Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Did A Thing, And You're Probably Not Gonna Like It


As of today, Blind Study is no longer for sale, on any format. 

Why? Because it was a failure. It rapidly went from barely selling to not selling at all, and has pretty much sat quietly on Amazon, Nook and Kobo ever since. The only reason it took me this long to take it down is because it took me this long to figure out what my next step would be.

(I'm really, really terrible at decisions. Really terrible.)

So, here's the deal. I'm going back to pursuing an agent, basically back to pursuing a traditional publishing career. One of the things that I've learned from this failure is that I don't want to be self-published. I want the support that a publishing house and an agency brings with it. I don't want to have to fight to get my books into bookstores; I want someone else to do the fighting for me. I want to write. I don't want to do business, or, rather, I want to do as little business as possible.

I keep using that word, failure. It's a word that has a lot of negative connotations, but in this case, I'm pretty proud of that word. Before you fail, you have to try, and that's what I did. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It's what happens after you lose, though, that really matters.


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Sunday, April 12, 2015

5k Day!

First 5k of the year! I chose a new event, the Lehighton Officers Down 5k, which, among other causes, benefitted the Corporal Bryan Dickson Fund, in memory of a police officer who was killed locally in an ambush last year. 

I chose wisely. There was a DJ, a whole bunch of vendors, etc, and police from all over. As we started, all the cruisers lined up with their lights going as we ran past, and the fire truck had their ladder extended over us with a flag, too.

 You can just barely see the cruisers and fire truck in the distance. 

They sent the Honor Guard from Allentown, and they all stood at attention as we came up the final stretch of the race. 

This is them chilling before; I couldn't take a picture when they were at attention because I was busy trying not to die. 

The Bethlehem Mounted Police also came by. This horse tried to eat my hand but was polite enough to pose for a selfie with me. 
Haaaaaaaaay.

There was also the arson dog, who was so excited he literally could not even. 
Getting told off by his handler. 😋

It was a very welcoming and well-organized event. The atmosphere was great, which is so important. Last year I attended another local 5k, which I will not name. It was my first 5k, so I had questions, but everyone I asked made me feel like I was bothering them. The organizers of Officers Down were very responsive and friendly, both on the event's Facebook page and in person. 

An enthusiastic fellow racer. 

I'm very happy with my performance, too, considering I haven't run more than 2.5 miles since last summer. I can tell you now, though, I've got a lot of work to do. 

Oh and I almost forgot to show you my shirt!!

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

I Maked These, March 2015

Man, it was a long week by Monday afternoon, wasn't it? I missed my usual Thursday post...I actually did remember it, but sort of made a pfft noise at it and rolled my eyes in the opposite direction. I've been struggling with some physical injury stuff, which had me worried that I wasn't going to make my first 5K on April 12, but thanks to a few game-plan changes and some help from my Sensei, who poked me full of acupuncture needles, it looks like I'm back on track. Basically, I've been crabby as fuck all week. But I promised myself, and you few, you proud readers, one blog per week, and I am determined to do just that.


I was looking through my pictures and remembered I  meant to share these:



After my holiday crochet projects ran a little, er, close last year, I decided to take a break and go back to cross stitch for a bit. I'm not very good at it, but it's a non-messy, structured way to make frameable art. Really, though, I mean it when I say I'm not good--if you take a close look at the Run Your Own Race one, you can see where I screwed up a bit. Which is kind of on-message, if you think about it. The RYOR is hanging in my bathroom now. One of my biggest problems is constantly comparing myself to others, and I hope seeing this message every morning will remind me to keep my eyes on my own paper. The Hogwarts crest I actually did a few years ago; I just finally got around to framing it.


Here's hoping this week is better than the last. *raises glass in hopeful toast*


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pepper Spray, No Smoothies

I was going to do a video blog on how to make a smoothie, but my video camera app wouldn't work on my Kindle so whatever. 

Later, though, I was shopping for a new canister of pepper gel, and thought that might be a good blog topic. 

