Christmas is Coming

Christmas is coming,
the goose is getting fat,
please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny,
a ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny,
then God bless you!

I get this stuck in my head every year around this time – just a week or so out from Christmas. My very British grandmum used to sing it to us, and now it’s taken on a slightly terrified tone as Christmas goes from being several months out to OMG NEXT WEEK.

There is, and can be, no inbetween.

While I scramble to get presents in order and cookies baked (oh yeah, I should post that recipe for egg-free crinkles…), I’m also trying to get mentally ready for January. TTC round two will commence just after Christmas (and that fat goose). I’ve started taking folate again. I’m trying to turn my sporadic 1/week weightlifting back into 2-3/week. I’m reminding myself to breathe and take a moment (or two [or three]) every day to center my thoughts.

I also decided to try out that ovulation microscope. I’m hoping to avoid peeing all over my hand for weeks at a time (god I hate OPKs) by using the microscope to better pinpoint when I’m going to ovulate. This little thing should a) help relieve some stress related to the irregular cycles, b) save on OPK sticks, c) be kind of fun if it works, actually. It’s supposed to show a ferning pattern in your saliva as you near ovulation and give you about a 2-4 day window in which to operate. At that point, you use OPKs to find the surge, then tie it all together by temping and confirming. So not only will I (hopefully) save on OPKs, but I should be able to avoid temping every. single. day. I’m trying it out this (last) cycle to make sure it works, since there are (as always) a small percentage of woman for whom it doesn’t work.

Has anyone else used the microscope? Did you like it? Did you hate it?

Other things to help my sanity in the coming weeks:

- I’m taking a week off from writing, so I won’t hit my 100k word goal by this Friday. I’m so close (94k!) and it was so hard to make that decision, but time is simply too tight and I’m letting myself get too stressed. Also I can’t quite figure out my ending, so hopefully a forced week off will give me time to plan.

- Warm, comfy flannel shirts.

- Fluffy cats.

- Lots and lots and lots of tea. I discovered Trader Joe’s candy cane green tea and it is my absolute new favorite. So good. So pepperminty.

- Breathing. Focusing. Relaxing. Long, cold walks. Remembering that this weekend marks when the sun starts to come back. Finally.

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2014 Books in Review, Part One

I originally started this blog – way back when – to review books. Obviously, the blog has since morphed into something else entirely, something more about my own day to day life and TTC and writing and trying to be healthy. At first I tried to keep up with all the books I read, post by post and review by review, but last year I realized I was tired of wasting my time not just reading, but even reviewing bad books, and that overall it would be better to focus on the ones I really liked. My end of year favorite books round-up last year worked really well, so I’m doing it again.

Goodreads says I’ve read 76 books so far this year, but alas, a lot of them either were too bland or didn’t catch my interest and I didn’t even really finish them. But I still read some good ones, ones I am confident passing on to others as recommendations.
Here are my 2014 Books of Awesome, Part One:

 


Brilliance
by Marcus Sakey

“Since 1980, one percent of people have been born as one of the “brilliants,” a class of human with extraordinary abilities. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in – and betray his own kind.”

This book was neither original (see: any story with superpowers) nor exceptionally written, but it was still fun, engaging, and fast. The women characters weren’t completely flat and you’re never quite sure who is on which side, plus I feel like it did a good job of updating the traditional mutant/superpowers story to the present, terrorist-filled day and post 9/11 world. So maybe not awesome, but a good read for the airplane or bus.

 

Parasite by Mira Grant

“A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease. We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them. But these parasites are getting restless.”

Mira Grant did her research and it shows. If you read and liked her first series, Newsflesh, you will like this. It’s sci-fi horror with more science and less jump scares and even if you can spot the ending from three miles away, it is still satisfying to watch the narrator realize – and then try really hard to ignore – the truth for herself. I also especially loved the MC for being complex and amazing and just… she’s just really well written, acts believably, and doesn’t fling herself unnecessarily into danger. I could just see her being a real human being all around – which, in a way, is even more frightening.

Another thing to note about this author: her cast of characters are not just all white & straight and I love her so much for that. It’s so refreshing to see a lesbian couple as just part of the world and Mira (or should I say Seanan McGuire, because Mira is an alter ego) does this in all her books. Love love love.

 

 

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

“Most people dream of having superheroes for parents, but not Celia West. The only daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the world’s greatest champions, she has no powers of her own, and the most exciting thing she’s ever done is win a silver medal in a high school swim meet. Meanwhile, she’s the favorite hostage of every crime boss and supervillain in Commerce City. She doesn’t have a code name, but if she did, it would probably be Bait Girl, the Captive Wonder.”

