Small Good Things 3-4-15

1.  We tapped our maple trees this afternoon.  This is the New Englander equivalent of blowing a raspberry in winter’s stinkin’ cold face.

So there.

(ppphhhhhbblblblblbfffffphhhh!)

2.  It got above freezing today.  So, you know, that was awesome and completely unexpected.  Torrents of drips coming off the roof.  Hopefully not through the roof, but it’s not too late to wake up in a puddle, I suppose.  There’s a LOT of snow up there.

3.  We’re drinking a very nice bottle of wine last night & tonight.  One of the Boy’s xmas gifts from his father.  Yum.

4.  My Meyer lemon ‘tree’ has doubled in size this month, and has been blooming continuously for a couple of weeks now.  Plus I think I’m seeing a wee tiny baby lemon fruit developing at the site of one of the first blossoms.  It’s sitting near my place at the kitchen table so I can sniff it every time I sit down or stand up, or just lean way, way over.  I’m pretty sure its presence is all that’s keeping me sane.

5. I sold a short story to a Kickstarter-ed anthology called Temporally Out of Order at the beginning of the year, but only just now signed the contract, so I can only just now cheer about it in public.

TooO

Yay!  It’s a story I was actually really pleased with, but it was written specifically for this anthology’s parameters, so if they didn’t want it, chances were good I’d never sell it.  So I’m doubly delighted it made the cut.  Pre-orders are available here, and it will be available for sale –at a slightly higher price– for both e-book or paperback format once it’s been released.

 

 

Small Things 2-19-15

1.  The snow.  Gods, there is So. Much. Snow.  And it just keeps piling up, because it’s been weeks since the temperature has risen above freezing.  This has been a brutal couple of months, it’s seriously taking it out of everyone – myself very much included.

Even new-blooming Meyer lemon tree houseplants cannot keep the gloom at bay.  Even cut flowers aren’t cheering us up.  Pussy willows in the living room, and I’m pretty sure they’re laughing at us all.  Don’t you know? Spring is NOT around the corner.  Just more snow.  And maybe a wight or two.

Blech.

2.  Still miss Mattie-cat horribly.  Am considering getting another dog – a rescued cattle dog, most likely.  Since a cat is out of the question, a dog who wanted to be with ‘the people’ (aka: with ME) all day long would be the next best thing.  Might also get me out of the house more, since walking herding dogs isn’t really a choice, but a necessity.  I miss that insane desire to be moving – it certainly kept ME moving, even when I wasn’t excited about it.

3.  My son is signed up for full-day kindergarten next year.  What is the world coming to, and who is this large child, and where did he put my baby?

4.  Chickens think they have died and gone to a very cold hell.  They may be right, and if they are, I’m right there with them. We must have been very very bad…

5.  Been reading some good books lately – expect a book post around the end of the month.  Watching Buffy on DVD.  Trying to write, but I keep finding myself staring out sullenly at the snow.  Trying to remind myself that February doesn’t last forever, and it’s not so bad, and it’ll be a distant memory come April, but really, I’m having a hard time remembering myself of any of this.  Cocoa.  TV.  Early to bed.  See you in Spring.

Small Things 2-9-15

1.  I miss my cat. So damned much.

2.  Speaking of so much, the snow outside is way too damned much. 69 inches in the last 2 weeks. Plus it’s really freaking cold. I really need a break.

3. Ramen continues to be the best thing I’ve ever eaten for lunch. It’s all I ever want anymore, forever and ever.

4. We’re all getting a little stir crazy. The Boy is a hero for taking the little one out to ‘shovel’ a lot. Flinging snow wildly and ineffectively uses up a lot of little boy energy that would otherwise be spent in sulking aggressively, or seeing how loud he can shout. He’s normally a charmer, but the long cold indoor days are wearing on all of us. Plus, I suspect I’m not as much fun to be around as usual.

5. Drinking whiskey. Enjoying the woodstove that The Boy has considerately been stoking all day so it will be tolerably warm in the barn tonight. Listening–on the monitor– to him singing the wee one to sleep.  Hoping for a few hours to try to write, to get my internal life in order, even though my external life feels very off-balance right now. Hard to believe it’s been a week without Mattie.  I keep thinking I’m seeing her out of the corner of my eye: a saunter of black. A pounce of darkness.