There are two different kinds of pepper self-defense spray: the actual spray, and gel. Which you choose is a matter of personal preference; I use gel, for several reasons. Gel is sticky, and when the perpetrator tries to wipe it off, he's just going to get it stuck to his hand and smear it in even better places. Second, it's heavier, so you're going to have better accuracy in windy conditions. Speaking of wind, gel also doesn't have the blowback/secondary contamination problem spray has. I run with my dogs, so I don't want to hit them by accident, or myself. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the slight chance that the perp could actually wipe the gel off himself and fling it back at you. Slight, because I doubt most attackers are going to have the pain tolerance/presence of mind to do that. But worth mentioning all the same. 

This is my preferred gel. You can buy it here


The safety mechanism that keeps you from accidentally spraying yourself in the face is the best, IMO, and very easy to manipulate one-handed. Also, I remove the second keyring and attach a Wii controller strap, to keep it secured to my wrist. No worries about trying to get it in/out of a pocket.   

One thing to keep in mind that most people forget; that pepper spray that's been in the bottom of your purse forever? It has an expiration date. Make sure you replace it regularly. I actually don't know if my current canister is expired or not, since I managed to sweat the date off of it, which is why I decided to err on the side of safety and get a new one. 

Oh, and while I was shopping, I spied this: 


Wut. 

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Tim Hewitt




Tim Hewitt is the name I chant under my breath during my worst winter runs. He's a 59-year-old lawyer from Pennsylvania who, for eight years straight, has run the Iditarod Invitational. The Iditarod Invitational is a lovely 2500 mile, month-long fun-run through Alaska's winter wonderland, alongside the sled dog teams recreating the famous 1925 trek from Willow, AK to Nome.


Tim says he can tell when it's -20F, because that's when his eyebrows freeze. He used to utilize village checkpoints for supply drops, like most participants and sled teams, but now he drags all his food and supplies in a fifty-pound sled behind him, because WHY NOT? He also once finished the last 500 miles of the race on a broken leg. I deeply admire that level of crazypants. He's written a book on his experiences, which you can purchase here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday: Two Quick Rants


 As a general rule, I try to stay outwardly upbeat. Complaining doesn't usually help things, and it has the additional effect of putting you in a worse mood than you were before. 

However. 

I am in a monumentally foul mood, mainly because of the weather, or our prodigious excess of it. I have not been out running since Saturday, almost every drive to work has been a white-knuckler (which also means no audiobook, since I don't dare to spare the concentration). It's miserable, I'm miserable, everything is miserable. 

So. Two things rubbed me the complete wrong way today, and I am going to bitch about them. 

#1: Seeing an author I like retweet something that tears another fandom down, because that fandom is temporarily in competition with hers. Listen, blast your triumphs as loud as you want, I will retweet the crap out of that. But when you start mocking other fandoms, even secondhand? It's rude from a fan, it's unprofessional in an author. 

(Side note: I originally posted this with a picture of the tweet, and named the author. Then I realized that was pretty unprofessional of me, and have edited this post. So if you're confused because you're seeing something different, that's why.)

#2: This: 


Tl;dr: Actually a pretty cool story about inmates and corrections officers banding together to break into a locked room, to prevent an inmate from raping a corrections officer. However, this jackass Norman Seabrook, the union prez, killed the mood:

"I appreciate [them] helping a sister officer, because that could have been their mother, wife, or sister," he said.

Okay. Okay. Let's try this. Any time we're talking about a woman being raped, and you start to feel the need to say, "she could be somebody's..." stop. Just stop right there. She doesn't have to be "somebody's". Because she is somebody all on her own. Women are also human beings, believe it or not, and have the right to not have sex against their will, regardless of what her nearest male relative has to say about it. Ugh. 




Sunday, March 1, 2015

Falafel and Matzo Balls

It's snowing again. Have I mentioned I'm sick of snow? 

By far, the most interesting thing that happened this week was that my parents' Ancestry.com DNA tests came back. Mom's is on the left, Dad's on the right. 