Another really fun, fast read. I’ve come to appreciate these more as I get older because I’ve come to realize how difficult it is to write something that is both fun and interesting and fast without being also incredibly shallow and/or otherwise problematic. Apparently I was on a superhero kick early in the year.

 

The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells

“Nicholas is a passionate, embittered nobleman consumed by thoughts of vengeance. But at night he assumes the guise of a master criminal, stealing jewels from wealthy nobles to finance his quest for vengeance the murder of Count Montesq, the man who orchestrated the wrongful execution of Nicholas’s godfather on false charges of necromancy. But now a series of eerie, unexplainable, even fatal events have interrupted Nicholas’ murderous mission.”

I don’t know how to explain this one. I picked it up on a lark and even though it was the second in a series I’d never heard of, it was still really good. It’s a high fantasy set in some weird, not-quite-Victorian place that also has underground elves (?? I think that was from the previous book), but the characters were ridiculously fun and the plot never stopped and I cared about everyone and no one was particularly tropey or flat and even though the Real Plot wasn’t revealed until nearly the end, I never felt cheated. If you like high fantasy and are tired of how dull and manpain-centric most of them are, you’d probably like this.

 

 

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

“More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery.”

Sanderson. Oh, Sanderson. I have waxed poetic about this man in the past and I will continue to do so forever. He can not only write complex characters and well-paced plots, but his world building is excruciatingly beautiful. I will read anything he writes at this point, and I know I will like it.

Rithmatist was no exception. It’s YA (I think?), but that doesn’t matter. How does he come up with all these magic systems? I just. I don’t even.

 

Cress by Marissa Meyer

“In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder. “

This is the 3rd in basically what is a fairytale retelling merged with a Sailor Moon fanfic series. It’s good and fun and surprisingly dark. I’ve enjoyed picking out all the little nods to the original stories and Cress was by far the darkest and – unsurprisingly – my favorite. I want Winter to come out now.

 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

“Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind, who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t, then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. “

Ah, so ridiculous! So delightful! Valente has a way with words, and by that I mean she can spin ridiculously beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence and you just want to eat it up. Paired with a fun, occasionally dark, story set in Fairy and you have a winner.

 

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

“When her master dies during the voyage, the golem Chava is unmoored and adrift as her ship arrives in New York in 1899. The jinni Ahmad, born in the ancient Syrian desert but trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, is released by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. A powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice. “

Technically, this is “literary” fiction and not just ye olde fantasy, but it’s still good. It took a while to get into and really get going, but once it does it’s a gorgeously written story and I couldn’t stop. It’s the kind of story that gets into your brain and lingers there, whispering, for days after you finish and put it down. Just warning you.

 

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell

“An Atlantic correspondent uncovers the true cost-in economic, political, and psychic terms-of our penchant for making and buying things as cheaply as possible.”

Don’t read this if you really, really like cheap shit. In short: There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. I’ve always had a basic understanding that cheap things are cheap for a reason – and usually a bad reason – but never fully grasped how deeply the notion that things should be cheaper than they are – and fuck the consequences – has become an Ideal in our culture and economy. I would make this required reading for any Economics class.

 

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

“Urban and rural collide in this wry, inspiring memoir of a woman who turned a vacant lot in downtown Oakland into a thriving farm”

I also went through an Everything Farming!! phase earlier this year, and of the handful of books I read, this was my favorite. The author was a seriously-no-kidding urban farmer who raised bees and geese and chickens and grew all sorts of plants in a not-so-pleasant urban setting. It’s a cute, honest memoir that really just reinforces the notion that farming is for everywhere and everybody.

 

To be continued!

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2015 Writing Goals

Last January I decided it was time to get super serious about writing and I sat down and wrote out three main objectives for the year: query one story, finish edits on another, and write a new one. I surprised myself and achieved all three before September, so I had to come up with more goals for the rest of the year (rewrite & query, which just turned into rewriting). For 2015, I’m aiming a little higher. I want to do the same – query a story, finish the edits on another, and write a new one – but this time I’m planning on getting that all done in the next six (okay, seven) months.

To hold myself accountable (and if you’re interested), here’s that plan in a little more detail after the cut:
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Our Tree is Up!

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We fixed some of the twinkle lights around the top of the apartment and put up the tree this morning. Because a coworker also brought in some oranges from their tree last week, we stuck cloves in them and made pomanders. That pumpkin is hanging out until we can cook it, but it’s totally seasonally appropriate.