More whiskey. More cleaning – my, is my house ever clean! More cooking, more baking. More forts for the kiddo to play in. More stories read. More puzzles puzzled over. More board games played for the umpteenth time. More stories written. More wine. More kisses from The Boy and the wee one. More biscuits passed stealthily to the dog to apologize to her Whippetness for this miserable damned cold. More Facebook. More book recommendations. More cross-stitch — I’ve been stitching like mad lately, despite needing to get ON with a couple of baby blankets that are coming up due in May. More going to bed early. More napping in the middle of the day. I’ve always hated February. More daydreaming with a seed catalog in my hand. More feeding the hens compost and mealworms and suet cakes, because I feel so guilty making them live outside in a coop, and yet they keep laying eggs for me. They believe spring is coming soon.

It may not be spring, but March really is coming soon.  Bringing a visit with my folks.  Bringing snowmelt.  Bringing mud season.

March is just around the corner.

March is also a very long time away.

Small Things 2-6-15

My Mattie Catty is gone. For such a small cat, she’s left a giant-sized hole in my life.

No more cats. Not here, at least, and I have no intention of ever leaving this house. Her too-short life convinced me that I cannot keep a cat safely indoors, and the outdoors near this road is no place for a cat.

I got most of my weeping done in the days leading up to her death, when we knew it was coming. She had a snow day reprieve because it was too stormy to get to the vet’s for her appointment. So we spent that day cuddling, feeding her anything and everything we thought might taste good to her strangely warped taste-buds, and playing mouse-on-a-string as much as she wanted. I made sure the back patio was shoveled & let her out to explore life from the bottom inch of 4′ of snow as much as she wanted (which wasn’t very much, but I am glad she got to go outside one last time, since it was what she loved best of all). In all honesty, I almost regret not going to the reptile story & buying her a feeder mouse to torment in the dining room for old times’ sake.

Everything is washed. The floors are clean for the first time in a month. The bloodspots cleaned off the dining room rug.  The cat box is collecting dust in the basement. All her empty treat boxes are waiting to be recycled – she ate every last treat on Monday, I fed her one after another until they were gone. Her toys are all shut away in a cupboard until I can look at them again. Her carrier has been donated to the vet who’s been so kind through all this, so good to Mattie Catty.

And the house is very, very empty.

_DSC0822

Killer of Voles. Warmer of Laps. Devourer of Yogurt and Popcorn.

Extraordinary Cat.

Miss you, sweet girl. Miss you forever.

 

 

Small Things 1-28-15

1.  Snow.  We had some.  30 inches to be exact.  Also, the wind sculpted it into these amazing ridges and valleys and drifts.  Holy snowflakes – like 5′ tall drifts.  Now, I know this aint no Buffalo, but for coastal New England, this is one hell of a lot of snow.

Yesterday was ‘hunker down & bake’ day. Today was ‘shovel’ day.  Both were snow-days-off-from-school which has wreaked havoc on our routines, but it’s been a fun break, too. Been a rough January, so it was fun to give ourselves the days off.

And much more importantly, the citrus trees & bougainvillae plants I bought for the express purpose of keeping alive hope while the snows descended did their jobs perfectly.

I was ready for winter to be over long before this one ever began, but even I’ll confess that this storm was pretty darned fun.

2.  I made ramen.  Boy HOWDY did I make ramen.  This ramen. And really, do yourself a favor and make it right now.  It’s spicier than I would have thought from the recipe, and very rich. Also, when you make it, it makes a ton and the noodles slurp up all the broth.  So just dump the whole batch in a big bowl in the fridge, and then when you’re ready for your ramen lunch, add quite a bit of boiling water to your helping to reconstitute the broth before you eat it – it’s still plenty rich. Seriously addictively delicious.

