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« October 2012 | Main | December 2012 »

6 posts from November 2012

The Romantic AnswerNovember 25, 2012

DAMN, you all had the best suggestions for what to say when I'm asked what I write (so that I don't have to defend myself from the Dread Eye Roll of Doom). Seriously, there were too many good ones. Using a mish-mash of all of them, I'm going to say, "I write romance, mainstream literary fiction, and memoir." Which, I find with delight, is all true. And I'm proud of every bit so any eye-roller can just bite me in the tuckus. 

We do have a winner, though! For all the people I meet at parties whom I know I don't care about, the people I chat with in line at the post office, etc., I'm going with Erika's GENEEYUS solution:

No need to enter me into the drawing, since romance isn't really my thing. But I had to say, I get that same reaction from people when I follow up "I write for a living" with "online content" or "professional blogger" or any other dumb thing that has come out of my mouth. I'm pretty sure that people deflate no matter what you say. Unless you are literally JK Rowling, it's not "real" writing to a lot of people. (And I bet even JK Rowling still gets that deflated "Oh, you write CHILDREN'S books" reaction from time to time.) All of which is leading up to what I personally tell people, when I know the conversation is meaningless. If it's just a barista I'll never see again, or someone in line at the grocery store, or whatever, I tell them "I'm a project manager." It shuts them down immediately. I have never once been asked a follow-up question. It's become my standard go-to answer. I try not to laugh as I watch them scramble to change the subject, because no one ever wants to talk about project management. (And it's not untrue... I do manage a lot of projects. It's just that they are all MY projects. But the motions are the same.)

Isn't that brilliant? I love it. 

But since she's not in the drawing, I'm going to randomly draw three winners for a book each: Laurie M., Tara, and Mary B. (who always had a lot of votes for her answer: "You know how some books are all about violence and death? Mine are all about romance and sex. I like sex a lot better. Don't you?")

Winners have been emailed, and THANK YOU all who played. 

New Dresses! 

I made some! I'm still perfecting that smock-like pattern of mine that I drafted, and I'm getting closer each time. 

Reddress

In honor of NaNoWriMo! 

Greydress

I love this one. It's light-weight enough for summer and flip-flops, but looks good with dark tights and boots for winter. I've kind of decided these dresses are going to be my uniform. I do love me a uniform, having worn one at the day job for so long. No thought! No decisions! Just make sure it's clean!

And now I'm off to eat some more turkey. Fourth day in a row. I am now officially Over Turkey. (This is why we only eat it once a year, by the way. Because we gorge ourselves once and get sick of it, only remembering it again the next year. Turkey breeders should only breed tiny little turkeys, one per house, and then we'd eat it all year. Thus speaketh me.)

Signed Books for the Holidays! November 21, 2012

Hey, y'all! 

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This year, you can order signed copies of my books! Dude, I'm super excited about this. I really think that in terms of the writer's job, after writing "The End," there is no better feeling than signing your books. I get the BIGGEST thrill out of it. Also, I get to help you give a fun gift, and a great independent bookseller gets the business. Yay! 

So if you've liked one of my books and have thought about giving a copy to someone, this is the time to get it signed for them. I'll write whatever you'd like me to! Even, "Dear Aunt Joanne, Maybe this will spice up your nights since Uncle Bill's been in lockup for you-know-what. Love you!" And then we'll mail it to your Aunt Mavis, the one who can't STAND Aunt Joane, and it will be fun for everyone! 

Or maybe YOU just want a signed copy or two. Do it! I'd love to autograph a book to you (I'll even throw in some bookmarks! Woo!). 

I've teamed up with Books, Inc. in Alameda (the very first store in which I ever saw a book of mine in the wild), and they'll do the wrapping and the mailing. All you have to do is give them a call (if there's any confusion at first, as we get it going, ask for the manager, Nick.) 

HOW TO ORDER

Call Books, Inc. at 510-522-2226, and tell them which title(s) you like to order to be signed. Tell them to whom the books should be inscribed (include your brief message if you have one). Give them your mailing address and billing info (list price varies by book, additional wrapping and shipping costs $8.50, every book after that is $2). That's it! Easy! 

Deadline: December 15th, so books can get there on time. 