The big shocker; we always thought my mother was about 75% French/German, 25% Irish. Turns out, we're as much Irish as we are Jewish and Middle Eastern. It adds a really fascinating new dimension to our heritage. My dad is a geneaologist (can't really call him 'amateur' anymore, he's been doing it for so many years) and he's recently turned his attention to Mom's side of the family. I can't wait for him to find the actual human connection behind the genetic material. 

Oh, and speaking of geneaologist, maybe someday soon I'll tell you about the epic murder scandal Dad unearthed. 

Finally, here is a picture of Dobby reading Unspoken with me. 


Have a great week!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Maureen Johnson and Snail Advice

  Tip of the week:


I read The Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson back when it came out, then somehow missed the second one. But the third one came out, and I was like, Yay! Now I can catch up on the whole trilogy at once. 

It is not a trilogy. It is a series. And now I am annoyed because I have to wait for the next one. 

Also, The Shadow Cabinet is not a piece of poorly lit furniture. Just FYI. 

I was further annoyed by The Walking Dead. I get it, okay? Zombie apocalypse. People are gonna get et. But please, stop killing off all the black people? Seriously. Kill Eugene already. Nobody likes that asshole. 


Basically, I'm just in a pissy mood this week. The weather has been below zero or just above all week, and between the extreme cold and the snow, is constantly ruining my plans. I only got one run in, and it was a short one, because I was fighting off some kind of plague. I had a good nurse, though. 


We got another four or five inches of snow last night, and my wimpy ass still drove 45 minutes to see The Duff with a friend, when I wouldn't ordinarily have risked the roads, out of sheer stubbornness. I refuse to let winter win anymore. 

See ya on Thursday. Hopefully I'll be in a better mood. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ponies Are Assholes



While watching a television show, which featured a veterinarian trying to castrate an extremely feisty pony, I said to my husband: 

"You know, everyone thinks ponies are these cute, sweet little child-sized horses, and they're totally not. Ponies are assholes."

As a person of short stature who spent many years riding, ponies were my curse. It didn't matter if there was a perfectly solid, sweet, sound horse available...we're gonna put Jackie on the pony, because the pony is Jackie-sized! I've ridden a lot of ponies over the years, but three in particular stood out. 

Champy: Champy was a student horse at the riding school I went to as a kid. She was an asshole, but she was my asshole. Even though she was stubborn, and had the bounciest trot I've ever encountered, and resisted gait changes at all costs, we kind of...got each other. Her being an asshole actually worked in my favor, because no one else liked her, and so the instructor usually put us together. 

Razzle: This was the blue roan nightmare I got at riding camp. Razzle was a Welsh pony/Thoroughbred cross. Those of you who are horsey people are facepalming right now. Believe me, over the years I've asked myself the same questions you're asking. First, how does such a creature come about? Because no intelligent person in their right mind would make that match on purpose. And second--what the hell was it doing at a
children's riding camp?

Razzle and I were paired up after I took my riding test and, apparently, aced it. She then spent the next week and a half actively trying to kill me. First, she'd try to unseat me. This she accomplished by:

-deliberately swerving to bash my knee into a tree and literally scrape my leg off her side

-throwing her weight sharply to either side during a gait change

-throwing her weight sharply to either side while we were going over a jump

I guess there was a reason I aced that riding test--she never managed to get me all the way off. There were a dozen times, though, that she came dangerously close. Mainly because, once she'd unseated me (the tree trick was especially successful), so I was hanging sideways with my knee in the saddle, clinging desperately to her mane, she'd call upon her Thoroughbred heritage and immediately accelerate to Mach Chicken. Weaving through about thirty of my fellow campers and their mounts to the front of the line once Razzle had taken off was about as close to a real-life Mario Kart experience as I ever want to get. All while trying to haul myself back into the saddle at a full gallop so I could get her back under control. Sounds like a summer full of fun for a twelve-year-old, doesn't it?

