A Ghost StoryOctober 31, 2014

In typical hardcore California fashion, I call myself spiritual, not religious. I'm pretty agnostic, but I know there's something good and interesting after this life, because I've felt close enough to dead people that there just isn't any other explanation (to me). If that's just my brain tricking me, that's fine, too. I'll take it. 

But I do want to tell you about the haunted guitar gig bag. Look! Already, this is slightly exaggerated! Here's how I got it: 

I popped into a very old but newly-renovated music shop in Oakland one morning after having breakfast with friends. I wasn't shopping--just looking--but I'd seen that they had a good selection of ukuleles as I'd walked past, and what's a girl supposed to do? 

The owner of the shop was cordial, giving me a friendly hello and then going back to his laptop. I noticed he was completely intent on the screen, his eyes huge. Finally, I asked the price of a baritone uke, and he kind of jolted himself back. 

"Oh! A hundred." 

"Ah," I said. It was a beautiful instrument, and I waited for him to try to sell me on it, although I already was. 

Instead, he paused. Then hesitantly, he said, "You wanna see something?" 

No! No. When a man you don't know asks if you want to see something on his computer screen, a safe answer is usually Back off, ass-hat. But he honestly didn't strike me as creepy--he seemed more like a guy I'd hang out with, a guy who would fit in with my friends. So I said, "Maybe?"

On his computer were four screens, three normal, one infared night vision. There were all of the interior of the store, two in front, two in back: security cameras. This wasn't odd: it's a music store full of instruments in a high-crime area.

He pointed. "That's me." On the screen, a small image of him walked around, multiplied and synced by four, seen from four different vantages. He was obviously looking for something. The store was lit, but not well, and he used a flashlight to help him peer into boxes.

"Look," he said. "This is a couple of nights ago. I felt really weird that night. So I played this back the next day. I can't stop looking at it." 

We watched the mini-him scoot around the store, tidying something, then digging his keys out of his pocket. He went to the front door to unlock it. 

Something small and bright zipped in front of the two front cameras. It was gone as fast as it had come.

On the screens, the owner pulled the door open, went outside, and turned around.  Through the glass, we watched him lock up the store. "I was leaving to get the PA equipment I'd rented to a place down the street," he said to me. "It was just after midnight." 

As he walked out of view, all four screens shook a little. All four went dark. Then they FLARED to life. They showed the shop, the front and the back of it, but now it was as if a bright light had been switched on and the light was catching dust motes fly around. 

Only these (I swear this to you) weren't dust motes. First of all, motes don't glow like that. Second, motes don't work independently of each other. Most of them were fast, zipping by in clumps, zigzagging in groups, darting like flocks of tiny, bright birds. Some, though, swooped lazily in spirals. Some (this freaked me out) flew toward the cameras and did pirouettes, almost as if showing off, before looping slowly off screen. The cameras kept their slow time, the seconds in the time stamp on each changing normally at the top. 

I was gobsmacked. Slack jawed, literally. "I...I..." 

"Right?" he said. "Now watch this." 

On the film from the front cameras, someone is seen on the sidewalk. It's the guy. "I forgot the paperwork I needed them to sign for the amps. I came back to try to find it." 

As soon as he's seen outside, the bright lights pause. As he inserts his key and opens the door, all of them zoom out of sight. Holding a flashlight, he enters and searches for a piece of paper on the counter. A single bright mote flies across the camera and then is gone again. Another dances in the corner, almost invisible. A few fly behind his back.

Then he leaves again. As soon as he's not visible on the sidewalk, the orbs (because I swear, that's what they were) filled all the screens, dancing and zipping again. 

"I've never seen anything like that," I said, kind of truly freaked out. 

"I have," he said. "I've seen it before out of the corner of my eye, but that night was crazy, and I didn't even notice them. I just felt them. I never get scared here, but I didn't have the car that night. I always walk home, never had a problem, but that night, even though I hadn't seen these tapes, I called my wife at one in the morning, woke her up, and had her wake up our baby so they could come get me." His eyes went big again to make his point. "I made my sleeping wife wake up our sleeping baby to drive the few blocks here because I was scared." 

Then I noticed the date stamp on the tapes we were still ogling. Just after midnight on on All Soul's. I literally didn't even bother to point it out to him. I figured he was probably well aware of the date. 

"Why don't you get some ghostbusters in here?" I asked. 

"I did." 


"They saw the lights, and they said they were concentrated in the back room, where an old man used to live, where he died."

"And?" I said, almost hopping up and down.

"He wasn't a good man," he said. "According to them, he was a really, really bad man."

"You have to be on TV or something! You have to show people this!" 

He looked crestfallen. "But then I'd own the haunted music shop." 

"Yeah? And?" [Aside - I just checked on Yelp, THE MUSIC STORE MOVED. Still stellar Yelp ratings, but no longer in the same place. I'm SO going back to ask him if that's why he moved.]

"I don't want to be that guy. I just want to sell guitars." 

I leaned forward and propped my chin on my hands. "What does your wife think?" 

"She doesn't believe it." 

"But--she's seen the tapes?" 

"She says it's dust or something." 

"But they move. Together. And apart. They act like they have brains, or will, or something. And there are so many." 

