Friday, April 29, 2016

An Early Birdie Gets The Manuscript Done

This is kind of laughable right now since I am woefully behind in finishing my current work in progress, but it's not for lack of trying. But that's a whole 'nother blog topic.

I'm an early bird. Unless I'm not feeling well or am unusually tired, I get up between 5 and 5:30 every morning during the week without setting an alarm.  Even when my dear Raffi was alive, I was often awake before he hopped on the bed and commenced chewing my hair, demanding his breakfast.

When folks ask how I'm able to get so much writing done while juggling a day job, I point to this habit first thing. I write in the morning, after I feed my other cat B, clean her box, and brew my coffee. I take a few minutes to do some social media chores and posts, then it's all about the writing for a couple of hours. Between 8 and 8:30 I break to do my exercise, then shower and it's off to the day job. Sometimes I even write during my lunch hour.

On weekends, I'm up fairly early, usually by 7 or 7:30. When on vacation, I'm usually writing by 7 am at the hotel or cottage, or wherever I'm hanging my hat.

There is seldom a day in the year when I don't put my fingers to the key board in the morning. Yes, there are some, like when I'm ill or experiencing burnout or my focus must be directed elsewhere, but not very many.

Not all writers are morning people. A lot of my writer friends write at night, after their family has turned in and the house is quiet. Some have the luxury of not working a day job so can write during the day and for a much longer block of time. I know of a few who only write for long stints on weekends,

There is no right way to write when it comes to when and where. Through trial and error, and sometimes circumstances, a dedicated author will find what works best for them. Some work in coffee shops with people around them. Some, like me, prefer the privacy and the comfort of my home. Some write with a playlist, others, again like me, prefer no music in the background. But we all spend time writing.

The only thing that is a MUST is making a commitment to a schedule, whatever it may be personally, and sticking to it.  If you only write on weekends, then make sure you do it. If you only have an hour a day, then make that hour a priority.

Frankly, it pisses me off when wannabe writers tell me they have a great idea for a book but no time to write it.  To that I say BULLSHIT! If you really want to write, then put your ass in a chair and write, even if it's only for 30 minutes a day. Put the TV remote down and get to a computer! If you don't, then you really don't want to write, because writing is compulsory for a writer.

TIP: You can't write a book by rubbing a magic lamp or 
wishing on a star while turning around three times.

I write in the early morning because it's the best time I have to get in a quality block of time. At night after work I'm tired and not as focused. I have conditioned myself to go to bed at a decent hour so I can get up early to get it done, because there is no other time that works as well for me. I don't whine about it. I just do it.

I know women who crank out book after book while raising children, cooking meals, and driving carpool.

Now doesn't that put all those sorry ass excuses to shame?

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Writer On The Road

For about a year, I've been thinking about what I want to do when I retire. Well, not exactly do. I know that once I retire from my career as a paralegal I want to focus full time on my writing. The real question is where?

Staying in California wasn't looking good as an option because it is simply too damn expensive to live here. My retirement budget will not allow it if I want to eat and not live under an overpass. Unless, of course, I want to move to some really out of the way place in Cali, but what fun is that? I just don't want to move somewhere and wait for the Grim Reaper. Wherever I land, it has to enhance my life.

On my list of places under consideration are: Massachusetts, where I'm from and where my family lives, Oregon, where many friends live and love living there, and Nevada because of the low cost of living and close proximity to California and other friends. Arizona? Meh, been there, done that, didn't like it. 

A while back I wrote about having an attack of wanderlust.  I know I want to travel when I retire and visit friends and family scattered all over this great country. Then the thought hit me. Why not live full-time on the road?

Yeah! I could do that! I know I could. After all, I can write anywhere.

The more I thought about this option, the more it felt right, like something I'd not only enjoy but would enjoy a lot. First, I thought about simply climbing into my car and hitting the road, visiting all the people and places I want to see, living carefree out of a suitcase, my next stop wherever I fancy going. 

Then I thought, why not an RV? Why not join the hoards of retirees who live on the open road, taking their home with them, state to state, experiencing nature, avoiding bad weather by snowbirding in the winter. It seems so cliche, but why not? So I did what any good paralegal or crime writer would do: I started researching the possibility, looking into financial needs, vehicles, safety issues, and the logistics of living mostly off the grid full-time. I've watched dozens of videos, and read blogs of full-time RV'ers (BTW, there are tons of them, including many women who are on the road solo), which contain incredibly helpful information on all aspects of the lifestyle.

BINGO! I have found my retirement plan! 

Susan, one of my BFFs who is retired, has always said that when I find the retirement place for me, I'd know it in my gut. Susan, my dear, you were right. As soon as I saw this possibility, it clicked in my very soul.