They'll also ship to an alternate address so you can send a wrapped book directly to Uncle Bill's lawyer if you want to (I'd be happy to include a note in those packages that aren't going directly to the buyer saying who sent them the gift.) 

SADLY, this is for US residents only. (If you live out of the US and DO want a signed copy, you can always mail me your book, postage paid both ways, and I'd be happy to do that, but it's practically cost-prohibitive, so I hesitate to mention it.) 

ALSO

On a different note, I just wanted to publicly thank our Fairy Godmother for sending us to the Writing Prom, the Night of Writing Dangerously. 

IMG_3855

I got a new dress for it and felt like the luckiest girl at the ball. Thank you. 

*Oh, and winners for the books in the last post will be announced in the NEXT post (and by email). I was just too excited about this today. :) 

Romance (and Sexy Giveaway!)November 14, 2012

You know I love romance. I'm proud of writing it. No more does romance bear its stigma of ripped bodices and rape. Romance is GOOD. Romance today is written and read by smart women who like being in charge of their own lives. 

But I'm tired of men (and some women) giving me that look when they ask me what I write and I say romance. Strike one: Romance. Strike two: Knitting. I can see them actually deflate when I say it, and while I know men are not my target audience*, I hate the combined emotion I feel of defensiveness and embarrassment. I shouldn't feel that. Obviously, it's MY own hangup. But I want a better answer.

Help!

I'm looking for a great, one line response to memorize that says: I write romance. Before you get that look, you smug bastard, tell me what's wrong with fiction that celebrates a woman's autonomy and her right to make her own career, sexual, and relationship choices. 

Except without that defensive second sentence. I try to simply say, proudly, "I write romance and memoir," but as soon as they get that look, I trail off into something like, "You know, popular fiction...like regular fiction, but more for women, oh, look at the bartender's hat!" 

Lyssa won the Vickie Howell book, and she's been notified, but I LOVE giving things away, so:

I'm giving away three romance books I've recently enjoyed to three readers who give me the best answers to above dilemma in comments. These are finely written books/novellas that I know you'll enjoy and that I'm happy to recommend. 

(Bonus: they're available inexpensively in e-format.)

(Double bonus, and I just realized this: they're all very spicy! If you don't like reading explicit sex, you might not be into these, but hey, if you enjoy reading me, you're already there. The last two are erotic novellas (with PLOT, people!), and the first is a romance novel heavy on the sex.) 

About Last Night, Ruthie Knox. This was lovely and very fun, and I had a hard time putting it down. It's set in England! And it's about a textile curator at the V&A! She works with knitting!  

Cass: Taken in the Stacks, Jami Malroux. This is HOT. If you didn't think you could marry hot-tamale plot with lyrical prose, this is where you find you're happily wrong, my friend. (Set in a bookstore. Really. Meow.) 

Bound by Desire: The Acadian Curse, Rebecca Lyndon Paranormal erotica (which is not normally my thing since I tend to naturally hear bumps in the night), this is such a super fun, delicious ride, and only induces dreams of the sexy kind, not nightmares. The characters are real, and the stakes are high. 

Advice on my dilemma gratefully accepted! 

* Generally speaking. Hi, Jeremy! Hi, Mel! Hi, Garret!

** PS - I'm going offline for five days. A little digital sabbatical, so I'll draw the winner when I get back.

Recipe and Giveaway!November 7, 2012

It's recipe day! What else is a blog for but to store the recipes you've cobbled together over the years to serve as an aid to your rapidly failing memory?

And this is a two-fer! At the end, I'm going to ask for your favorite way to cook either vegetables or meat, and if you comment, you get a chance to win Vickie Howell's new book: STEP IT UP KNITS, a cute look at accessories with an eye to gaining new knitting skillz. 

Stepitupknits

When I was a teenager, we lived on a teeny-tiny island called Saipan. Floating in the space between the Philippine Sea and the Pacific at the edge of the Marianas Trench, it had many Filipino residents, and my family fell in love with the food. Every Sunday, we'd go to church which had no walls and was open to the ocean breeze. We could see the waves breaking from our pews.

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Saipan Community Church, Susupe

After holiday services, we'd step outside from the end of the pew and take our place at the groaning tables full of of glistening pancit, crunchy lumpia, and my favorite, chicken adobo. Our Ates would load our plates, and we'd eat sitting cross-legged on the sand. 