After our first Christmas with cats, we quickly realized even a fake tree wasn’t going to be cat-proof. So last year I took inspiration from pinterest and tried a wall-based string of lights tree. Cats didn’t even try to play with it and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed its simplicity.

I’m starting to feel a little bit more holiday spirit just having proper decorations up.

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Wanted: Holiday Spirit

I know I dug my heels in more than usual this November, insisting on a proper autumn, but now I can’t seem to pick my heels up. I don’t know what it is – usually I enjoy winter and all the Christmas stuff, the lights and the songs and the snowflakes plastering so many surfaces that have never actually seen a snowflake. A front blew through this week, bringing clouds and rain and a sinking chill and I thought that would be enough but…

Our office really gets into Christmas hardcore, complete with an entire day dedicated to decorations and not one, not two, but at least three Christmas parties. They don’t even pretend that it’s “holiday” – most are hardcore Catholic and I recently learned that more than a few don’t know a single Jewish person. That isn’t to judge or condemn them, but to give an idea of just how very Christmas it can get. I’m atheist but raised protestant and totally still celebrate, at least secularly.

That’s all to say that usually it’s fine. But today they got out all the boxes and hung up all the lights and garlands and put on Christmas music and I tried – I really tried – to get into the spirit, but all I could do was sit on the floor tying knots and feeling increasingly dispirited and sad. I got called grinch a few times, then felt dizzy and went home.

But I want to be all happy that winter is coming and the sun is returning and soon there will be family and cookies and twinkle lights – I just can’t. Any suggestions? Any tried and true ways to put holiday spirit into a grinch – that doesn’t involve sneaking into houses and stealing their trees?

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It’s December, So It’s Time to Start Reminiscing

The year is winding down and the end is fast approaching and I find myself, as always, somewhat startled. How did this happen? Only a year ago we were reading up on TTC and getting excited. Only a year ago I started temping. Only a year ago I was still eating eggs and lathering everything in hot sauce. Only a year ago I was preparing to cut everything out for the Autoimmune Protocol. Only a year ago I was still working on the query for Mili Anrek. Only a year ago I had finally made the determination that to become a writer, I had to act like a writer. Only a year ago and the future was so fuzzily hopeful.

It’s still fuzzily hopeful, but the fuzziness has shifted and changed. Past me was convinced we’d have some form of a kid by this time – now, I’m hopeful that by next December we might, but the conviction is gone. Past me had a vague plan for rewrites and querying, but now I have a definite one. Past me wasn’t sure if we’d be moving by summer of winter of 2015, but now I know I only have to work at this job until next December. Past me wasn’t confident I could work out without Crossfit, but over the last year I’ve well proven that I can. Past me thought I might have a problem with nightshades, but in no way shape or form could have fathomed giving up eggs as well.

Now my fuzzy hopefulness is for where we will be and what we will be doing. I know I’ll be writing. I know Lady will be science-ing. But the state we move to next – even the country! – is up for grabs. I’m hoping I will have some sort of contract or agent by the end of next year – I have one book I’m currently querying (Ginger Witch) and a second that will be ready to query by next summer (Sand Wastes). But, like TTC, that is largely up to chance. I’ll do what I can on my end, but it’ll happen when it happens (if at all).

But aside from reminiscing, the end of the year means it is time for me to look back over the books I’ve read and do a big ol’ post sharing my favorites. That’ll be coming up soon! Watch out!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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We had a lovely time with part of Lady’s family over the long weekend. This is the first time we’ve actually spent Thanksgiving with family on Thanksgiving (as adults), even though we’ve lived within driving distance of her mom for the better part of five years. Between work and… well, work, it just didn’t happen.

Despite super tiny kitchens and running back and forth between two houses, it was super chill. We had turkey and cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes and napped beforehand. Then we sat around and got caught up like is proper.

I woke up Wednesday with a sore throat which developed into a sniffling, sneezing, sleepy cold by Friday, so most of the weekend was a daze for me.

I mostly remember us complaining about how cold we were (it was 50!) to Lady’s sister on Skype, who then turned the computer around to show the foot of snow they had. We were not properly chastised, but we did laugh at ourselves.

But here, enough about the freezing 50’s we had to endure. Have some photos.

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I’m not sure I’m ready for December yet, but I have made a promise to stop hissing every time Christmas music comes on. It’s a start?

(And I’m also totally not 5k behind on word count. Nope. Not at all. Look away folks, nothing to see here.)

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