He shrugged. "It makes her feel better. I've seen them at home, though." 

"Are you serious?" 

He nodded. "I'll see them zip by, just out of sight, just like they do here. I think they follow me home, but my wife doesn't want to hear about it." 

I started to doubt the wisdom of my planned purchase, and I suddenly understood his reticence to be known for being haunted. "If I buy that uke, will I take some home?" 

He straightened. "Nah. No way." 

"What about the bag?" The uke was so big it was resting in an old Martin gig bag. The bag was ripped and soft and looked more like a sleeping bag than the protection it was supposed to be.

"Oh, you can have that. That's been around here forever." 

I didn't mention I didn't want it, I just paid and took both home. 

Then, when I got home, I couldn't bring the bag inside. The ukulele, sure. I kind of blew on it and said, "Don't come in here, 'kay? This is a nice place. Stay outside." Then I felt dumb and hoped the neighbors didn't see me talking to the uke. But the bag . . . just felt wrong. It didn't feel right. I did finally bring it in out of my car, telling myself I was being stupid, but a few days later, I put it in the trash. I hated having it in my office. 

Silly, I know. A haunted gig bag. But it felt real. 

And isn't that the part that matters? 

OH MY GOD I FOUND SOME OF THE FOOTAGE - he put it on YouTube!!! Augh. Cue delicious chills.

In this one you can't see him entering or exiting the door, but you can see at .20 whatever it is is active, and when he's in the shot with his flashlight, whatever it is is much less active.


This is from a different, color camera, same thing, different vantage. Skip to about 1.20 to see it start.  

 I KNOW. Thank goodness I couldn't find the flaring footage -- that was actually scary. I can't believe I just found this though.  

Now, I won't bore you with the tale of the ghost I've felt on the edge of my bed (and the cheeky way it tugs on the sheets!) (not at home, don't worry), but I'll ask you today, on Halloween: what's YOUR favorite ghost story? 

(Oh, and don't forget to read yesterday's post and leave a comment to have a chance to win No Plot No Problem!) 

No Plot, No Problem! October 30, 2014

NANOWRIMO COMETH. At some point, I should probably plot out at least the first scene, since I'm going to launch into it on Saturday, but... 

Hey, wait! 

What does Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo always say?


Indiebound | Amazon | iBooks| Kobo | B&N *

Know what? Chris is right. No plot is actually no problem, espeically in the magical month of November. I find out what I'm writing as I write it. I can have as detailed a plan as I like, and I'll veer from it just because the grass I imagined over there, on the other side of the fence, feels cooler to my imaginary toes. 

His book is awesome, friends (REVISED and EXPANDED), and because he's just as awesome, he's giving away TWO signed copies and a fire-breathing princess postcard, to boot. 

Just leave me a comment below to enter (tell me what you're going to write about! Or what you're NOT going to write about -- ooh, that's even more interesting, the negative space around your words...) and I'll draw two winners on Nov. 5th. 

In the meantime, I'll just sit here and wonder why I take on creative challenges like sketching something every day just as November lands in my lap. Please enjoy the book llama Chris sent me, as he does. 


*Affiliate links


NaNoWriMo InspirationOctober 16, 2014

I've done National Novel Writing Month for the last seven years. This will be my eighth. There were some years I kind of half-assed it, I have to admit. There were years I was smack-dab in the middle of revisions that were due in December, and I had to be a NaNo Rebel. I didn't love those years. Those felt fake. 

Isn't that silly? It's an online challenge, just a lark. 

But it's a challenge I really do take seriously. I absolutely believe in the magic of writing so fast you barely think while you're doing it. When you look back at your writing (after November! not during!), you find some terrible writing, sure. But you also find not just gold, but entire gold mines, lines of written ore you never would have uncovered if you hadn't been so willing to ride the train right off the rails (no, you're a mixed metaphor). 

This year, I'm doing it for-real-for-reals. As I mentioned in my last post, I have a new book to write! I sold my ninth, to Penguin! And I can't wait to write 1,667 words every day. 

And for you, here's a little How-To video, in case you're thinking about it, wondering if you can or should try. (Hint: TRY IT. What's the worst that can happen? You get more words written in November than you did in October? Fabulous! Good for you!) 

New Book! October 15, 2014

From today's Publisher's Marketplace: 

SOLD: Rachael Herron's TAKING CARE, in which two women, who discover they had been married to the same man at different times, find their way towards friendship and family along a bumpy path despite their differences, again to Danielle Perez at NAL, by Susanna Einstein at Einstein Thompson Agency (NA).

This will be my 2016 release, so it's early to get excited about it, but I AM SO EXCITED. I love this story idea, and I can't wait to start writing it. 

Sketch DailyOctober 14, 2014

I’ve been doing something for nine days with the intention of seeing if it stuck before blogging about it. 

I’m going to sketch daily for a year. 

Gah. Even typing it right there is scary to me. I’m not an artist. 

It took the previous blog post to spur me into asking why I wasn’t. 

I already knew from writing that doing the work is the only way you learn to do something better. But even that is a judgment, right? If I look at my work and ask myself, “Is this good?” or even “Is this better than the last one?” then I’m assigning value to what I’m doing. 