Lately, I'm all about easy meals. And lord, this one is easy. It's the perfect way to try cauliflower rice if you haven't yet (you do need a food processor for this). Now, I couldn't quite imagine adobo without rice. I'm not eating grains at the moment, and I didn't believe that cauliflower (a vegetable I've always hated) could substitute in ANY way for it. Guess what? It does. I actually like the cauliflower rice more than the real stuff. 

Bonus: This is anti-inflammation diet and Paleo diet friendly. (Psst - I started eating well to feel better, but I'm sitting here in a size 10 pair of Dickies for the first time in, um, memory? I don't think I've been this weight since I was twenty-one. So that's something.) 

Chicken Adobo

This recipe reminds me of my mother's, so I'm fond of it. There are approximately one thousand variations of this. Of course, I think mine is the best.

4-5 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in

1 c white vinegar

1 c soy sauce

A head (or more!) of garlic, peeled and crushed. 

1 tsp black peppercorns

Marinate the above for at least an hour. (The more time the better. I like about five hours if possible, but often only do an hour.) Then bring to boil, cover, reduce to simmer for about thirty minutes. Uncover and raise the heat a touch, cook for another twenty minutes or so, until chicken is done. (The meat should be almost falling off the bone at this point.) 

Cauliflower Rice

So easy! And fast! Make it at the very last minute. 

Two heads cauliflower

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp red chile flakes (or more to taste)

1 tsp ginger powder

Salt to taste

Cut the cauliflower into florets, add to food processor. In approximately 10-15 one-second bursts, chop the cauliflower into pieces that resemble rice (no more, you don't want this going mushy). I usually have to stop the food processor, carefully pull out the bigger pieces that refuse to chop, dump out the rice bits, and toss the big pieces back in. Repeat till all the cauliflower is done. Over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Once it's hot, add the red chile flakes, ginger powder (or fresh! but that's not as quick), and salt. Add the cauliflower and fry it up for about four or five minutes.

Serve the chicken adobo over the rice, and add some of the marinade over the top. Then let your eyes roll back in your head in pleasure.  

Servings: Lots. (6-8ish, feel free to halve the recipe)

DRAWING

Now! Leave me your fave way to fix veggies or meat--you know, that easy recipe that you don't have to look up, the one that always tastes good. Simple is best here, since I'm avoiding sugar, dairy, grains,processed ingredients, potatoes, beans, and tomatoes. I know, a challenge, right? It's not as hard as I thought it would be.

(Example: I've recently discovered making sweet potato fries in the toaster oven! Slice fry-shaped, toss with olive oil and salt, bake for 50 minutes or so, till they start to blacken. Serve with mayo/chipotle powder/garlic dip.)

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Vickie Howell's new book! I'll draw on Monday. 

The Great Grocery Store WalkoutNovember 4, 2012

You guys, I can't thank you enough for the kindnesses in your comments to the last post. If you haven't read those comments, they're worth casting your eye over. I couldn't respond to all of them, but I did to as many as I could, and I've been having the most amazing conversations with people about depression and how it affects all of us. Really, every adult human being has been depressed at some point. Why don't we talk about it? 

Several of you mentioned The Great Grocery Store Walkout. I've done it myself. A cart full of goods, left behind, the ice cream melting, as you bolt because it's just too fucking difficult to decide between the expensive soft toilet paper and the recycled TP that feels like birthday streamers. I once panicked in Ikea and ended up buying a convertible, because it was easier. True story.

Reader Sandy had a good 'un for me. As a reward for being the most awesome readers in the whole wide world, I give you (with her permission) a great story that Sandy shared that had me rolling.

