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6 posts from December 2013

2013 in ReviewDecember 31, 2013


We went to New Orleans! We saw the dog parade! We had SO MUCH FUN.


I sewed a lot of dresses because I wasn't feeling the knitting mojo much. I wrote. I think--if I'm not wrong--I was working on Cypress Hollow #5, FIONA'S FLAME, which will be coming out in October(ish). I really like that one. I'd been trying to write Fiona's story forEVER. 


Got bronchitis! Fun times. Worked too much. 


I went to Italy with my little sister. HOW LUCKY AM I? 


And I'll say it again: traveling with the kiddo is like traveling by myself only with someone interesting to talk to. It's pretty perfect. (Want to go here? Nah. Want to go there? Sure! See you later? Okay! Wine? Hell, yes!)


I was in my favorite city, Venice. I miss it right NOW.


Isn't that photo ridiculous? Like a painting! From an iPhone 4! We live in the future, people. I say it every day, but it's true.


We built a kitchen island from my old Formica table and salvaged kitchen cabinets.


 Yes, we still feel very clever for this. 

I wrote a lot, judging by my calendar. I also worked a lot (too much) and volunteered quite a bit. Not much time in there for much else. THIS NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED IN 2014, PEOPLE. 


Penguin bought PACK UP THE MOON! 

Smallpack up the moon_final3JPG

I'm still over it. The moon, that is, not the book. (I love this early review I got from Larissa Brown, whose own gorgeous book I'm totally going to pimp at you soon because it is AMAZING. Viking time travel love story. You will love it.)

Bookbookbookbook. So soon now! 


And my marvelous and sweet agent sent me these earrings for Christmas. All packed up in a box. *sigh of delight*


We celebrated Lala's birthday in Mendocino. Lots of baths, eating, drinking, drawing, knitting, and sleeping. Pretty much perfect. 


Prop 8/DOMA! We were still married! 




 RWA in Atlanta, dressed by Modcloth most of the month. My favorite dress of the year: 


 And I tried to make a lot of time for this: 


but honestly, for most of July, I worked too much.


I got a Vitamix!! 


 Life changing, y'all. I use it up to three times a day, not only to blend green smoothies but to chop onions, make soup, etc. 


Also in August, I realized why I couldn't eat much more than green smoothies. My gallbladder threw a fit and had to be taken out, and I spent three nights in the hospital. Here's to never having to dispatch my own ambulance to myself ever again! Or ever having to take off my clothes at work so coworkers can hook a 12-lead heart monitor to my chest! 

Up side: lots of time while recovering for this: 




This was the year Lala fell in love with opera. I think our favorite was The Barber of Seville. I don't love opera, but I do like it. Also, we get to dress up, so bring it. 

There was some knitting while I was recovering, too. 


Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield.

My favorite writing cafe closed, but I discovered that I LOVE writing at Mills College, where I got my MFA. 


There is something thrilling about getting PAID to write at the tea shop where I paid so much money to get that degree. I also love with an unreasonable passion my alumna parking sticker. 



Cora's Heart came out, the fourth in the Cypress Hollow series. YAY! 


Lost Digit.


Still don't really want to talk about it. But you know what? Remember when he came back from the dead and I said he needed a CalTrans vest to safely cross freeways? My friend Tash made him one. 


Right? Right. 

Also: NaNo! The most fun one in a number of years. 


Also: Boise for Thanksgiving, to the in-laws! We had a GREAT time there (we always do) and spent time with the neph. Good looks run in the family: 



Really, December was about working a HELL of a lot at both jobs and knitting a HELL of a lot. 


2014: May we all rest as comfortably as Clementine does on her chair:


Last year's word was NOW. I learned about meditation and sitting in one spot. I learned how to lie down and sink into the bed, turning my brain off. That was good, and needed. 

2014's word? REST. I think I proved to myself and everyone around me this year that working too hard just lands you in the hospital. I'm bad at balance, though, always have been. I work hard and then I rest hard. I'd like this year to bring more regular, planned rest. Fun rest. Chosen rest. Not enforced recovery. 

What about you? What's your chosen word or theme this coming year? 

Thanks, friends. I'm so glad and thankful for YOU. 