And what I’m doing, drawing something every day, doesn’t need value attached to it. I’m doing it as a practice, as a meditation, as a way of really LOOKING at an object I’m sharing space with in the world. (I’m reading Lala’s copy of The Zen of Seeing, and it’s awesome.)

That’s why I’m putting up the sketches at Instagram (I’ve just joined, friend me there!). That part, the cataloguing, feels important to me. We’re so good at posting the pretty and the perfect. We like Pinterest for a reason. Pretty is attractive. We like the well lit, the well composed, the perfect. It’s good to open that up and post the real things, the attempts that don’t work as well as the ones that do. 

If I don’t post anything, I can easily fail out of the challenge and no one will know (I like accountability). If I only post what I think is good or even just good enough, then I’m constantly judging my sketches. But if I just draw them and post every one, even the ridiculously ugly failures, then I’m only being accountable to my decision to do so, and I can be, if not exactly proud, then happy with each one. 

That said, the only one I’m proud of so far is this one, so please indulge my posting it here, firmly judged and found acceptable:

2014-10-11 18.13.10

And hey, speaking of doing things quickly and badly, I'm signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year (I'm going to start my 2016 release, and I'm SO excited about it)! Would you like to help me get to the Night of Writing Dangerously? Best night of the year! SO MUCH CANDY!


Here's the link to donate, if you'd like to. It's a great cause, all the money goes to the Young Writers Program, helping kids to be creative. Thanks for considering!  

*UPDATE: MY FAIRY GODMOTHER did it again. My sister and I will be going to the Night of Writing Dangerously. I'm not sure if she knows how much it means to me that she donates this every year (and oh my goodness, if she stops, it will be TOTALLY OKAY. I don't need this. Don't take from your IRA to stuff me with candy!). But really, it makes me feel hugged and supported and loved, and more than that--it makes me feel special. It's nice to feel special. Most of the time I feel kinda tired and sometimes my feet ache. But my fairy godmother makes me feel like I have glitter running through my veins. Thank you, friend, whoever you are. I hug you SO hard. 

Mighty Ugly GiveawayOctober 6, 2014

I want to tell you a story. It’s about ugly. 

Once upon a long, long time ago, I had an idea. I was lying in bed in my attic bedroom in the old farmhouse we lived in when I was a kid. I was probably about eleven. My feet were down by the window, and my head was under the slanted eaves, the roof only an inch or two above my nose. I stared up in delight. I’d woken up early with this idea and my brain had started whirring (I still do this, quite often). 

I was an artist. 

It was suddenly clear to me. I’d never been one before, but that morning, at eleven years old, I knew I was an artist. I could feel the urge in my fingertips, the tingle in the palms of my hands. My whole body wanted to draw, and the image of what I’d draw first was perfectly encased in my mind’s eye. 

It was a dachshund. (Come to think of it, it was a low, fluffy, wide dachshund who looked a lot like Harriet.)


Best dog

In my mind, still lying in bed, I could see the outline of this dachshund so clearly. I was astonished. I’d never thought too much about being an artist outside coloring books and FashionPlates, but it was immensely exciting to know that I'd acquired overnight the talent required to be good. 

I imagined it, over and over again, so that when I got up and found my colored pencils, I’d have it right. Yes, I could see it, there was the curve on the nose, there was the soft underbelly. There was the flag of a jaunty tail. 

I couldn’t wait to draw it. Everyone would be impressed. I would draw dogs for my sisters upon request, and after a while, I would branch out. Cats, horses, crickets. Beach scenes! I could probably sell them to someone! 

Unable to keep my excitement or my artistic bent under the sheets a minute longer, I got up, went to my desk, and pulled out the old ledger book I kept notes in (I’d found dozens of them in the attic when we’d moved in, huge red business ledgers. I longed to fill their cunning boxes with numbers, and sometimes I did unnecessary math, just to make the pages pretty). 

I sharpened my pencil. 

I drew the first line. 

It was wrong. 

The very first LINE was wrong. 

I took a deep breath. I erased it and did it again. 

Still wrong. 

I drew that dog, and friends, it looked like a portobello mushroom. The dog’s face looked like a droopy question mark. 

It was awful. 

It was worse than awful, it was UGLY. 

I was a terrible artist. I could see the truth, and anyone who looked at it would see the same thing. 

I gave up drawing for the next thirty or so years. Then I suddenly said, I’d like to draw something! I painted Clementine  tangled in the jasmine vines, as she is wont to do. (Funny, that I drew a dog, after all that.) 


And you know what? I wasn’t attached to the outcome that day. I just wanted to draw for the feeling of it, for the colors. When I forgot to worry if it would be good or bad, it kind of came out awesome. And I know this: some might call that painting ugly. 

Many might, in fact. But I love it. 

The painting bug hasn't stuck, and I haven't done much since. But I feel the echo of that moment in my writing, when I slap ugly words on the page and smile at them. I'll make them pretty, or I'll throw them out, no worries. Their ugly doesn't scare me. In fact, the ugly does the opposite. It makes me happy, proving I really am an artist. (This doesn't take away the fear. The fear never goes away. That's fine, too.) 

My friend Kim wrote a whole book about embracing the ugly. No, not not-minding-ugly. That’s different. One day, while overwhelmed with doubts, she embraced ugly in a big way. And it changed her life. 

