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What I’m Reading Vol. 1

As a writer, I consider it part of my job to do a lot of reading. <—- Holy shit, how pretentious was that sentence? Let’s be real, I devour books at lightning speed without excuse, and I don’t apologize for it either. Sometimes the books I read are amazing, sometimes . . . not so much. Luckily for you, I’ve come across a crop of really good ones lately.

First, I stumbled upon Jessica Hawkins on instagram and had to check out her Something in the Way Series. I tore through the first two in about as many days, and started Move the Stars, but I had to take a quick break. These books are so amazingly emotional that I had to take a step back from the intensity for a couple weeks. But I’ll go back and finish the last two once I finish with these next books I’m telling you about.

I don’t usually read a lot of craft books. For one, I have a degree in Creative Writing that I like to think counts for something. And two, I find craft books to be super subjective. What speaks to one creative mind might dud all to hell for another. I still don’t think I’ll ever find more helpful writing advice than Anne Lamott’s “Butt in chair. Shitty first draft,” philosophy, but I also know I don’t know everything, so every now and then, I pick up something that resonates with me. This one did for obvious reasons. I plan on reviewing it more in depth later, but so far, I think it’s helpful for anyone wanting to get into writing.

And oh, dear readers, I saved the best for last. Juliet Blackwell’s newest book came out recently, and I have been savoring it. I save this one for special occasions, even though it kills me to read a mystery slowly. Juliet Blackwell’s books are the kind that you miss when they’re over, but luckily, even the mystery series have great reread value! I think I have read Letters from Paris (not a mystery) three times.

I found Juliet Blackwell while I was on maternity leave with Rufus. Audible had suggested The Paris Key to me a couple months before, but I hadn’t listened to it until I was off work for whatever reason. I fell in love with the narrator, Xe Sands, and luckily, she reads all of Juliet Blackwell’s books, so I also listened to Xe Sands read all of the Witchcraft Mystery series while I was stuck on the sofa nursing a baby for a month. If I ever meet Juliet Blackwell and she doesn’t sound like Xe Sands, it might take me a minute to adjust–which is a horrible expectation to hold, but there it is.

In my fantasy life, the one where I am already super successful and can do whatever I want with my author biz, Xe Sands is who I’d hire to narrate The Other Lane, and it would be fantastic to listen to. And, fun fact, Juliet Blackwell is how Juliet from my second novel, Ethan & Juliet, (coming this fall) got her name.

Right, so there’s some insight into my inner ridiculousness. What have you been reading lately? Anything good?



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It’s that time of year again when I get all navel-gazey and write that self-indulgent post everybody else was writing a week ago about how their year went and what they want to do differently this year. You know the one–about all the ways they’re gonna be thinner and taller and shinier in 2018–except I’m gonna be thinner and taller and shinier for my 33rd year.

    1. I started off this year by quitting my day job. Not a new story, but a scary one.
    2. It was a difficult adjustment. I spent most of the first couple months crippled by anxiety that we were going to go broke. It didn’t help that I was exhausted from working a full-time job with two babies around and taking care of a house and just in general being a human in modern times.
    3. I spent months doing nothing but reading and playing with the kids.
    4. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing only that if that’s what makes you happy.
    5. But it was not what I wanted to do.
    6. I came back slowly by adding in a mostly-daily yoga practice, which I kept up most of the year. If I wasn’t doing yoga, I was out walking and playing with the kids. Sometimes I did some light weightlifting.
    7. The decision to do something–anything–active everyday helped shake me out of my anxious funk. (This is 64,000,000,000 times easier to write than it is to do.)
    8. That and a continued positive balance in our bank account.
    9. In March, I started  the final revisions on my first finished novel, The Other Lane.
    10. Old news, I know. I’ve talked about that to death. But the other night, my husband and I were playing around with a book cover maker, and he made me a cover for it.
    11. It looked like it was a book written by Graham Greene or John Updike about something that only gives rich white dudes anxiety, and he called it The Other Lane, or Prepare to Be Devastated.
    12. This is not an inaccurate alternative title since it’s meant to be a reimagining of Jane Eyre. (Does me saying that make you want to read it, or just make you roll your eyes?)
    13. Speaking of Jane Eyre (and Sense & Sensibility), I highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
    14. That and The Bookshop on the Corner.
    15. I listened to the latter, and it’s set in Scotland (both of them are, actually). Every time I went back to reading whatever silly romance I was on at the moment, the cowboys all had Scottish accents.
    16. Not sure what it says about the caliber of the book that I remembered they were cowboys, but not where they were cowboys.
    17. Sometimes, I also enjoy reading horrible books.
    18. When I do, I tweet a lot, because they get my inner editor all riled up.
    19. Oh that’s right. I was supposed to be telling you how I’m gonna get taller and thinner this year. Oops. Forgot.
    20. Funny story, tho. When I went to the doctor in April, I measured in at 5’6″. I’ve been 5’5″ since high school.
    21. So, I actually did get taller last year.
    22. *Checks “getting taller” off the list.*
    23. Sometime during the summer, I got up the guts to start querying The Other Lane to literary agents.
    24. Get this. I was also finishing up the first big revision of Ethan & Juliet, my second (finished) novel. At the same time. (No, this one is not based on Romeo and Juliet, but it is about a doctor and a midwife.)
    25. The combination of those two things made me feel like I was worth a million bucks.
    26. So I promptly went out and started a YouTube channel about knitting.
    27. Holy shit you guys, I just checked and I have 27 subscribers now! Last time I looked, I seriously had like, 3.
    28. Which tells you how much attention I’ve been paying to YouTube.
    29. But seriously, it’s been a lot of fun, and I plan to continue. Someday.
    30. In the meantime, I am working on a couple other writing projects, like revising my 2017 nanowrimo.
    31. And I’m playing around with doing some self-publishing.
    32. Oh, and I still plan to do yoga everyday. How’s that for taller and thinner?
    33. Now, if I want to be shiny, all I have to do is add glitter.
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Catching Up, A List