3.  My kiddo is a full-on reader.  And it sort of snuck up on me.  I mean, I’ve been following his pre-reading picking out of words in pet stores etc., with giddy joy for a while now.  But when he progressed from that to being able to pick out words while I was reading to him, to being able to just, well, read it himself, I sort of missed all that. Just all of a sudden, he’s reading.  Not physics texts, obviously, but not See Spot Run, either. For the longest time we thought he was just pretending, because we know he memorizes books almost instantaneously & always has.  (Nothing like having your reading corrected by a 2-year-old, “You got that word wrong, Mommy, it’s _____”) But he’s started doing it with new books, and unfamiliar books, and fairly complicated chapter books (though after a solid paragraph from a chapter book he’s ready to have a parent take over the reading chore so he can just kick back and enjoy the story.

Also, he’s been hiding my stash of index cards under a chair in the living room, so he can practice writing – lists of the things his Real Bunny is going to need in his new electric house.  Sometimes the spelling is, er, extremely creative, but it makes sense from a shorthand transcriptionist’s point of view.  Guess he’s going to be a court reporter someday…

4.  The cat continues – slowly – to show minimal signs of progress.  This is so hard. She’s such an easy-going cat she doesn’t really even mind the thrice-daily ‘hold the cat down & press on her bladder til it lets go’ routine. But I can’t do this indefinitely – everything else aside, I have to be present all day, every day, so her kidneys don’t fail.  So she has to get it back, or–well, or else.  And this sucks.  Uncertainty is almost as bad as certain horribleness.

It does, however, make cleaning the litter box an exciting chore – somewhat akin to finding easter eggs. because as long as she’s improving, I don’t need to make any hard choices.  So I’m all “LOOK!  I FOUND ONE! A BIG CLUMP OF SOLIDIFIED PEE!  YAY, MATTIE!”

If the neighbors are spying on us, they are quite convinced I’m completely, certifiably nutso.

5.  I broke an egg in my coat pocket today. It was as disgusting as you might expect.

That is all.

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Small Things 1-17-15

1.  Finished Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, and am really enjoying it, though it’s interesting how much simpler a book it is than her later ones.  This is not a criticism, just an observation. She’s got an amazing grasp of language, of the poetry in prose, and I’m very much enjoying watching her build this story – another trilogy – up from the ground. Book one was a rather sweet love story, and book 2 is already darker, which is kind of cool – 3 books exactly the same are kind of boring. Something for me to consider in my own work. I started book 2 last night, and can’t wait to move on to book 3.  Much more than the sum of its parts, this trilogy is becoming.

2. The Boy’s flu bug has hit the kiddo – not as bad as Dad’s, but then, the kiddo & I took the shot.  But he’s got the croupy cough that gives him asthma, which makes him panicky, which makes me panicky, which means I sleep on his hardwood floor and give myself a crick in the neck, while he wakes up chipper and ready for the day.  Happily, my own shot seems to be working just fine and neither of my contagious darlings has been able to ensicken me.  Yet.

3.  It’s really cold here.  Cold enough that chicken eggs are freezing before I’m able to get them inside.  I believe the scientific term is DAMNED FREAKING COLD.

Brr.

4. Cat is making small strides (or rather, puddles) toward recovery.  Feeling more hopeful (and also more tired of cleaning) than I was a few days ago.  Also, anyone need a cat bladder manually expressed, I am the woman!

5. My stated goal of finding some online crit partners has seemingly worked out quite nicely.  Currently trading manuscripts with a few women – varying degrees of ‘Yes!’ but that’s to be expected.  Quite pleased with initial forays into critting after a long long long hiatus.  It does my writer-brain good to be working on other people’s writing again, too.

Also – question for readers. I am trying to find an internet blocker that can be scheduled.  ie: I want to block myself off the NYTimes and NBC every day after 8am, not have to do it myself every day. Cold Turkey looks perfect, but I work on a mac.  Every internet blocker I can find for Macs is a ‘set it yourself each time you want to use it’ deal. Not super-helpful.  Any ideas?

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Small Things 1-13-15

1.  Finished up the second of Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell Trilogy, Raven Flight,

…and I’m not entirely sure I’ll buy the third. The first book was complex enough to hold my interest, but honestly, the second feels more like she’s just chugging through a fairly standard bad-guys-in-charge world, overcoming mystical & emotional obstacles left & right (and rather easily at that) til she can get to the good stuff in, I assume, book 3. Rather disappointing in a way I’m not used to being disappointed by this author. Shall have to go back & read her Sevenwaters books to see if my tastes have just changed, or if this really was just not her best.