Her book about this? It’s nutballs awesome. People, I underlined. I did exercises. I folded corners down. The book is chock full of her no-nonsense voice and her super inspiring
approach to creativity. 


Indiebound | Amazon* | iBooks* | B&N | Kobo


If you are creative, you need this book. 

If you want to be creative? You needed this yesterday. I seriously love it. I would read a page or two and then launch myself off my couch to Do Something Awesome. 

Her publisher is giving one away to one lucky commenter (tell me about something you made, pretty, ugly, or in between) and I’m giving another copy away to someone randomly drawn from my mailing list. (Blog comment winner will be drawn on Sunday the 12th.) 

**ETA - I forgot! I'm mentioned in the book! Kim interviewed ME! I forgot when I was reading, too, and she started talking about a writer, and I sat up when I saw my name! 

 *Affiliate links

How to Stop Stalling and Write Your BookSeptember 30, 2014

I've got a class! You should come to it!

More than 19 lectures and 80 minutes of video -- this is the class I looked for when I was trying to claw back my writing mojo. This is everything I know about how to write a book. Plus a clip of Ira Glass! Plus a clip of Nora Roberts! Plus me making LOTS of funny faces on accident! 

This class is for you if: 

You've always wanted to write. 
You used to write but you've been stalled. 
You're scared of writer's block. 
You're not sure how to fit writing in to your already too-busy life.

(And for YOU, my darling readers and NaNoWriMo participants, take 50% off for a limited time by clicking this link for the code.) 




A Short List, With YogurtSeptember 27, 2014

1. The first rain came, and with it, joy. There's nothing like that first downpour to make me feel that going-back-to-school fall feeling, that crisp exhileration, that feeling that THIS is what I've been waiting for. It almost makes up for the fact that it only rained for like twenty minutes, and the whole time it was as muggy as Hawaii with none of the beach time. Fall is coming, though. I can feel it. Soon I'll wear tights and sweaters and mittens and be WAY too hot but, hopefully, adorably clad. 

2. I made Greek yogurt! I'm WAY TOO EXCITED ABOUT THIS. I'm all out of my first batch (except for starter reserve), and last night I literally dreamed about eating it. See, my mom always made it. Once a month or more, the oven was full of jars keeping warm and she was yelling at us not to run through the house or we'd ruin it (I researched -- this is true! Too much jostling can destroy the bonds being formed in the souring process!). Bless her. It was pretty gross. She liked things runnier than most people do. Scrambled eggs? Soft as pudding. Yogurt? Thin and kinda watery. I was pretty sure I'd never make it myself. 

But then I read an amazing thing: Greek yogurt is just yogurt, strained. That's it. The water (a lot of it whey) has been drained out, and you're left with the delicious firm byproduct. People, I was IN. Since New Zealand, I've been fiending for fresh, amazing yogurt, and I wasn't finding it in the stores. Fage came close with their Greek honey yogurt, but not close enough. 

So I made it. I'm going to tell you how because I had a hard time cobbling together recipes from online. You don't need a pressure cooker to do this, but if you have one, it's nice. Two ingredients! That's all!

Rachael's Super Easy Greek Yogurt

Bring half a gallon of milk (whole is nice! but not necessary) just to the boil. Turn off heat, let it rest, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until you can hold your finger to the side of the metal comfortably for 10 seconds. Add 4 tbs of plain yogurt with live cultures that you've bought at the store (later you'll use your own, but you have to start somewhere) and whisk away for a little while, till mixed. Cover and keep warm* for about 6-8 hours. (Start checking after about 5 hours. Stop when you feel like it. This isn't rocket science.) Line a big colander with a very clean tea towel or cheesecloth or paper filters, put that into a bigger bowl, and dump the yogurt in. Let drain for 2-12 hours in the fridge (dump the whey or reserve it for smoothies/soups, etc, if you feel like it). 

* To keep warm, I used the yogurt setting on my pressure cooker. My mother would preheat the oven to warm, turn it off, and put the yogurt inside with the light on. Some people like to wrap the pot/container in towels to preserve the heat. You're keeping it at warm (not hot) bathtub temperature. You could survive in it, think about it that way. It shouldn't burn you to touch the metal inside the stove. 

SEE? SO EASY. Could not be easier. Add a little homemade granola and a dribble of honey and you're IN HEAVEN. 

3. I finished the revisions on Splinters of Light, due out in March, and I'm so proud of it. I've also worked about a millionty hours at the day job in the last four weeks since we got back from vacation (more than 90 hours/week on average) so when I'm off-shift and not writing I'm basically lying on the floor acting like the yogurt in the pot. Staying warm. Gurgling a little.

4. Honestly, I've maintained vacation brain, and I think it's due to the fact that I really am ignoring the internet when I'm not at work. Email can wait. Twitter can be put off. I'm reading a ton. It's really nice. What are YOU up to as fall approaches? (Or spring, for those of you standing on your heads?) 

Taking The Time BackSeptember 11, 2014

I've been working on writing more about the book tour, but I've been a bit stumped. See, I've been LOVING not being online so much. 