 

My ex sister in law came over from Scotland about 25 years ago.  She came from a little fishing village that had the old fashioned baker, butcher, post office, etc.  Small little village.  Think smaller.  Think about knowing everybody.  When you wanted to do errands you grabbed your basket and went out to get a few things.  However, her job had her moving temporarily to a suburb of Chicago where she subsequently met my brother in law and ended up marrying him.  Anyway -- I worked at the place she was temporarily transferred to and I was asked by HR to kind of show her around and make sure she knew how to get to the grocery store, put gas in her car, etc.  Kind of a helper to the US way of life, so to speak.
So, I took her to the closest grocery store to her apartment.  Costco.  We got a parking spot, grabbed the big giant cart, and into the store we went.  We got about halfway into the store and she had a full on panic attack!  She was like GET ME OUT GET ME OUT!  We abandoned the cart and I got her to the car.  She sat there trying to gather herself and said "Hen!"  (Scots call all women Hen)  "Hen!  I just need a wee bite to eat!  What in God's Name is that place we were just in?"  So I had to explain the concept of Costco to her and that it was closest to her apartment and I was so sorry and I thought there was less chance she would get lost if we went there.  (Suburb of Chicago.  Think lots of traffic.  Now think more.  Then think about her driving on the wrong side of the road...)
She said:  "I'll starve first.  I cannee go back in there.  I cannee."
So I found a little 7-11 and took her in there.  I think she ate Slurpees and overcooked hot dogs for about three months before she'd got the nerve to venture out to find a Safeway.
Grocery stores can slay the most intelligent well rounded women, I tell you!

 

How much do I love this? So much. Thanks, Sandy. And thank you, all. 

 

Depression. There. I Said It.November 2, 2012

If you've been hanging 'round here at Chez Yarnagogo for any length of time at all, you'll know I'm predictable in the way that every six months or so, I end up writing something that some might think is too personal (and yep, this complaint does land every now and again in my inbox. Hey, if  you don't like what I write about it, I will stop coming to your house and holding the words in front of your eyes. All you have to do is ask. I thought you liked it when I did that). 

This, my friends, is gonna be personal. 

When I had my hysterectomy in May, I intended to go on estrogen-replacement therapy. I was 39, and after doing research, I'd decided it was the sensible choice for me. Unfortunately, it turned out that I have an extremely rare and potentially fatal form of estrogen-dependent angioedema, and can't take estrogen in any form (no supplements, no soy, no phyto-, no bio-identical, nothin'). 

So I hit menopause like a juice glass hits a tile floor. 

The doc said I could expect all the symptoms, but I haven't had one single hot flash or a moment of crazy emotional rage. I actually started sleeping better.

But my only other symptom was a doozy: Depression. 

I was sad, yo. And at first, I didn't recognize it for what it was. I just called it brain fog. I couldn't connect with anyone, couldn't seem to hold an intelligent conversation. I went to a writing convention and cried my way through it, thinking I was just being overly sensitive. Everything was out of focus and so difficult. During that time simply going to the post office was too hard for me to figure out. I felt bone-tired and got more exhausted every day. At home, I started sleeping in, something I never do. One day I was in bed looking at the noon-time sun reflected onto the ceiling, unwilling to move. I thought to myself, Why am I lying in bed? This is what depressed people do. I'm not depressed. Thud. Wait for it . . . Oh. 

I talked to my doctor, and even though I failed her Depression Quiz (there's a fun afternoon!), I rejected her recommendation for medication. I also rejected therapy. Now, I LOVE therapy and sign up for it whenever I think I can use an intelligent outside perspective on a confusing or difficult situation, but this was not situational depression. Love life was good. Family was good. Friends were good. Both jobs were good. I was happy with my life. I just wasn't happy, and the move from always happy to unbearably sad took exactly the four weeks it took for the estrogen to leave my body. So I knew it wasn't therapy I needed.

Now, I know I'm lucky. I don't know from depression.I've had situational depression, the kind of depression that comes from life's hardships like losing a loved one. Grief happens. Depression in those cases is natural and (usually) eases with time. But me? I'm one of those happy-chemicals people. And I've always, ALWAYS said that if my happy-chemicals changed for any reason, I'd march myself up to the pharmacy line and get me some of the good stuff. I understood in layman's terms the idea of serotonin reuptake, and I'd studied the way serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine function in the brain. I held no judgment, none at all, for people who chose to assist their brains' chemistry and functionality. 

When my joy and positivity plunged along with my hormone levels, I was astonished to find I totally rejected this option for myself. 

Without knowing it, I'd bought into the stigma that medication brings along with it. I'm not sure if it comes from having a mother who didn't take a single Vicodin after her hysterectomy because she could tough her way through it, but I was surprised by how desperately I wanted to try to fix my depression myself first. 