A Merry OctopusDecember 24, 2013

Lala loves octopuses. (This is the correct pluralization. Did you know that? Actually, if one were going to pluralize it with its Greek base, it would be octopodes, not octopi -- that would be correct if it were Latinate in origin, which it is not.) 

I do not love octopuses. I think they are creepy and way too smart and will someday rule the earth. If your neurons are big enough to play jacks with, they are too big. (Now, THAT was creepy.) And I know a LOT about octopuses, since Lala talks about them almost non-stop. For example, I know that their eye-slits are horizontal, no matter the position of their bodies. Ick. 

But I do love Lala. Lots. So I made this for her Christmas present. 

2013-12-24 09.43.55-1

I believe she was surprised. 

2013-12-24 09.46.00-1

2013-12-24 10.24.44-1

I tell you, making those suckers and THAT EYE was weird. And the pattern (Embrace) was written in only one size, so I had to do a lot of math and gauge-guessing. But it fits her perfectly. 

2013-12-24 10.25.03-1

She looks terribly good-looking in it, doesn't she? 


We've had a FANTASTIC Christmas so far (we're celebrating today, since I work Xmas proper and Boxing Day) and I got a ton of wonderful things like speakers and jewelry and a NEW SWIFT AND BALL WINDER because mine have been broken for literally years and years. 

Now we're going to the Legion of Honor to see the Anders Zorn exhibit and then we're going to go to a dark bar and play Quiddler and then we're going to eat whatever we want at whatever restaurant we pick. I REALLY like today. And Lala. As my Cari Luna says, "When someone knits an octopus sweater for you, there is absolutely no need to question how much you're loved."

Yep. Merry whatever you celebrate to you and yours. xoxo

Doing It Is Better Than NotDecember 20, 2013

I'm still thinking a lot about this whole meditation thing. I'm not willing to go all religious about it, but it sure has been nice to practice it every day. (I'll reiterate again with no paid compensation, etc -- I'm using Headspace to learn how to meditate. It's been ideal, making it simple. Simple doesn't preclude educational, and I've learned SO MUCH.)

This just in  -  Meditation is like writing is like knitting.

1. If you just do it, it gets done. So simple, right? The secret of everything. Right here. And yet sometimes, SO HARD.

2. A little bit every day adds up. Meditating every day has made all the difference. Even if I'm just doing it at the end of the day to help myself drift off, it's taught me how to relax. I've never, ever known how to do that before. (Oh, holy cow. I just checked in with myself, and I was literally holding my breath as I typed that, hunched into a ball over the computer. I often do that. Most of the time I don't notice it. But just now I relaxed. I let my muscles unknot and my facial expression soften and WOW, in the time it took me to type that last sentence, my shoulders knotted up and I had to relax them again. This relaxing could be a full-time job. Wait. How do I get that job?) 

3. On the days it's bad, it's still pretty damn good. On bad meditation days, your brain goes WHAT THE HELL IS THAT WHAT IS THAT NOISE DID THE CAT JUST THROW UP OMG DOG STOP BARKING I HAVE AN ITCH ON MY EYEBROW I MIGHT DIE WHO ARE YOU WHEN DO I GET TO STOP. But you know what? Afterward, you'll feel better, even if only incrementally. On bad knitting days, the yarn balks and you swear at it and you end up with twenty percent fewer stitches than you had at the beginning. But you've still touched something that no one else could make. And on bad writing days, you write the worst words in the world, words that are pure dreck or worse, words that are the scummy film that grows on dreck under rotting porches. 

But this fact remains: The days that you relax and sit in the now for a few minutes, the days that you touch something you're physically bringing into existence, and the days that you get your thoughts onto a page are way better than the days you don't. 


I'm reading a FANTASTIC book right now called Zen Confidential: Confessions of a Wayward Monk. It's the memoir of a Zen monk who writes from where reality lives, not from a soft tussock on a blessed mountain. I have no interest in pursuing Zen Buddhism, because I'm not that hardcore (aughhh -- those very words inspire this response inside me ---> YES I AM WATCH ME) but I'm fascinated by this guy and his essays. The memoirs I love (and the one I tried to write) are the ones that say something simple and obvious but then wade neck-deep into the embarrassment and shame that come from being human on any given Tuesday. I like watching memoirists hold up the darkest parts of themselves and own them. Shame is the most interesting human feeling, I think, and it's unique in that upon airing in public, it disappears. Shozen Jack Haubner goes there, and then he crawls underneath and inside of there and rolls around in ecstatic agony. It's wonderful. 