Rosie: Rosie was my ride at a trail guide job I held down for a few weeks in the summer of 1998. Once again, she was given to me because she was an asshole. All the mounts at this stable were actually mules, and surprise!
Rosie was a pony/donkey cross. She was way too wild for the tourists to ride. She thought she was too wild for me, too...but after Champy, and especially Razzle, I had her pretty well in hand within a few days. After that, we got along great...which was good, considering we spent most of our time chasing shrieking tourists through the woods, after their mules had spotted a patch of grass too good to pass up.

Ah, memories.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Thoughts On Fifty Shades Of Grey




Disclaimer, right out in front...I have not read the books. It is therefore possible that I am wrong about the following; however, I've done enough research to believe not. 



The reasons why I haven't read them, though, are becoming more and more relevant, and so I'm throwing my two cents in. 



I wasn't much interested when the books came out. Romance and erotica really aren't my thing; I like my books to be about something more than just a relationship. Then I heard they were BDSM, and my interest really bottomed out. To each their own, but my tastes are about as vanilla as you can get. 



The buzz kept growing, though, and my curiosity returned, so I talked to a friend who had read them. The more she described them, the more alarm bells started clanging in my head. 



This doesn't sound like romance, or even BDSM, I thought. It sounds like emotional abuse. 



As far as BDSM goes, I probably wouldn't even know which end of the paddle to use, but I am, unfortunately, very familiar with emotional abuse. So I kept reading articles, snippets, blurbs. Most were just making fun of the books—how badly they were written, Ana's peculiar verbal tics—but underneath, I kept seeing glimpses of something more sinister. 



Now, there's going to be a movie. Based on the press I've read, it's probably going to be a really bad movie. Still, people are going to watch it. Some of them vulnerable. Those vulnerable people are the ones I worry about. I just don't want anyone looking up at that screen and thinking, so, that is how it's supposed to be. This is normal. This is love. 



It's not. Any relationship that demeans or degrades you, which makes you feel unsafe, is not normal. Any person who withholds affection as punishment for supposed transgressions, or threatens you physically, or restricts contact with your friends and family, does not love you in a healthy way. 



They do not need to be tamed. Your love will not save them. Their love will likely hurt you very badly. If you see echoes of your own relationship in that of Ana's and Christian's...find help, and get out. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

JK Rowling Is A Goddamn Genius





Not that we didn't know that already. But I just remembered/found out that Minerva is the Roman name for the goddess Athena. And as per Wikipedia: 

"Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strategic war, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill in ancient Greek religion and mythology.
Athena is portrayed as a shrewd companion of heroes and is the patron goddess of heroic endeavour."

You know, Minerva. As in McGonagall?

I have read this series probably somewhere in the realm of 30-40 times. And there is always something new to discover. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Books I liked: The Help and Wolf Winter




The Help, by Katherine Stockett: If you haven't read this book yet, and it's on your TBR, I highly, highly suggest you pick up the audio version. The multiple-narrator formula worked really well here, not only to show different viewpoints of the story, but different viewpoints of the narrators. I really, really liked Aibileen, but I fell in love with her through Skeeter's eyes. Watching them develop through the POV of their comrades was spectacular. Also, as a villain, Hilly Holbrook gives Dolores Umbridge a run for her Galleons. 
 




Wolf Winter, by Cecelia Eckbäck: Someone on Goodreads described this as a "good blizzard book," and I couldn't agree more. Dark, atmospheric, this is what the Hangman's Daughter wanted to be but fell short of (for me, anyway). There's also a smattering of the supernatural to keep things unexpected.


A side note on Swedish fiction in general...I've read a few books by Swedish authors now, and one thing they all have in common are casually placed, strong female characters. Just scattered about, like they belong there. Which of course, they do, but...I kind of feel like I'm standing openmouthed, like, "look at all the trees!" And the Swedes are like, "um, yeah, it's a forest?" Definitely making Swedish fiction a priority from here on out. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Run Called On Account Of Attacked By Squirrel

And I was just lamenting this morning that I didn't have any ideas for blog posts...