(I realize that some of you are, or have been, clinically depressed for a great part of your life. My friends, I can't imagine your struggle. I fought it for a few months, and so often I thought, This is TERRIBLE. They aren't kidding! I commend you for everything you've ever tried or done to make yourself feel better. It's so hard, and I only got a taste. Please know that I understand I'm very lucky to have been born with the positive chemicals, so lucky that I haven't had to struggle more with this in my life.) 

I told my doc I wanted to fix myself. I read books, lots of 'em. I learned our brains have to have exercise in order to keep the right levels of serotonin/norepinephrine/dopamine. Ha! Exercise! That's what you feel like doing when you're so sad you can't get out of bed. But I started running again, because I am nothing if not stubborn. I took it like medicine, trying to exercise every day, even though I hated it. 

I'd already changed my diet, eliminating dairy, sugar, wheat and all other grains, as well as the nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants). I didn't think I could get any healthier in that respect, but I did cut back on my optional sugar-of-choice, wine (which is, obviously, a depressant).  

I waited to feel happier. Instead, I just ate well, ran around the block and on the treadmill and kept crying. I hid this from you pretty well, didn't I? I might have dropped a mention or two of it on twitter and here at the blog, but I'm pretty damn adept at functioning as a happy-looking individual even when I'm not. No one at work had any idea. Many friends didn't know.

I hid it because I'm known for being happy. Someone has nicknamed me "Sunshine" at every job I've ever had. It was a huge part of who I was, and I was proud of it. (I wonder now if I'd have been so proud had I known that happiness was so dependent on my hormones?) And I hid my depression because I knew--it had been drilled into me from all parts of society--that being depressed is wrong, and trying to fix it with medicine is EVEN WORSE. It would mean that I was crazy and/or incompetent and/or untrustworthy. I am none of those things. So my knee-jerk reaction was NO THANK YOU NO DRUGS FOR ME BACK OFF NOW. 

But a month into trying to fix myself with diet, supplements, acupuncture, yoga, talking to friends, and exercise, I broke. I called my doctor and, literally through sobs, asked for the pills. I went on Celexa that day. Two days into the treatment, I stopped crying. Two weeks into the treatment, I felt better. Six weeks in, I felt normal again. 

It's been a few months now, and this---> I feel normal. 

Normal again! I'm not living in a haze. I can communicate with people. I sing again (the fact that I hadn't been singing had been so weird. I didn't sing in the car or while working in the kitchen. I hadn't even chalked it up to depression, I just had the odd thought perhaps I was getting too old to sing all the time. So it was very, very nice when the singing came back). Now I feel wild bursts of joy at random moments, just like I used to. I also get stressed out and overtired and snappish and grumpy, all mixed in again with my regular, even-keeled mood. 

Normal.

The thing I'd most worried about when going on the medicine--that my creativity would suffer somehow, would change--hasn't happened. The only thing that's changed is that I sit at my writing eagerly again, instead of dragging myself to the page. My words come out sharper because I'm sharper. And I'm still completely me. I just feel like I put on the right emotional glasses and things are in focus. 

Sure, I'm nervous hitting Publish on this post. My boss reads my blog, for Pete's sake. (Hi, Denise!) Especially in my day-job field, the world of police and fire, being on depression meds was really stigmatized for a long time. You could lose your job for it. That coloring made an indelible impression on me. I'm also nervous because of that volunteer job I really want--what if they read this post and think I'm nuts? Yep, super nervous. But I've never regretted sharing myself here, ever. So I'm gonna hit that Publish button and squeeze my eyes shut tight and maybe take a little nap and have a smoothie later. 

This is what I think: let's talk to people about depression, directly and honestly. Tell those you love you need help with figuring this shit out. Encourage those you love to accept the help they need. IT'S NOT WRONG to be depressed, and there are things that can truly help you feel better. (And the thing I hear most when I do bring it up? "Oh, I don't want to go on that, it might affect my sex life." Dude, your LIFE is affecting your sex life when you're depressed. Don't buy that line. Sex is a lot more playful and fun when you're happy.) 

I deserved to feel better. I deserved to find the things that would help. For me, it's diet, exercise, and medicine. You deserve to figure out what makes you feel better.

Big love.