1. Being pregnant is hard.
2. I want to sleep all of the time, but constant sleep is not conducive to the doing of the stuff.
3. Like gardening

We might get some zucchini!
We might get some zucchini!

4. Those blackberries tho

Our blackberry bush has gotten massive this year, and look at all those potential future berries.

5. I’ve been dropping hints here and there about starting a soap company. I am ever so slowly building an inventory, but see #1 for more info. But here’s a sneak peak.

From left to right: french vanilla soap, sandalwood soap, piney-woodsy-manly soap, earl grey soap, and lavender bath salts
From left to right: french vanilla soap, sandalwood soap, piney-woodsy-manly soap, earl grey soap, and lavender bath salts

6. I’m hoping to launch the soap company before the baby comes (in 11ish weeks!), but if not, look for it before the holidays. (And if you’re interested in my pumpkin spice soap, let me know soon, so I know how much of it to make this summer!)

7. De-cluttering ground to a halt, because we had to do all of the things in April and May. We started tackling the two last big projects this past weekend: the big kid room and my studio. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

8. I am preparing a query to send to an agent for the book I wrote last year.

9. I realize I should probably try more than one agent, but baby steps.

10. While I didn’t set out to write a romance, my first book project turned out to be one. While thinking about a second project, I thought I might try to write a romance on purpose, so I found a book on romance novel writing.

11. As I’m reading this book, a lot of the advice felt familiar, and I remembered that I have a degree in creative writing, and you know, have apparently already written a romance novel, so I’m probably doing OK. (I read the whole thing anyway.)

12. It’s not a bad book if you’re just starting out though. Plus, she uses illustrations from a bunch of different books, and some are so intriguing I now have a whole new list of books to look up.

13. I am kind of excited to plan another novel project.

14. Except, I’m not so good at the planning part.

15. I love writing by the seat of my pants, but it’s not very efficient, so I am attempting to outline my next book before I start writing. It kind of sounds like torture.

16. In between being writerly, building a new business, and you know, growing a baby, I’ve been doing a little knitting.

Action shots once there's a baby to wrap in it, I promise.
Action shots once there’s a baby to wrap in it, I promise.

17. I wanted to make this new wee one a nice, heirloom quality baby blanket that didn’t use all of my brain power. Enter the twinkle blanket.

18. It’s knit out of 100% merino, undyed, and I am in love.

What have you been up to? (And what kind of soap do you want?)