While we were gone, I checked Twitter and email once or twice a day, when I could. I made sure there were no publishing fires (or fires of any other kind for that matter) and I responded only to the things that needed a response. 

Know what? There weren't that many emails that REALLY needed a response. And I loved that feeling that I had more time for life. Because I did have more time. It was great. 

Since I've been home, I've found myself dealing with a bit of resentment for all the time it took me to stay on top of everything online. Then I started wondering if I could put myself back on vacation-time albeit without outdoor tubs or crocodile sightings. 

Here are the things I'm experimenting with: 

1. No push notifications on phone. I don't need to know if anyone has emailed/Twittered/Facebooked me. I don't. If someone really needs me, they'll call me (and my ringer will be off as it always is, and I'll see the missed call two hours later, but that's another story). Related: no pop-up notifications on the computer. 

2. No Twitter app open on my computer. I'm checking it once or twice a day on my phone, skimming through quickly, sending articles I might want to read to Pocket (a great app) for offline reading when I have the time/inclination. As a Twitter addict, this is the hardest part so far. 

3. No Facebook open ever. (This is easy. I post things to Facebook from Hootsuite but I almost never go to the site itself because I abhor it as a platform.)

4. EMAIL CLOSED. What? This is the biggest, hardest thing so far (I take back that part about Twitter being the hardest. I was wrong). The other night I was lying in bed, thinking about all the time I lose online, and I thought with a tiny flash of rage about the fact that emails were always coming in, and I never got to ignore them like I did while on vacation. After all, my email inbox needed to be open at all times on my computer, and I'm on or near my computer for most hours of most days (either at the day job or at the writing job). 

Then I had this stunning realization. I could close the email window. I swear to all that is holy, this had never occurred to me as an option. What do you do when you restart your computer? Start email, right? It's always there in the background. I couldn't even begin to guess how many times a day I glanced at it.

Now: I'm checking email when I wake up and clearing it to zero (with the judicious use of Sanebox, which I use to send emails to future dates and times -- they land in my inbox again and I deal with them then -- I use this a LOT. It might be fake zero inbox, but it works for me.) Then I'm checking again around 1pm, near the close of the business day in the New York publishing world, and once at night (and neither of those times do I try to clear the inbox, I'm just making sure there's nothing that needs immediate response). 

5. Being okay with dropping things. I take it back! THIS is the hardest thing so far! I'm working on not feeling guilty for putting things off. While I was gone, I did miss one thing that was kind of important, and you know what? The person who needed the info emailed me again saying, "Hey, did you get my email?" It spurred me into action, and no one was harmed in the process. I cleaned up my email when I got home from almost a month away, and there was only one thing I really needed to apologize for not doing. So I did. And it was done. 

Dude, I work 911. I have for fifteen years. I think I have this knee-jerk OH MY GOD IT'S AN EMERGENCY DO IT NOW reaction for, well, just about everything. Laundry not done? How will we go on? Dinner not planned? Lord help us all!  Emails stacking up? CODE RED CODE RED!

I'm dumping that attitude. Right now. 

In the free time I have, I hereby pledge to: write, knit, spin (oh, I'm spinning some Anna Gratton merino fiber that is so amazing I could just die), walk, play, and rest. 

In delicious irony, I give to you a great video -- I loved the song already, and I adored the video when I saw it this morning (after following a link from Twitter. Hey. No one's perfect). 

Passenger, Scare Away the Dark 

All of the above I've only been doing for about 24 hours. I'm no success story, and I may break and go back to normal in another hour. But I don't think so. Stripping it down like this feels good so far. It feels right. 

What about you? Any time saving get-off-the-internet-and-have-a-life tips? Keeping in mind that we all, actually, have to be on the internet sometimes? 


Book Tour Part 1August 28, 2014

Hi! *waves frantically* I haven't been around because I've been vacationing like a real, grownup vacationer. Apart from book release stuff (of which, admittedly, there was a lot), I did not work AT ALL. I wrote no words other than hastily penned emails putting out only the fires that really needed to be put out. 

This is what I learned about grownup vacation: 

1. Stay offline as much as you can. Nothing's really on fire (unless it is, in which case call 911, or 000 (Australia!), or 111 (New Zealand)). Banking emergencies aside (apparently you need a steady flow of money when you're on the road, whoops!), I didn't need to be online. I popped up to throw pictures around most days, but that was only when I could. Nothing happened that required my assistance. Dude, I work 911, and they don't need me when I'm not at work. I write books, and in that, I'm my own boss. It was a really good reminder that it's okay to step away. (Digital sabbatical once a week? Here I come.)

2. You'll spend more money than you think you will. Especially if you're in Sydney, yo. Twenty-five dollar scrambled eggs and toast? You'll pay it because if you eat one more Kind bar you might die of sunflower seed poisoning. 

3. Number of Kind bars I needed to get through two countries in 24 days while staying gluten-free to avoid migraines: 15. Number of glasses of wine I could have a day to stay migraine-free: 0.VERY SAD, PEOPLE. Lala sampled amazing wines. I smelled them. They smelled delicious. Sigh. 