This afternoon, my dogs and I were running down a hill, on a sidewalk bordered by a brick retaining wall. About 15 feet ahead, I spotted a squirrel. He looked a little...loopy, like he'd maybe gotten clipped by a car or something, and he seemed to be trying to climb the brick wall. 

I stopped my dogs, who had seen the squirrel too, and started to back up, so we could cross the street without climbing through the giant snow bank. All the while thinking, aw, poor little guy, maybe I'll come back with the car later and see if he's still there. Maybe I can get him down to the wildlife rehab. Before I could get us out into the street, though, the squirrel turned, and saw us, too.



Then he charged. 

(Side note: I'm feeling a little betrayed right now. I've always been a huge squirrel fan. Hell, I just tweeted about Squirrel Appreciation Day on Wednesday. I kind of think the squirrel community at large owes me an apology.)

There wasn't any time to get away. All I could do was try to hold the dogs back. I kicked the squirrel, but even as he was flying through the air, he was still trying to come back at us—

Then Dobby grabbed him. And that was the end of the squirrel. Think the last thirty seconds of the Mountain vs the Viper in Game of Thrones. Fast, bloody, gruesome, lots of screaming. 


My advice for seeking crime scene cleanup help—choose someone you trust, with a fast response time. 

"Hey. So, I need you to come to the corner of 5th and Lafayette, and bring a garbage bag." 

To his credit, my husband is a man of swift action, who asks few questions (which is ideal, if you're married to me), and arrived shortly thereafter to bundle me, the dogs, and the dead squirrel into the car. 


Dobby, with his vanquished foe

And now here I am, sitting on the floor of the emergency vet on a Sunday afternoon, still in half my running clothes, with a shaking hero dog and a dead squirrel in a bucket, the last of which is the lucky winner of an all-expenses-paid trip to Harrisburg to have his brains examined for rabies. 



Notable quotes of the day:

"Honey, can you put that dead squirrel in my car please?"

"I'm being careful, that's all. Look, we've all seen Old Yeller. Nobody wants it to go down like that." 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Skipping the pauses

I like using an app to track my running mileage. It used to be Nike +, until they disabled a very important feature with their last update—hitting the pause button on my headphones no longer paused the app, just the music. That might not sound like a huge deal, but when you consider I run with two dogs for two miles, with an average of 1.5 poops per dog, and I have to take time to clean up those poops...it adds up. 

So I switched back to Runtastic. Not my favorite, either—its social media options suck—but it has a more accurate GPS, whereas Nike + consistently shorted me between .04—.06 miles; the only reason I stayed with them for so long was because of that terribly convenient pause function. 

Now, every time one of my dogs stops to unload, I have to take off my glove, pause the app, pull out a bag, open the bag (with freezing cold fingers, so I usually end up snaking my hand inside my ski mask to wet them), pick up the turds, knot the bag, untangle the dogs, restart the app, untangle the dogs again, and return to running. Repeat x 2. 

Just rereading that description is irritating to me. 

Then it occurred to me—why the hell am I doing this? Is it nice to know how fast I'm going? Well, yeah, but I'm not getting an accurate read anyway, since we average around four pees per poop per dog per run. That's a lot of stops. 

Which then lead to the more introspective question—what am I trying to accomplish by running? 

A.) Physical fitness
B.) Weight control
C.) A fun activity to enjoy with the dogs
D.) A way to consistently challenge myself
E.) Stress management

Speed doesn't show up on my list at all. When I enter a race, I'm not entering to win, because I am slow as hell. Seriously. The fastest I've ever clocked was a nine minute mile, and I nearly died from the resulting side stitch. I race to support causes, to challenge myself, to finish strong. 

So, I stopped pausing the app every time the dogs stop to take a dump. And wow, is it relaxing. Even the dogs seemed more relaxed, probably because they're feeding off my emotional state. 