I'm not worried about being lonely. I'll be visiting friends and family, and I'll make new friends along the way. I'll even be able to visit many readers for the first time. I've discovered that there are all kinds of full-timer clubs and communities online. And I'll have the internet to stay in touch.  I'm also not adverse to being alone. Alone is not the same thing as being lonely.  I've been painfully lonely in a crowd of people and even while in relationships. And although I'm very outgoing, I'm basically a loner, always have been, even as a kid. I've already logged quite a few solo travel miles and prefer to travel that way most of the time. Maybe I'll even get myself a small dog, since B will most likely be gone by then.
I could live here!

I'm also not concerned about living in such tight quarters. I once lived in a tiny studio apartment for 4 years and it never bothered me. I know how to live small and compact if I have to, and today's RVs are super convenient and well planned, even the small van-style ones, which I'm considering. In fact, have you seen these things lately? They are incredible! I think this lifestyle will fit me like a glove.

I'd hit the road NOW, if I could, but alas, I'm not quite there. So for the next few years, I'll be purging my stuff, saving money, and making plans, with hitting the road as my goal after I say goodbye to the day job. It's my brass ring. The golden ticket for my golden years. 

And, as I've said before, time has a way of going by in the blink of an eye.

When I told another friend about this plan, she was very excited and asked how long I planned on doing it - 6 months, a year, a couple of years? My response was:

Until it stops being fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cashew - Gesundheit!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

I am allergic to pecans and walnuts, both of which I like. When I eat them, often my lips and tongue will tingle and swell and sometimes go numb, like I've just had a shot of Novocain. Needless to say, I avoid the little buggers, which is particularly difficult when it comes to walnuts since they seem to be in EVERYTHING! So far I haven't experienced anaphylactic shock from eating them, but I really don't want to push my luck.

Fortunately for me my favorite nuts are almonds and cashews. Even more fortunate for me is that so far I have experienced no adverse reactions to either.  Which is great since a lot of vegan cooking uses both.

I'm sure most of you have heard how good nuts are for us. And they are! They are chock full of protein, vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. A few almonds can boost your energy and satisfy the crunch craving. Although nuts can be high in calories, these are far from empty calories. And almonds and cashews can also be made into wonderful butters and can be tossed into stir frys and salads.

And here is a very interesting article about the health benefits of cashews and how they can help depression.  Who knew???

Cashews also have another great feature. They can be made into a cream sauce that can rival most high fat butter and cream sauces in taste, and surpass them hands down when it comes to healthy eating. It's true!

I love cream sauces on pasta and in casseroles.  LOVE THEM! So when I had to remove diary from my diet, I mourned the loss of these yummy comfort foods.  Then I discovered cashew cream through many of the new recipes I was trying.

Hooray for cashew cream!

Recently I made creamy mushroom and asparagus pasta from Minimalist Baker. While the recipe called for vegan cream cheese (which I dislike), I substituted it for 3/4 cup of soaked cashews and increased the almond milk to 1 cup. I followed the rest of the recipe as written and was rewarded with a very yummy comfort food dish that was creamy, lemony, and cheesy (this last part thanks to nutritional yeast, another great vegan discovery).

BTW, I've gotten a lot of my non-vegan and non-vegetarian friends following Minimalist Baker and you should too! Dana and John also do a lot of gluten free recipes, if you need to go that route. I have a lot of great vegan blogs that I follow but this one is hands-down my favorite. Check them out!

Mushroom Asparagus Pasta
Another favorite recipe of mine is tofu and mushroom stroganoff from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbook Isa Does It, and which can also be found here.  This dish is incredibly satisfying on many levels.  Hmmm, it's been awhile since I've made it...

Isa has a acronym in her cookbook - ABS, which stands for always be soaking.  A lot of recipes using cashews as a cream base will reference this step.  Cashews make the best and smoothest cream if they are soaked in water for several hours or overnight. Just put the amount of cashews the recipe calls for in a bowl, cover with water, and stick it in the fridge. It will even last a few days. Soaking causes the cashews to swell and soften so that when you put them in a blender with your plant-based milk, veggie broth, or water, the sauces will be smooth and creamy.  If you have a high speed blender, you might be able to skip this step.  I do have a very powerful blender, but I find that the soaking step does make a better sauce.

BTW, cashew cream is made with RAW cashews, not roasted, salted cashews.  I buy mine at Trader Joe's and buy the bags of pieces, which are a lot cheaper than whole or half cashews.  Nuts don't need to be pretty to be whirred around in a blender, so why pay for whole cashews?

Go Nuts For Nuts!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I Ain't Afraid of No Needle

Typewriter tattoo on  writer Christa Faust
I've decided to get a tattoo.

This is not a sudden decision. I've wanted one for years, at least 15-20 years. I just didn't know what kind of tattoo I wanted. I didn't want something silly or meaningless. No Chinese characters for me. No Winnie the Pooh, or portrait of my cat. I wanted a tat that I could be proud of and inspired by every time I saw it. Something that displayed who I am.

