Three Things Thursday – Writerly Edition

  1. I’ve been waiting to talk about this publicly for reasons (some of which are me being a giant chicken shit), but when I was at the RT Convention in April, I met with an agent who requested my book’s synopsis and the first three chapters. Because of aforementioned poultry disorder combined with the fact that writing a two page synopsis was way harder than writing three entire fucking novels (plus other reasons), I did not send the synopsis and chapters until June 7. BUT! I did it. I put on my big girl pants, whinged about it a lot, was threatened/bribed by Elizabeth Hunter, and pulled the trigger. I don’t know what will happen with it, but it’s out there now.
  2. I’ve started writing again. My regular writing habits really died off early this year. Partially because I was making revisions on the book I want to publish, then I was writing a synopsis, but mostly because the stress of the last few months has made me lose a lot of my good habits. Today is the fourth day in a row that I’ve written 700+ words. I’d like to get back to writing 1500+/day (most days), but right now I’m just pleased to be writing regularly.
  3. Number three is a writerly shout out. I am lucky enough to have been connected via facebook to so many writers in my main genre. Almost every single connection can be traced back to one person. That person is probably one of the most intelligent, busiest, kindest, and fantastic people I know. Because of her, I am friends with (or acquainted with) so many other amazing people. She has introduced me to great books and is one of the few people I know who can read faster than me. She has been my inspiration, my cheerleader, and my sounding board in between parenting, blogging, wifing, traveling, writing a book about Charles Dickens (of course), and working on her own fantasy novel. My PSM is the bomb dot com, you guys! I don’t even know how she has time to be an amazing friend to so many people. My one real goal for 2016 is to drink gin with her IRL. (Side note: One time, my PSM was in Portland – the city in which I reside – and did we drink gin together? No. No we did not. That is an unacceptable situation and I feel like she owes it to me to swoop into town some weekend. I won’t even make her sleep in the Star Wars bed (partially because I’m guessing she’s too tall…she is a giantess).)

Bean Around the Block a Few Times

Today was the end of my latest five-day stretch with Alvie Bean. I’ve been in my own place for almost four months now, and Mr. Bean has adjusted to having two houses quite well.

Watching "Empire Strikes Back."

Watching “Empire Strikes Back.”

I’m not going to lie – the first few weeks were a bit rough. It was hard for me, and I knew what I was doing and why. For the not-quite (at the time) four-year-old, it was exceedingly confusing. There was a lot of dealing with “I hate you mommy and I wish you would die!” and crying at daycare pickups because I wasn’t his daddy, and tantrums at home that had me pulling my hair out.

Modeling his Darth Vader "May the Forest be with You" t-shirt

Modeling his Darth Vader “May the Forest be with You” t-shirt

But after a few weeks (it seems like forever at the time), things started to mellow. It’s not perfect – he is four years old, after all – but it’s getting better. He has nightmares from time to time, but those are dying down a bit, too.

Hanging out with Paul

Hanging out with Paul

The custody schedule is 50/50 and is arranged so that I have Bean for 7 out of every 14 days. It’s a 5 on/5 off; 2 on/2 off schedule. There is room for flexibility and there are minor adjustments (for example, on holidays the custodial parent might pick up an extra day or two), but it’s pretty consistent, and Alvie is really getting the hang of “2 days with mommy and 2 days with daddy; 5 days with mommy and 5 days with daddy.”

Swimming Lessons

Swimming Lessons

This last long stretch was really the first that I felt was everything was going to be okay. We just had a fantastic time. Again, he’s four, so there were minor meltdowns on both of our parts and he got sent to his room more than once, but overall, it was great.

Little Jam Maker

Little Jam Maker

I love this kid – he’s just turning into such a cool human being. (“I am not a human bean!”)

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Alvie is smart (his therapist that I took him to see a few times when things were not going particularly well said that he is “socially intelligent” which I’m pretty sure is child shrink speak for “manipulative”) and generous and affectionate and loyal. We had a great weekend playing with friends and helping in the garden and getting hurt (and narrowly avoiding getting hurt).