Nothing like throwing a problem over your shoulder and not looking back. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Rec: The Martian, by Andy Weir



Holy shit, you guys. Holy fucking shit.

I'm writing this review on my blog, mainly because I don't think I can talk about this book without cursing. Obviously. 

The book sells itself as "Apollo 13 meets Robinson Crusoe," and I couldn't agree more. From the former it gets its setting and bruising intensity; from the latter, the journal-style storytelling and detailed survival techniques.

Now, when I say "techniques," I'm not talking about lashing vines and bamboo together to make a raft, or tricking a monkey into throwing coconuts at you. I'm talking making water by creating hydrogen and combining it with oxygen. I'm talking calculations of solar cell outputs, and reprogramming satellite computers, and DIY sextants, adjusting of course for the very different star alignments of a whole 'nother fucking planet, and a whole bunch of other scientific and technical feats that I can't even explain because I couldn't possibly begin to comprehend them. 

A quick skim of Goodreads reviews seems to pinpoint this as the main turnoff for readers. Too much science. And there was a lot of science. Real science, not the usual made-up, thousands of years in the future science. I'll admit, it was overwhelming, and made me feel like a mental midget at times. Andy Weir is so much smarter than any of us, and it shows. 

I would urge you, though, to try and do what I did, which was to let my brain sort of slide over those parts. That's when you find the story of Mark Watney, botanist, wise-ass, survivalist extraordinaire. I really don't remember the last time a book had such an emotional chokehold on me. It was real, it was gritty, it was funny and absolutely terrifying. 

Also? The movie starring Matt Damon comes out in November. So you have until then to read it. I suggest you start now. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Maked These, Christmas 2014 Edition

Now that the recipients have all gotten their gifts, I can show off all the projects that kept me so busy leading up to the holidays. I've never made anything larger than a baby afghan before, but I made not one, but two full-sized afghans:



I also made a scarf for my aunt. Forgot to take a picture, but the pattern is so cute (and ridiculously easy!) that I had to share! Click on the link below the pic for the free pattern: 


http://www.crochetgeek.com/2009/04/abstract-crochet-cats.html?m=1

And now, I think I'm taking a break from crochet for a while, in favor of cross stitch. 😳

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Butter Goose



Me: What's the Swedish word for bread?"
Him: Bröd. 
Me: That's what I thought, but I was reading a thing today where both the German and Finnish words for sandwich translate literally to "butter bread." And since "smör," means butter in Swedish, then gås is...?"
Him: ...goose. 
Me: Goose?
Him: Yes.
Me: Butter goose?
Him: Yes. 
Me: The Swedish word for sandwich is butter goose?
Him: ...yes. 

After furious Googling: 

"Smörgås in turn consists of the words smör (butter, cognate with English smear) and gåsGås literally means goose, but later referred to the small pieces of butter that formed and floated to the surface of cream while it was churned.[3] These pieces reminded the old Swedish peasants of fat geese swimming to the surface." (Wikipedia)

Me: So, actually the Swedish word for sandwich is "butter butter."

Him: ...yes. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions

It's that time of year again, that special time when we reflect upon the year past, acknowledge what we effed up, and resolve to do better this year. Here's my list:

1.) Run a half-marathon.
2.) Get my Swedish to a conversational level.
3.) Blog weekly.

It's funny, because at a glance, the half-marathon looks like the hardest. I can tell you right now, though, that's the one with the highest outlook for success. 😋 I've got my eye on the Runner's World Half in Bethlehem in October. Looks like a pretty good party. And my combined birthday/Christmas haul yielded the complete Harry Potter series on audio, so between that and my new wireless headphones, maybe I won't want to die so much during training? 💀

My Swedish got quite a bit better this year, but I still have a lot of difficulty stringing a verbal sentence together and understanding spoken Swedish; as with English, reading and writing are my strengths. 

And then we come to the blogging...it might just be a meme or a stupid pet photo, but I will do my damnedest to get something up here weekly. 

See you next week, I guess? 😉