4. Everything is worth it. Do it. Find it. BE THERE for it. There were a lot of times I just put away my phone so I could be present, and it's telling that our favorite thing we did (the caving in Waitomo, NZ) was  completely sans-camera. No cameras allowed, or we for SURE would have whipped them out while rappeling 300 feet into the mist. And we would have dropped them. Instead, we were there. Falling slowly through the air. Completely engaged. 

 Some Things, and Later I'll Post Some More

Aug 4: We arrived in Port Douglas, Australia, after 30 hours of traveling, planning to have three days of down time in the small coastal town on the Great Barrier reef before the whirlwind started. It was a great way to get over our jet lag, and we stayed at the amazing Pink Flamingo hotel which had an outdoor bathtub under the stands of bamboo. Ridiculous-sounding birds (one sounded like multicolored bubbles) sang insane songs at us as we reclined in the tub, and it was, pretty much, heaven. From my journal, "The mozzy coil is burning, and the three-story bamboo clanks over our head like men throwing timber." You wouldn't think the sound of timber being thrown would be relaxing, but it was.

There was a hammock for reading in. There were bright colors and a pool and lotus flowers. There was heat and humidity and and mangroves and warm rain. The air smelled like sugar. We rode bikes around town! We ate prawns and oysters! I will not, for your sake, post the picture of the thirteen-foot female crocodile we saw IN THE WILD, because she just kinda looked like a log. But we saw her. And she could have eaten us. 

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Bathtub, no crocs


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 Lotus, right outside our room

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Ow. I did break out in hives about two days after we got to Australia, but I think that was all the passionfruit I was eating. I did not get stung by a jelly, not even once. 

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We had some fancy dinners. You have to sometimes. You could see the ocean from our chairs (Harrison's).

Then we went to the Great Barrier reef! This is something I also won't show because I'm sure you can imagine it--the coral, the fish, the three hour boat ride on 5.5 meter seas, the seasickness that ensued... Lala, not me. Poor La. She was a dang trooper. I would not have been so graceful. She just wished for death and held on. (Omg, at one point, I really thought she was dying. I knew we had to get her to hospital after we got back to land, just from the way her eyes looked. It turned out the pink dye in her hair, which had run all over her face in the waves and rain, had dyed her contacts, so she looked positively rabid.)

But the snorkeling was GREAT and we were with the fishies (I love that distinctive scraping noise they make as they nibble the algae off the coral). I have to admit, I even loved being on the boat on the stormy seas. Instead of making me sick, it made me kind of giddy with happiness--a wild, joyful ecstasy that made me think my forebears really did live on ships. This kind of joy is something one must really hide from one's hurling spouse, so I tried to tamp it down as much as possible. 

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More soon, from Sydney! 

Fiona's FlameAugust 1, 2014

The newest Cypress Hollow novel, Fiona's Flame, is out! 

Fiona's Flame
Amazon* | Kobo | B&N | iBooks | GooglePlay

In Australia and New Zealand it looks like this: 



Available HERE

She's carried a torch for him for years. Now they're both feeling the heat...


As the owner of the Cypress Hollow gas station and garage, Fiona Lynde is not one for pretty dresses or fussy make-up. In fact, most days she forgets to brush her hair. But she does have one guilty little secret--she's been in love with Abe Atwell for over ten years.


The only problem? Abe-the town's handsome harbormaster-barely knows she exists.


But then Fiona petitions the council to demolish a deserted old lighthouse, just as Abe is equally determined to preserve the local landmark.


Why does Fiona want to tear down the building that was once her childhood home? And why is Abe, whose father drowned in the lighthouse's shadow, so desperate to save it?


Battle lines are drawn-just as the spark between them is finally ignited...



 I really hope you all like this one. It was a joy to write. I'd honestly been wanting to write the girl-who-owns-a-gas-station story since I first started writing romance. And the knitting in this book is a little different from the knitting in any of my other books. And there's a possibility you'll see a cameo from my favorite horrible beast, Digit... Long live Digit! 


Oh! And the audio version will soon be available! Keep your eye on this space! (Cora's Heartis now available in audio, and I just LOVE my narrator, Barbara Edelman, who's a Real Knitter herself, and gets all the pronunciation right!) 


Lala and I are heading to Australia and New Zealand for a book tour (like, right NOW. We're probably on a plane! Don't break into the house, though, our housesitter is meaner than Digit was!). I would LOVE to meet you if you're near any of these places (newly added Auckland signing!). 


Sydney, Australia
August 9, ARRA signing, 5pm, Olympic Park

Christchurch, New Zealand
August 13, reading, 3pm, Hornby Paper Plus

Wellington, New Zealand
August 16, reading/knitting, Holland Road Yarn, 1pm (Grand Arcade, Willis Street location)

Auckland, New Zealand
August 21, reading/signing, Orewa Library, 10am

Melbourne, Australia
August 23-24, Melbourne Writer's Festival, floating around!

Danville, California, USA
September 20, A Yarn Less Raveled, time TBA

(Not coming near enough? Round up a group and Skype with me!) 

