekend, I went a little crazy. I went for a new cover on A Lonely Magic. I think I can’t talk about that too much right now, because my anxiety level will skyrocket, but it was an impulse purchase that goes with an expensive secondary impulse purchase and… yeah, anxiety rising. But re-design. And then on Monday, for whatever insane reason, I decided I needed to re-format all my books. I spent the whole day working on it, trying to make them as beautiful as some of the books Amazon is turning out. I didn’t entirely succeed, but I made some improvements and will be re-posting files eventually.

This morning I decided it was time for a website re-design. I opened the dashboard and started to consider my options–and finally, finally, I reigned myself in and said, “What’s going on here? Does everything need to be different?”

As soon as I started to think about it, I realized that all this change is really just a reaction to being in a holding pattern with house changes. I am going to need new floors. But I liked my old floors. I am going to need new cabinets. But I liked my old cabinets!

But my subconscious is busily working away, trying to get my conscious to reconcile itself to change sometimes being positive. Change can be good. My new floors might be as nice as the old ones. My new cabinets might be a lot nicer.

And my new web design–well, I’m going to try to come up with a fancy front page, maybe one of those slider carousels, showing off the books?–and move the blog to a less prominent area. Not hidden, but tucked away so that people who come here merely wanting to know if I have another book on the way don’t need to read about my dogs & other miscellany. Because change is okay. And unlike house disasters, I can always revert it if I don’t like it.

I should probably call the insurance company, too, and find out what’s going on with my claim. It’s time to bite the bullet and figure out how to get my new floors.

02 Sep

A Flock of Dogs*

Four dogs on a bed

The pack is a little bigger

I had a lovely weekend with my niece. We swam, watched many hours of Doctor Who, discussed iPad games and middle school, and ate amazing food. Well, she loyally tasted asparagus, artichoke and fennel, all for the first time as far as she knew, but her amazing food was mostly the bag of Ruffles and Dean’s French Onion Dip and Dr. Pepper that I bought for her. My amazing food was pretty impressive, though.

When I brought her home, her mom was feeling overwhelmed by the visiting dog. My dad is in Italy, so K was taking care of Gizmo, his dog, for two weeks, but she’s got chronic back issues and can’t walk very far. Gizmo was being disobliging. I said, eh, let me take him. And so now I have Gizmo visiting for ten days.

I admit, on the way home, I had some qualms. I’m not solely responsible for Macie–she doesn’t belong to me–but she spends a lot of time with us. I’ll walk her with my dogs if she’s around when we’re going out and wants to come with us (which she ALWAYS does) and walking three dogs is a challenge. And I’ve pretty much got the three of them organized when it comes to food and treats–they line up in a row and nobody gets anything until they’re all in place–but Gizmo would be new to the routine, of course. Basically, three dogs felt chaotic for a long time, but we’ve got it all down to a smooth routine now and it works well. Would throwing Giz into the mix throw it all off?

Answer: not so much. He adapted immediately and is being really good. I suspect, in retrospect, it’s like kids. Once you’re outnumbered, you’re outnumbered and adding more to the mix just ups the noise and activity level, but not the challenge.

As for food, I’m on day 13 of the auto-immune protocol (henceforth to be referred to as AIP). The astonishing thing about it is probably how well I’m eating. For breakfast this morning, I had coconut-crusted chicken with mango sauce and red onions on a bed of spring greens. Sunday night was chicken baked with artichokes, olives, and lemons, with sides of sweet potato fries and roasted fennel. Last night, cauliflower fried ‘rice’ with carrots, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, and bacon. Basically, every meal feels like it could be on the menu at a fancy restaurant. Health effects–mixed, so far, I think. I definitely have a lot more focused energy, but it’s definitely not a miracle cure for all that ails me. That said, at this point, I’m more likely to go much harder-core and start eating organ meats and fermented foods then to give up. I feel like there’s this horizon of health that I can reach if I just keep trying and that I’m a place where trying is worth it. I’ll see, I guess. But I managed not to eat C’s potato chips–not even one–so I’m feeling optimistic about lasting the 30 days and making long-term diet changes, too.

And now–time to write book words. The idea are flowing, so maybe the words will start flowing, too!

*I know, it’s a pack of dogs, really. But three of them are little and the way they follow me around reminds me of baby ducklings more than wolves. I like my little flock.

30 Aug

Being a publisher

I worked in publishing for a long time. Over ten years as an acquisitions editor. That was one of the reasons I was skeptical about trying to write “professionally”–in other words, trying to earn my living with my writing. I know how ridiculously hard it is, I know how few people manage to do so. But hey, I decided to try anyway, and even decided to make it formal, create a publishing company, etc. I decided to treat the job professionally, practically.

Yesterday, with my publisher hat on, I tried to talk myself out of writing A Precarious Balance. Not just now, but ever.

If I was a good publisher, I’d look at the numbers–29 copies of A Lonely Magic sold in the month of August, worse than any of the Tassamara books have ever done, including when I had no audience at all–and I’d make the kind of phone call that makes my stomach twist with anxiety for hours ahead of time.

“So sorry,” I’d tell the author. “We loved the book, really we did. But the numbers just aren’t there. We’ll keep trying. We’ll push it, see if we can squeeze it into a promotion or two, but we need to put #2 on hold. Indefinitely.” I’d mourn with the author, especially for a book I loved so much, and I’d feel guilty and torn by indecision–where had I made the wrong choices, how had I screwed up, why hadn’t my passion gotten through to the sales reps? But I’d bite the bullet and do it anyway, because publishing is a business and investing in books that don’t make money is a fast way to layoffs & cost-cutting & midnight stress.

I suspect that this is why at some point in my publishing journey, I’m going to wind up working at McDonald’s. Not because the book isn’t selling. That’s sad, but all I have to do is think about how much fun it was to write and I can shrug my shoulders and let go of that. But because I’m not capable of choosing my writing projects based on whether or not they’re good business decisions. When the practical publisher and the impractical author collide, the impractical author is winning every time. My anxious side really hates that, but my author side goes on strike every time I try to do it differently.

Today, the impractical author side is going to take a weekend day, and say good-bye to summer by hanging out with my niece, with swimming and maybe grilling and probably a lot of Doctor Who. And on Monday–or maybe Tuesday–the publisher side can start worrying again.

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