Bouncy Castle Fun

Bouncy Castle Fun

We read stories together every night, and his favorite books currently are  Anatomy (aka the Brains book), Black Hills Trains, Castle, and Coyote. He isn’t reading yet, but loves to spell and count to one hundred, and ask a million questions about how everything works.

Killing Time

Killing Time

He is funny, although not nearly as funny as he thinks he is. His comic timing could use a bit of work. He loves to race, and no matter who gets to the finish line first, I never, ever win. If I put on that final burst of speed to leave him in the dust, he will declare that we both win, and there’s just no way to argue with that…

Dinner Date!

Dinner Date!

I dropped him off at daycare this morning and he announced to his teachers that he was going to start missing me as soon as I walked out the door. When asked why, he said, “I am going to be at my dad’s house for six days and that will be fun and we will have so many fireworks, but I will still miss my mom. She will miss me more, though, because I am great.”

True story, Bean. True story.

"I will love you until you die, Mommy!"

“I will love you until you die, Mommy!”

I am so proud of what a great kid he’s turning out to be and although I’m excited to see him continue to grow and develop and level up in awesomeness, part of me wants him to stay small enough to pick up and cuddle for a long time. (Disclosure – he’s barely small enough for me to pick up at this point, no matter how much both of us regret that.)

I’ll miss you kid…see you after six sleeps.

My favorite cheeseball

My favorite cheeseball

40 Before 40 – Update the Fourth

I cannot believe I’m a third of the way through my 40th year already! I’m beginning to be a bit concerned that I won’t get all the way through my list. I’m probably going to end up making some adjustments and rearrangements as time goes on. Some things seem less interesting and I don’t actually want to be committed to anything I don’t want to do! There are also some financial considerations, some timing issues, and my overall  physical health.

But, without further ado, let’s see what I got done this month!

  1. Attend a show at the Portland Opera. I saw Sweeney Todd on June 8 with the as-yet-unnicknamed boyfriend.

sweeney todd

 

  1. TEMPORARY funky hair color: Well, it’s not so much temporary, but it is pretty funky!

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Bonus: The bean got some temporary rainbow hair to match his mama.

Bonus: The bean got some temporary rainbow hair to match his mama.

  1. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity: ehhhh…it wasn’t Habitat for Humanity (they are booked through September, so I’m not sure I’ll get a slot here), but I did volunteer to pour cider at Cider Summit a couple weeks ago.
  1. Get back into my DIY habits – I used to do a lot more homemade stuff. I’m thinking of doing more of the following: make my own bread, stock, cheese, jam, salsas, etc.: Bean and I made strawberry/raspberry jam last weekend and it is delicious!

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  1. Try a new (to me) cheese each month: I am knocking it out of the park with this goal! I tried three new cheeses this month! Pictured below are last weekend’s – a cow’s milk wine-washed cheese, and a local “funky” cheese that Bean picked out.

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  1. Drink a bottle of expensive champagne: I did it AGAIN! Bonus points for me! I’d purchased two nice bottles of bubbly when I moved into my own place. I drank the first to warm my house, and the second to commemorate my official single-lady status.
BUBBLES!

BUBBLES!

 

Just for some background…

My 40 before 40 challenge

Update the first

Update the second

Update the third

Notes: I’m really far behind on my award winning book reading. Or on any reading whatsoever. This is my weakest reading year since I was in grad school.

I need to hit some more classes in the next couple of months and start running again. I need someone to find my movement mojo and bring it back to me, too. Preferably safely wrapped up in a sack of money.

I have my summer garden party scheduled, Alvie’s summer vacation taken care of, my trip to Iceland booked, so that takes care of a lot of the big ones. I’ll go whale watching and ice skating in the winter and hit my knife (cooking) class in a couple of weeks. Some classes might get switched out, and I’m making progress on [redacted], but my ASL and Swedish are very much start and stop. Consistency might help out with that.