*Amazon affiliate link

MeepJuly 18, 2014

Popping in to say: 

  • 4 hours of sleep a night isn't enough. I hate insomnia. But I'm working on it. (The problem I have with insomnia is that it isn't something I can tackle with sheer grit and determination, or I would have solved it years ago. The harder I try, the harder it gets. But I will get it.) 
  • I'm going to nap today. That's a promise. If you get a chance, you should, too. 
  • I love the book I'm finishing (Splinters of Light, out next year from Penguin, HOLY PREORDER BUTTON, that's early!). 
  • I also adore the book that's coming out on August 1st, Fiona's Flame, the newest Cypress Hollow novel, and HEY, while you're thinking about it, you should add it to your Goodreads list (and enter the giveaway!). (US version*.) 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Fiona's Flame by Rachael Herron

Fiona's Flame

by Rachael Herron

Giveaway ends August 17, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Okay, I'm going back to my imaginary beach to work on more words, and when I've scooped up enough of them and have made a couple of fantasy sandcastles, I'm going to stare off into space, because I'm actively trying to waste some time now and again (see last blog post). 

Next week: Texas, for RWA National! The week after that, Australia and New Zealand! MEEEEEP. 

* Oh! To answer a frequently asked question, yep, I'm self-publishing this in US/CAN, as I did with Cora's Heart. The books were contracted and professionally edited by my awesome editor at Random House Australia, and while my old American publisher (HarperCollins) offered to bring them out here in the US, they could only support doing so in digital form. So last year, I decided that if my books were only going to come out in e-format, I could do the same thing myself and make more money (while keeping the book price lower for you). And because I do it myself, I can actually offer the print form, which a lot of you, my dear readers, still like better. That's why there's no preorder link for the book, and also why you should be on my mailing list so you never miss any of the good stuff!

On (Not) Getting It All DoneJune 24, 2014

I’ve been beating myself up lately. I figured I’d just do it here publicly because you know what? I often admit things here, to you, and then I end up feeling better. I realize I’m normal. I’ve shown you depression, and despair, and grief, and debt. And after I do, I always feel better, because the black thing that claws at our souls is shame, and it can’t live in the light. Just speaking it aloud rips it apart into tiny jagged bloody pieces that shrivel up and then, mercifully, blow away. 

So here I go. 

I’ve been beating myself up for not getting enough work done. 

Yes, I work all the time, both at the day job and the writing job. But I still--always--have more to do, and worse: more that I planned to do. That’s the hardest part for me. Right now I’m writing this blog because I thought of the piece I’m supposed to finish writing, and I was exhausted by the very idea of facing it again. The reason I’m exhausted by thinking about it is because I haven’t had enough sleep. And the reason for that is because of the work. A dear friend told me, “It’s okay just to put one foot in front of the other. You don’t have to do two jobs at the same time.” That felt right, and good, and it made that tight place between my shoulder blades drop an inch or two. 

It’s like meditation. You’re here now. (No. Hi. *waggles fingers* I’m talking to you. YOU are here now (and your hair looks great, by the way). Your eyes are reading my words and because of that, because my fingers are moving, catching my thoughts, the thoughts you’re reading this very second, we have a connection. So I’m telling you, you don’t have to do anything right now but read. And breathe. Feel the air go into your lungs, and then let the air out. There. Wasn’t that nice? Let’s hang out like this more often.)

It’s okay to put one foot in front of the other. And more: it's okay to stop moving entirely. All living things need rest (and if this isn't true, if some scary cephalapod that lives on the ocean floor and changes skin to look like a different scary sea creature to protect itself doesn't actually need rest, please don't tell me, because I don't want to know). YOU need rest (this I know). 

All those other things I’m beating myself up for not doing (building the garden, eating the right things, sleeping enough, having a tidy-enough house), they’re all just an offshoot of Not Getting Enough Done.

It's said you can’t ever have enough money (oh, but I’d like to give it a shot!). It's true of time, too. You  never have enough time to do it all. Obviously, this is true in the tragic sense: young lives lost too early, old lives lost with yet more living to do; but it’s also true in the Today sense. I can’t (ever) do everything on my To Do list. JEEBUZ CHRISTO, I wish I could. On my ideal day I'd write five thousand words, have lunch with friends, walk the dogs, take a nap, tidy something, make a great meal, and do a craft of some sort. In the evening, I’d go on a date, see family and friends, host a dinner, and go to a movie, all the while getting to bed in time for eight hours of sleep. 

Put that way? It’s ludicrous. Of course we don’t have enough time. So let’s pare it down again. We have now. Your butt is planted exactly where it’s seated right now, unless you’re reading this on a bus or train, in which case you’re probably standing and your butt is swaying in front of someone’s newspaper (don't think about that). But you’re there, where you are. Right now. I’m here, in my chair. My fingers are warm, my toes are cold, and the smell of my garlic sweet potato fries is in the air. 

I’ve got time for THIS. For you. And apparently, you have a bit of time for me. That’s a very nice thing, indeed.

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Two dogs Not Getting Much Done At All

 Let’s stop beating ourselves up. We won’t--because we can’t--get it all done today. I hereby give you permission to get less done than you wanted or planned to. And I hope that gives you the space to have something (a nap! a hug! an ice cream cone!) unexpected happen. Tell me about it if it does? 

Savin' Money June 2, 2014

Okay, so you know I love to share things I adore. I have two things (wait! Three! More?) to share today. 