For the past month I've given this a lot of thought and now I know EXACTLY what kind of tattoo I want and where. I then went to friends asking for referrals and looked at dozens of tattoo artists and their work until I found one I believe will do a kick-ass job. His name is Adam Parrot at Rabble Rouser Tattoo, which is very close to where I live.

Hard Case logo on wrist
This is happening sometime in May, after my current WIP is turned in and I have some time to relax.

I won't tell you what kind of tattoo I'm getting, but will say that it will be related to my writing.  However, I won't be throwing my entire body into it like pal Christa Faust. Christa has a vintage typewriter with wings on her belly, amongst other things, and even her publisher's logo on her wrist.

Christa is hard-ass.

I'm more fat ass.

And, no, my first tattoo is NOT going on my ass or anywhere near it.

As Rachel Maddow often says on her news show: 


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wanderlust In Waiting

I've been bitten by the wanderlust bug. Bitten bad. All I can think about is getting in my car and setting out on a road trip.



More and more I'm thinking that maybe when I retire, I'll get rid of most of my stuff, put the rest in storage, and hit the road. 


That's the direction my mind is going as I contemplate my golden years without the good ole day job. After all, I can write anywhere. 

I've been to most of the states in the US, but I'd love to see them all. The only states I haven't been to are Alaska, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. I've even been to Puerto Rico.

It could be fun. I'll just gas up the car and hit the highway, visiting friends, family, readers, historical sites, Waffle Houses, and the world's largest ball of twine. Which, by the way, is located in Cawker City, Kansas. If I like a place, maybe I settle in for a few days.

The closer I get to retirement, the more I understand why so many retirees hit the road in RVs. It's our last chance to see the stuff we've been missing while punching a time clock.

According to the count down app on my phone, I have at least 993 days until I retire.

Yes, they have an app for that.

That doesn't mean I'll retire in exactly 993 days, but that is the soonest I will be able to do the deed.

It's going to go by in the blink of an eye... I'd better gas up the car.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Spring Time is Festival of Books Time!

Every April for one weekend, authors, publishers, entertainers, and people of all ages pilgrimage to the USC Campus in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

I am always surprised when I run into people who say they have never attended this annual event. In the past 12 years I've missed it once and only once, and that was because I had a bad injury to my leg and it was difficult to get around. A few years ago I attended even though I had an abscessed tooth!

But you're an author, you say. You need to be there. 

True, it is a place where I am able to connect personally with readers of my work and introduce myself to new readers. But if only authors attended, there would be no reason to have the event.

There is something for everyone at the LA Times Festival of Books, no matter your age or interest. If you have kids, this is a grand place to bring them. Admission is FREE! And there is an entire children's section complete with people dressed up as their favorite book characters. There's music. Food trucks. Panels with interesting folks. 

And BOOKS!!!  Let's not forget books!

There is also lots of parking on site, but I take the Metro when I go. It saves me a lot of time, money and stress.

Here is my schedule for the LA Times Festival of Books for 2016. All booths below are located in the 300 section, in Founders Park by Bovard Auditorium. 

Saturday, April 9, 3-4 pm, So Cal MWA booth

Saturday, April 9, 4-6 pm, Sisters In Crime/LA booth

Sunday, April 10, 12-1 pm Mystery Ink Bookstore booth

Sunday, April 10, 2-3 pm, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore booth

Come on by and say hello!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Fat Woman Biking

Back in January I wrote a blog called Fat Woman Walking. In it I explained how several friends and I challenged ourselves to walk (or bike or run or swim) 2016 miles in 2016.

The first three months are now in the hopper and here are my stats:

Miles to date: 249.31

I incurred deficits in both January and February as I got ramped up. Figuring on about 168 miles per month average to meet the 2016 mile goal, I'm about 254 miles in the hole.  But in March I was just shy of my monthly quota and from here on out I should be able to whack off the deficit over time and be right on track.

Most of these miles were accrued on my recumbent bike as I have an arthritic right knee. As I increased my walking in January and February, my knee started protesting. A few years back my doctor told me to either bike or swim to help my knee. But did I? Once in a while, but only on days with the letter P in them. Now I'm pedaling 7-10 miles almost every day, pushing to go faster and further and my knee is feeling pretty good.  The doc was right. Imagine that? I'm still getting in some walking. A lot of days, my combined miles are somewhere between 7-10 miles. I allow myself one day a week for a rest day.

It's not easy. Some days I piss and moan like a whiny little kid about getting my big ole butt on the bike, but I do it because I'm determined to reach my goal of 2016 miles. The first few miles each day are tough. Usually I watch TV while I pedal and it helps the time fly. I was reading while working out, but as I go faster and get sweatier, I find it tougher to concentrate on the reading.

3 months down, 9 months to go.

249.31 miles down, 1766.69 to go.

I got this!