2. The local-ish winter farmer’s market is sort of awesome, and I’m kicking myself for never having been there before. Lots of vendors, even in January, and it’s held in a huge greenhouse – the other half of which is filled with rather wonderful houseplants. It being January & all, I’m jonesing a bit for greenery, and it was heavenly to see a bougainvillae in full (enormous!) bloom. They had wee little ones, too, and I’m trying to figure out if there’s anywhere in my house warm enough for the tropical darling…

Which I’ll decide by next Sunday, since I suspect I’ll be going back there pretty regularly. Time to start eating local meat – and I found a local miller, as well! Trying to draw that circle of consumption in a little tighter – plus, you know, homemade pretzels!

3. Cat is doing ok, but there’s been no progress on the peeing-alone front, though by damn, I’m getting good at this maneuver! Vet is not saying much one way or the other, but I suspect she’d been hoping Mattie would be doing better than this by now. Keep fingers crossed for us, because honestly, it’ll be the worst kind of horrible for her to be doing well in every other way if this does not improve.

4. Clementines seem especially delicious this year. The kiddo is addicted – as am I.

5. I installed new blinds in his room, and honestly, you’d think I just built a house based on how proud I am of this fact. I think because the walls in this house are old plaster, so hanging anything on the walls is a real challenge – so even though these were drilled into the wooden windowframe – easy! – I feel like I’ve really accomplished something big, since I was expecting it to be epic, but instead it just worked like it was supposed to. So he has blinds in his room, and I wish we’d done this 4 years ago. Now, on to the rest of the house…

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Small Things 1-9-15

1.  Cat is healing up nicely. Red blood count is back up, and she’s getting used to the new routine.  I’m also getting quite good at it if you have any full cat bladders around that need expressing…

2.  Finished The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, and loved it.  Pookas, real horses, a fishing island, horse-racing, a love of the sea.  Pretty much a perfect book.  Highly recommend to fantasy readers.

3.  As I’d hoped to, I’ve found a few writers online to swap manuscript critiques with, and it’s making a huge different in my  incentive to get the work done.  Funny how thinking about someone else’s writing can be at least as helpful to my writing as their thoughts on mine…

4.  It’s really damned cold here. Cold and the snow started at about 9 and is still going strong.  Would really love for it to warm up a little, but, you know, New England winter, I can’t complain overmuch since this is what we signed up for.  Still.  A little warmer for a few days would be nice – a bit of a thaw-out even if the temps never get close to 30*

Brrrr.

5.  I bought a foot-warmer footrest thingy for my closet-office, and this thing rocks.  Only sips electricity, concentrates it just where I need it, and DAMN, this thing gets toasty even when it’s bitter out and chilly in.  Honestly, if you’re sitting & shivering, this is a pretty wonderful idea that is working as well as advertised.

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Small Things 1-6-15

1.  So.  Learning how to manually express urine from my (pissed off) cat’s bladder.  Cross that one off my bucket list.

*sigh*

Ok, seriously. My beloved Mattie-catty had another run-in with a car. She’s fully ambulatory, no broken bones.  Sort of.  Her tail has basically been yanked off the end of her spine, causing nerve stretching & damage to everything back there.  Hopefully the damage is temporary.  She may never regain the tail, but we have high hopes for excretory function.

A bad night two nights ago, when her red blood count was falling – internal bruising was pretty awful – & we basically thought I was bringing her home from emergency care to die.  I slept on the dining room floor with her so she wouldn’t be alone – and so I could get her to the vet quickly if her pain was so bad that she needed to be put to sleep at, say, 2am, but she slept comfortably and then a couple of hours before dawn she rallied rather remarkably.  Today she’s uncomfortable because of the peeing thing, and I’m uncomfortable because of the scratches and bite wounds she’s given me, but she’s walking, jumping, climbing up on laps, chasing cat-toys, and generally acting just fine.  Except for the peeing thing, and having a dead tail.  So I get to ‘help’ her pee three times a day until she gets that back–which she does not actually appreciate at all. She’s actually being very good about it, but there’s apparently only so much pee-related discomfort/humiliation a self-respecting cat can take before she lashes out.  She’s always very sorry afterwards, but I’m thinking seriously of investing in some leather gloves.