Here's a taste of it for you, from the section in which he goes home to his parents' house for his once-yearly vacation from the monastery: 

I dine. I dine again. I dine thrice. Then, pleasantly nauseated, I collapse on the leather La-Z-Boy and flick on a flat-screen TV the width of an RV windshield. Naturally, it is tuned to Fox News. My parents are the Fox News constituency. They voted for G.W. Bush, had four years to think about it, and then went ahead and voted for him again. 

Just hearing the voices of the Fox telegogues makes my skin crawl. My father, not content with leaving work at the shop, has hung guns from every wall in the house--ancient guns, modern guns, guns for dropping rhinoceroses or a fleeing Navajo squaw at a hundred yards. I consider pulling one down and silencing forever this TV, which is as large and loud as a helipad, its sound waves rippling my cheeks like air blast from propeller blades. 

My father enters the room. I am sitting in his chair, which fact I am reminded of by his shadow as he hovers over me silently. I repair to the couch as Dad navigates our TV watching from Fox to a dramatic medical reenactment and then roots for a seventeen-inch tapeworm as it makes its dramatically reenacted black-and-white exit from the tastefully blurred behind of the woman offscreen, who is shrieking "Ain' no one told me my mama's home cookin' gonna lead to this!" her voice competing with the one ricocheting throughout my skull: Why-in-the-HELL did I come back home again?!

The whole book is like this. I highly recommend it, though I'm only half-way through.

I'm also reading The Light Between Oceans. I'm DYING, it's so good. I'm in my favorite reading spot, which is smack-dab in the middle of reading a great memoir and a great novel. I'm also smack-dab in the middle of writing my next novel, which is ALSO my favorite place to be, though it's not quite as much fun as lying in the tub reading someone else's hard work. (Okay, I'm lying. It's way more fun.) 

ExcerptDecember 12, 2013

Just for you, a little excerpt from Pack Up the Moon to tempt your palate:


            Once Nolan was back on the couch, he just did one more thing before he closed the laptop for the night. Google Maps came up, and he typed in the address on Ronada Avenue. He switched to street view. For twenty, maybe thirty seconds he let his eyes rest on the house he still thought of as his sometimes, before he remembered he’d been removed from the deed. The front door, almost but not quite hidden by the deep garden, was antique solid-core mahogany, intricately carved. He’d found it at the overpriced salvage yard in the industrial west end of Berkeley, and Kate—only ever frugal on accident—had been shocked at the price.

            “It’s just a door. It has to be able to stand up to a knock. Why on earth would we pay that for a door? Let’s take a trip or something instead.”

            But for once, he hadn’t justified it. Kate had done the bulk of the interior design at their house, even though he was the one who maintained it, picking up behind her as she spun through the rooms as if she were the wind. He’d only balked once, when she wanted to paint the ceilings in the rooms different colors. Reds, oranges, yellows—that was one thing when they were on the walls. A green ceiling was where he drew the line. But everything else she could have. She could choose.

            The door, though, was for him. It made the house sturdy. It stood as protection. Fortification. Not from anything, not really. Just sound. Safe. They were the only people on their street, probably in all of the East Bay who didn’t have an iron security door. Why would he get one of those? It would take a battering ram to splinter theirs.

            And it was still there. At least, in the most recent satellite images, it was. And Kate’s  green Saab still sitting there in the driveway.

            He zoomed in one more notch. Right now, Kate was in that house. Ten miles away. Somewhere in there, maybe in the living room, reading… A second later, he felt like a stalker, as if at any moment he’d see Kate as she put the can on the curb—it was Sunday, trash came on Monday. Nolan wondered idly how many times Kate had forgotten to take the trash out since he’d been gone. Twenty times? Thirty? Once he’d stopped putting the can out on the street entirely just to see if she’d notice. “This is so damn full. How can we have made so much trash in a week?” she’d said, trying to smash the kitchen bag into the big bin. She said it for three weeks in a row until a raccoon found its way in the open top. Nolan had spent an hour on the front lawn, picking up old meat wrappers and used Kleenex as his penance. It was nice, to have that fight. To fight about something that, in the end, didn’t matter in the slightest.