The thing is, even if I don’t hit every single goal, I’ll still have had a great last year of my thirties – primarily because of the amazing people in my life who are along for the ride.

 

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This is Winning

For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I got just enough weekend. Now, don’t get me wrong – if my job kept paying me regardless of whether or not I showed up to work, I’d be at home on the couch right now, watching Criminal Minds and drinking prosecco out of miniature bottles so I could feel like a lazy giant.

La-Marca-Prosecco-and-Gilt-City-Event-Mini-Bottles-700x700

But, since apparently “going to work” is still a condition for “getting a paycheck,” here I am. And not even particularly begrudgingly.

I got to start my weekend a wee bit early on Friday by volunteering at Cider Summit. It was fun pouring ciders, pretending I actually knew what I was talking about (hint: I was reading the backs of the bottles!), and getting to taste a few ciders myself. Bonus: I ran into a dear, dear friend that I hadn’t seen in a while and now we have plans to hang out next week! Hooray!

You guys, this is so good. I want to buy 144 cases of it and drink one every day for the rest of my life.

You guys, this is so good. I want to buy 144 cases of it and drink one every day for the rest of my life.

Saturday was a lazy-ish morning, followed by getting my hairs beautified (check it out! #40before40 item number eleven is taken care of!). Right? So pretty. Saturday evening was dinner out and then karaoke (because what else am I going to do on a kid-free Saturday night?)

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Sunday was another lazy-ish morning (I didn’t get out of bed until after ten…that’s just crazy), a nice little walk, waffles from the food cart, and then a drive south for more hanging out with people and eating and playing cards.

There was a lot of stuff fitted in to two and a half days, but I still felt like there was enough doing nothing to count towards weekend relaxation; really the best kind of weekend. I even did AOK with the sheer amount of hanging out with strangers and/or people I don’t know very well. There was some nervousness, but no real anxiety and not a single glimmer of a panic attack. That’s the real success, I think. It’s been a long time since I’ve been “on” for that many days in a row without needing a break to do some breathing exercises and to tell myself that it’s not a heart attack.

fabulous

 

This almost makes up for the fact that I’ve been terribly, terribly clumsy the last week. I attempted to remove a thumb (alas! I didn’t cut it at the right angle to meet up with the scar from a previous thumb-removal attempt, so it’s slightly less cool), fell down the stairs (yes again), spilled hot coffee on that same, troublesome thumb, and then to add insult to injury, managed to snag my thumb band-aid on my bra hook last night while attempting to disrobe. I’m assuming that last one was especially amusing and my only regret is that I don’t have a video of that to share with all of you.

...and cut off her thumb, and did impromptu interpretative dances with one hand stuck behind her back...

…and cut off her thumb, and did impromptu interpretative dances with one hand stuck behind her back…

I’m really, except for the random acts of gracefulness, feeling pretty good about a lot of things. I just need a million dollars and some more free time, and I’ll chalk this solstice Monday up as a really good day.

Today is the first day of Eleanor's adventures! Also, a rare summer solstice with a full moon. photo by: Jonathan Paulson

Today is the first day of Eleanor’s adventures and a rare summer solstice with a full moon.
photo by: Jonathan Paulson

 

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Book Review: Dream Magic

A few weeks ago, Michelle Mankin emailed me to ask me if I’d be interested in an ARC of her newest book.

When she gave me the blurb, I agreed enthusiastically.

The Blurb

The dreamscape is a place of magic and mystery and meaning. In that nocturnal realm, ideas, images, sensations and emotions drift on the currents of the unconscious mind.

Morpheus the Dream Falcon is most at home in that domain. By night, the one of a kind winged immortal soars on those winds, observing and sometimes even entering the slumbering thoughts of another. By day, he is a highly sought after mercenary feared by his immortal kin for both his unmatched ferocity and his wicked obsidian talons. None of his prey escapes him.

Cecilia Ramirez y Aguilera is the one he truly wants. But the striking oracle of the Court of the Light Immortals is closed to the handsome outlaw, even in her dreams. Broken by unimaginable losses, the seer is but a slave, subject to the whims of a master who is mad and without mercy.