She’s not in any physical pain at the moment, so we’re giving her time (and antibiotics. And muscle relaxants) to heal, and hoping for the best. That’s the only treatment there is for this. Weirdly – for this is not apparently a common injury – I had a dog who died from complications of this exact same injury when I was very young. So I’m dealing with some anxiety because of that awful outcome, while trying to listen to my vets who all say that cats do much better with this (as with every) injury than dogs, and that she’s actually already responding well.  So I’m trying–mostly successfully–not to despair.

We’re also trying to figure ways to contain the cat indoors – which will be a huge adjustment for her – while still allowing the dog independent access to the outdoors as needed (which is important.) But for the moment, we’re just trying to get the hang of this ‘help the cat pee in the bathtub’ trick.  She’s in no mood to go outside right now anyway. She knows she’s fragile right now, even if that knowledge irritates the hell out of her.  Plus, you know, it’s damned cold out there.  Even the voles are snuggling underground.

Send good thoughts our way.  This is no fun for any of us.

2.  On a lighter note, the little boy is back in school and giddy with joy.  We all like having the structure of school in our day, but he really missed his friends and his teachers, and the whole exciting thing of being a big kid at school.  So happy he loves it so much.

3.  He also loves Young Cam Jansen books.  Oh my.  My parents gave him a bunch of them for xmas, and he’s loving the ‘mysteries’ (after one has read a mystery 17 or 18 times, we ALL know how it ends, kiddo!) of them, as well as being able to read so much of it himself. Out of nowhere, he’s told us maybe 10 times in the last 2 days that one of his friends at school can already read, and I think he’s put himself in competition with this boy.  Which is probably just fine for him emotionally. He can do it when he’s motivated, but he would usually rather be read to – we’re certainly not putting any pressure on him to read, but I know he likes to be the best/first at everything, so if it means he pays more attention to where my finger is when we’re reading together than he does to the pictures, so be it!

4.  It’s cold here, and icy, and the chickies would like it to warm up now.  Them and me, both.

5.  I’ve started corresponding with a few people about starting up a fiction critiquing posse, and it’s good to be talking to non-relatives about writing again. I’ve allowed my writing world to become a bit too small over the last few years, and it’s nice to be out in the world again, so to speak. I think this is the year to really get some things done and out there, fiction-wise.  I had another manuscript request on January first, which was a nice thing, and a good thing happened on the 31st that I’m not allowed to crow over just yet – though trust me, you’ll hear about  it soon.  So I’m feeling optimistic, and inspired to work harder, work smarter, and get this writing thing going.

Because honestly? Manual Pee Expresser is not my calling in life, no matter how good I get at it.

Sigh.

 

Book Review – CITY of STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett

CoS

I read fantasy – a lot of it.  Though I’m getting tired of all the grim, mysterious-men-in-cloaks that seem to be taking over the genre.  So when I saw this book in the store, all gray & prominently featuring a mysterious Man-in-Cloak, I’ll admit I walked right on by.

Not true. I actually remember picking it up, reading the back copy, then setting it down again & moving right on by.

Total mistake. This book is better than anything I’ve read in a long time.

I like diplomatic dramas. I like empire vs. colonials. I like plot twists. I like when the underdog isn’t maybe quite so noble & valiant as we’re led to believe, and I like when the good guys are maybe a bit more complicated than it seems at first. I like when the story itself is much more complicated than it appeared initially, and I REALLY like it when the author can fidget an incredibly detailed, intrinsically important world-building structure into a complex, believable, UNIQUE story without dropping any of the myriad of balls he’s got in the air.  And I like when the book ends as strongly – no, stronger – than it began.  Give me all that & I’m a very happy reader.

I really liked this book.

Truly well-written, truly masterfully plotted, and truly original.  I loved the characters, their inner & outer conflicts were interesting and came together in the best possible way.

This is one I’m recommending to all my friends. If you like unusual, well-written fantasies where you’re discovering things about the world all the way to the end, this is one you should definitely pick up.  Ignore the cover art, ignore the back copy. I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review