            He’d have sold the house if he were her. Apart from that door—and her—there was nothing at that address he needed anymore.

            Nolan shut the computer and closed his eyes. When they’d had Robin, after he’d realized the depth of the love he possessed for his beautiful blue-eyed boy, he’d forgotten the first rule of corporate finance, the mantra he’d repeated to his clients: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. When it smashes, it’s a fucking nightmare.


Preorder links to the left. Preorder and get a free bookplate, just email me!  <----

Bookplates! December 3, 2013

An exhausting day with many, many words written, some of which I will probably end up keeping, woot! I love these late fall days, where the cold is actually a thing, and every time you step outside, you can smell woodsmoke, even in a metropolis like Oakland where it's mostly illegal to burn wood (I say mostly because NO ONE polices that. Go ahead. I won't tell on you. I want to sniff it). 

I would like, someday, to be in the snow. In a cabin, or a snug house, watching snow drift down while I knitted or wrote. (I've been reading May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude, and it shows.) Preferably Lala would be in the kitchen cooking for me or, even better, drawing while our snow-cabana boy cooked for both of us! Doesn't that sound wonderful? 

In my exhausted snowless day, though, I had a really good mail day that you should know about. 

I got this scarf WHICH I LOVE: 

Photo copy 2

It's from Storiarts, and it's from Little Women, a book I could probably read backward, sentence by sentence, and still love. (The artist makes Anne ones! But I'm just as fond of Jo.) Also, it's not knitted out of wool, which means maybe I'll be able to wear it in this temperate clime.

And I got BOOKPLATES! (Writers, I told you I would report back on this. I am. You should do this.) 

They're awesome. 

Photo copy


Signed Bookplates

The tan one on the left is for the American version of Pack Up the Moon, and the green one goes with the Australia/New Zealand version. And you can have either signed (or both! because I'm nice) just for preordering a copy of it (see left sidebar for links). Just shoot me an email at yarnagogo at gmail telling me you've preordered, with your mailing address, and I'll get it to you! You'll probably get several bookmarks, too, because I've got LOTS of those.

For those curious, they're from Moo. They're the rectangular stickers, and they make great, high quality inexpensive bookplates. I just created the images in Photoshop and dragged and dropped them in. ("Just!" As if learning Photoshop has been easy! It hasn't! But don't I sound cool?) 

Okay. I'm going to drink a glass of wine and cook some pork chops for Lala because she'll be home soon and we have neither cabana boy nor snow. But we have fun. 

(And THANK YOU, those of you who already love the Eliza Carpenter story (see prior post). I'm thrilled and seriously, honestly humbled by your reaction.) 

(OMG! I forgot to tell you about my new Ravelry group! You want to be in it! Because we hang out and chat! It's fun!) 

* Holy wow. Just heard from Mandy: "I preordered pack up the moon awhile back when you first posted, but here's the rub! It's a kindle version because I read those a bunch! So a bookplate is a pretty waste of postage for me! But I would LOVE if you would use the postage on a Christmas card for a soldier in honor of my brother in law who deployedyesterday!"

Link: American Red Cross Holiday Mail

I will do this, instead, if you don't want the bookplate because you're preordering in e-version. What a lovely thing. 

Eliza's HomeDecember 1, 2013

I wrote Eliza Carpenter's love story. 


This novella is really special to me. Eliza Carpenter has been present in all the Cypress Hollow novels, but I had to travel back to 1940s Cypress Hollow to find out how she met Joshua. 

Eliza is much smarter than I am. She always has been. Those quotes at the top of the chapters? If they don't come from Eliza,  I have no idea where they come from, because half the time when I reread them I have no memory of writing them. 

It was a total joy to hang out with her. (Her story, truthfully, surprised me. I didn't know her backstory until she told me, and I'm glad I get to tell you.) 

ELIZA'S HOME is available here:

Paper | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks

UK: Paper | Kindle

AU/NZ:  Paper | Kindle 
(with a darling different cover -- don't both of the covers look a little Anne-ish?)


 (If a link above is not live, then it's coming within a day or two -- some vendors are slower than others to catch up.) 

(Oh, my gosh, I'm SO EXCITED!)