Drawn together by fate, their impossible passion ignites. But will that be enough given the dangerous secrets each keeps from the other? Or will mistrust and the desire for revenge threaten to unravel the powerful magic that binds them?

The Cover

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The Review

I am not going to lie, internets…most of the ARCs I get are from friends (holla Elizabeth!) or friends of friends. This is the first time that a virtual stranger has contacted me and asked me to read an ARC.

Wait. That is not true. This is the first time I’ve gotten an ARC from a stranger that didn’t suck.

This is the second book in a series and I haven’t read the first (yet). I am assuming that some of the points I found a little rough (not as much information as I would’ve liked) were because I haven’t (yet) read the first book.

I really liked the world building for this book. Anyone who’s read any of my reviews knows that world-building is pretty much my number one requirement for a highly rated book. I love the Greek gods and always enjoy when they make an appearance in a book I’m reading.  This treatment of the gods was vastly different, and it was fascinating.

I also enjoyed the diversity of character – many immortals like characters hailed from the Caribbean or deep south, while the snooty light god (and light has nothing to do with purity of soul, let me tell you) held court on a plane adjacent to Paris (city of lights, get it?). It’s not often that you get a main character from Puerto Rico, and I liked the Spanish slang and exclamations sprinkled throughout.

The character development was pretty on point. Cici’s relationship with her twin Millie, serving as “big” sister and protector, was quite realistic, never mind that they’re children of a Dark Immortal and his fated wife, Panacea (a healer of remarkable talent). Cici herself is a seer – a gift that is highly sought after by the leaders of the Light and Dark Immortals. Her kidnapping (along with her twin’s) and some immortal politicking results in her being installed as the new oracle and virtual slave in Phoebus’s (the Light Immortal leader) court.

Morpheus is a Dark Immortal  – the falcon, bringer of dreams, and a very talented mercenary. Along with his younger brother, Billy, and Bacchus, they seek the Oracle to ascertain the whereabouts of Billy’s fated (and Bacchus’s daughter), Thyme. Because this is a paranormal romance, you can assume that love is in the air.

There are, of course, other very important characters – although at this time they seem universally sympathetic to our main characters. There is very little on the “bad guy” side beyond the aforementioned Phoebus and Apollyon (who plays a fairly minor role in this book), leader of the Dark Immortals.

The Small Lecture

My biggest beef with this book was the sheer amount of sexual assault. Thyme is assaulted after her capture (or so it’s implied). Cici is the constant victim of sexual assault and rape.

Over the last few years, I’ve grown increasingly sensitive to sexual assault in romance novels, having found that it is a lot more prevalent in paranormal/fantasy romance than any other romantic genre. My PSM and I started tracking it until we both (presumably) became too depressed by the reality to go on with our project. It disappoints me greatly when a book that is otherwise quite enjoyable utilizes sexual assault and rape (and casual sexism – calling a celebrity a man-eater for being a serial dater).

I believe that there are times and places were rape is a vital element of story telling. After all, it is a reality – something we see all too much of these days. It is also a much too easy trope to employ when one wishes to torture a character, particularly if that character is a woman. When a man is imprisoned and tortured in a novel, he is seldom raped.

In fact, here are some other ideas on how to torture a person without raping them:

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IMG_6077

 

/sermon

The Verdict

My discomfort with the sexual assault situation aside, this was a very engaging book with a well-built world and well-crafted characters. I will fully admit to being a lot more sensitive to sexual assault situations in books than most people, so it may not strike you as hard as it struck me.

I’m still going to buy the first book, watch for the next (cliffhanger!), and pull some more of Michelle’s books onto my shelf, because she is a good writer who crafted a very interesting story.

I give this 3.5 stars (- 0.5 stars for the aforementioned issues), and rounded up to four.

Buy it!

The Disclaimer

I received a free advanced reading copy from the author, which in no way influenced my review.