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31 Things for 31

1. Today is my 31st birthday.
2. Normally I write a nice long New Year-sie type post, but my car almost blew up, and one of the things I was going to write about was the need to push toward goals, but also knowing when you need a rest. For me that day is today.
3. OK, so saying my car almost blew up might be a bit of an exaggeration.
4. It was smoking and squealing and being all sorts of scary.
5. Plus, I was parked in the garage beneath the Kansas State Capitol. I was not going to be the woman who exploded the capitol because her ancient-ass Honda decided to throw flames as a birthday present.
6. I might slightly afraid of dying in a spontaneous car fire.
7. Does anyone else realize how scary combustion engines really are?
8. I was hoping to buy a new car this year anyway.
9. But I was also hoping to use my tax return to do it, and that’s at least another month away.
10. Readers, this car is 18 years old. It is time to die, but it also needs to last another month without costing a fortune to fix.
11. There’s another reason we need a new car.
12. The Honda barely fits Felix’s car seat, and sometime in August, it looks like we’ll be adding another. If we try to fit two car seats in the back, Brock and I will be riding with our knee to our throats, and where will we put Athrun? The trunk?
13. Yup, you read that right, I have now made two cavalier jokes about illegal activities that would likely get me arrested were I serious.
14. Oh, and if you’re wondering about that second car seat, we’ll need it because I am pregnant. Again.
15. The reason I haven’t kept to my update schedule is because morning sickness hit me like a ton of bricks in December.
16. It was so bad, and I was so sick that we thought for awhile I might have another miscarriage.
17. After a week of tests and and a couple of ultrasounds, everything is looking normal.
18. That pregnancy limbo did not do good things for my psyche. In addition to being afraid of exploding cars, I’m also pretty attached to not bleeding to death.
19. And…I kind of actually wanted this pregnancy to stick.
20. Even though I hate being pregnant.
21. Even though Felix got so angry about changing out of his pajamas and into clothes this morning that he threw the hamper into the door.
22. It was empty, but still, he’s not even two!
23. He totally gets that temper from me. I throw shit when I’m angry too.
24. The sickness has evened out now and I’m feeling all right now. Not spectacular, but I am no longer angry at the world for my misery.
25. I have a lot of other things I’d like to do while I’m 31 besides have a baby and buy a car.
26. I’d like to find an agent for the novel I wrote last year.
27. I’d like to revise the story I wrote in November.
28. I’d like to KonMari the heck out of my house.
29. I’d like to finally get the soap company I’ve been planning in my head for the last two years off the ground.
30. The list could go on, but those are the major points.
31. Now I’m gonna go eat some of that carrot cake I’ve been enjoying for two days already.

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Sunday Morning

photo props
I have no photos on my camera from August that aren’t of photo props or products. Here’a a rare look at my dinning room table without it’s customary pink tablecloth. Also, I am kind of in love with these dishes.

lasagne singles
I’ve been doing a bit of spinning here and there. (Don’t these singles remind you of spinach lasagna?)
And I just cast on a top-down raglan sweater for Brock. It will double as a sample for my fall knitting class, details to come.

Mostly today, I am editing photos and writing copy and drinking coffee when I am not distracted by this little guy.


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Playing Hooky

Yesterday, I ducked out of the office at noon, convinced Brock to play hooky with me and cruised on over Lawrence. The town that’s a half hour away with the good gluten free pizza, decent coffee, and a yarn shop. I was not having a very good day, hence the playing hooky.

I have forgotten how nice it is to relax and take an afternoon off. I knit on the drive there and back, finishing my sister’s birthday present (3 weeks late, but who’s counting) Some Malabrigo Rios came home with me is already becoming a little crocheted lap blanket (not sure why I want to crochet blankets, but I do). I bought some silk to play with on my drum carder, which should be arriving today.

We picked Athrun up from school where he had won an award for his school’s Read-a-thon. Mostly because I read him the entirety of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix within the time limits, since books parents read to you count as well. (He said his name was drawn, I say whoever was in charge decided he deserved a coupon for free pizza for finishing the longest book for a first grader ever. I also think mommy should have won some nice tea for nearly losing her voice.) At home, I continued to read to him out of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

More days need to be as healing as yesterday afternoon.

I am going to try to remember to take more time like that and not fret…and perhaps play hooky more often.

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Fun with Self-Portraits

I am back at work after 1 1/2 days home sick. Obviously I brought my new computer to play with over my lunch hour. No webcams on the work computer. I was surprised this morning to flip the switch in my office and have the lights flip on immediately and brilliantly. My office is pretty much the storm shelter, and had been unbelievably dim since I started working there.

This is what it used to be like
No joke, I was working by the light of my computer most days.

Now I have plenty of light so I can do all of the important things!
That’s some aloft in Daisy for the Tule sweater. I love me some fuzzy mohair. (Really, the yarn is for casting on during the 15 minutes I have to wait for the kiddo to get out of school. I could knit at work, but I would have to figure out how to type and answer the phone with my eyes.)

But, since I was out with a little tummy bug the last few days, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Happy knitting, friends.