1. Frugal Cell Phone Service

I've been ALL about the frugality lately, so much so that I'm selling things I don't need and not buying more of the same. Seriously, I want to retire young and happy and healthy, and I want Lala to be able to do the same, so we're really cutting back on everything we can in order to make that happen. Yes, it's fun to buy things we want! But it's even more fun to DO what we want. 

To that end: phone bill! We were paying Verizon $180/month for two phones with unlimited plans. That is a lot, and with our iPhones, there was no way to bring that plan down. That was their cheapest plan available for us (and I tried like heck to finagle things to lower it). 

Enter Republic Wireless. They have wireless plans for $5, $10, and $25/month. When I heard about them, I didn't think it could possibly be true and work well, which is why I've used it for a month before reporting back. 

But it's true. Because I chose the $10/month plan, I have an amazing phone, unlimited talk and text, and unlimited data whenever I'm on a WiFi system (which I am 95% of the time). To talk, it uses Sprint with Verizon as a backup when the Sprint coverage fails (which is good because in the Bay Area, Verizon is great everywhere, Sprint not so much). All of my calls have been crystal clear. Last week, when I was sick with the stomach flu, I watched Netflix and Hulu nonstop on my big Moto X screen, and it was phenomenal. 

And on Friday, when Lala and I were Official Tweeters for the San Francisco Opera's dress rehearsal of Show Boat (right??), I knew I might not be on WiFi, so I changed to the $25 plan so I could have unlimited data, too. You can change twice a month on the plan, with days prorated as you go. 

Dude. This is SO CHEAP. And SO AWESOME.

You do need a phone on their system (Moto G for $149 or Moto X for $299), which was a major stopper for me until I realized I could sell my iPhone for the same price as the Moto X, so it was basically like getting a free phone. Even with the $300 charge from Verizon to break my plan early, even with Lala not wanting to leave Verizon (or her iPhone) yet, we'll break even in three months and then save $110 a MONTH after that (I got her on a $60/month single phone plan).

It's not too good to be true. Check it out:

2. Bath Bombs

I do the research for you, aren't you happy? There's really nothing I love more than being up in the middle of the night, doing internet research on wacky things (luggage reviews on Amazon! My idea of heaven). And you reap the benefits of my research here, darlings. 

Lala and I love Lush bath products. They're gorgeous, they work great, and they smell wonderful. That said, one bath bomb runs $5 or $6 each. Even quartering them with a knife, that's a pricey bathing experience. 

So for Lala's birthday (WHICH IS TODAY!), I decided to try to make some really good ones. And I DID IT. These are fizzing, skin-softening bombs that even Lushophiles will love. 


I combined a couple of recipes, but my main inspiration was taken from Brenda Sharpe's great method, found archived here

Dry Ingredients:
Sift together in large bowl:
1 c. baking soda
1/2 c. citric acid
1/2 c. cornstarch
With whisk, add in:
1/3 c. epsom salts

Wet Ingredients:
In small shakeable container, combine:
2.5 tbsp light oil (almond/canola/sunflower)
3/4 tbsp water
1/4 tsp Vitamin E oil
1/4 tsp borax (an emulsifier)
Several drops food color
Several drops your favorite essential oil for fragrance
Shake it like it's your moneymaker!

Dribble the wet slowly into the dry, using a wooden spoon to mix. If it fizzes, you're going too quickly. When you're done mixing, it should resemble almost-dry sand. Pack into your mold of choice (I used this meatballer). Dry for a couple of days if possible before packaging, but they're definitely good for use that very night. (Pro tip: Pack tightly in meatballer, squeeze together, then use finger to push through top hole while opening the meatballer, then turn over and do the same on other side.)

Indulge with a long soak and good book.

3. Speaking of Good Books! 

BigtinyFeralknitter Janine gave me a wonderful book called The Big Tiny. About a woman who changes her life from top to bottom as she builds herself a tiny house, it's exactly the kind of confessional memoir I love. If you like sitting on the porch swing and reading about minimalism more than actually cleaning out closets, this book is for you. 

Dee Williams’s life changed in an instant, with a near-death experience in the aisle of her local grocery store. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, she was all too suddenly reminded that life is short, time is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific Northwest she had painstakingly restored—but, increasingly, it did not include the mortgage payments, constant repairs, and general time-suck of home ownership. A new sense of clarity began to take hold: Just what was all this stuff for? Multiple extra rooms, a kitchen stocked with rarely used appliances, were things that couldn’t compare with the financial freedom and the ultimate luxury—time—that would come with downsizing.


4. Giveaway! 

I keep adding things! Woohoo! Hey, I have a new thing. Once a month, I give away a book to someone on my mailing list. The only way you'll know you've won is if you are told within the email itself, so make sure you're entered. This time I'm TOTALLY giving away a copy of The Big Tiny to some lucky someone. 

*Disclaimer: Some above links are affiliate links, because dude, I'm saving money! 

More Shawls!May 28, 2014

Hi friends, 

We have two more entries in the giveaway: Make an Alice's Embrace lap blanket/shawl for an Alzheimer's patient (full instructions here) and enter for a chance to win one of these THREE shawls! The first two were made and donated by Christian, and they're blocked and so gorgeous: 

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I made this next one, and it's not blocked, but it's very warm and squooshy. 

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Make a simple (quick!) blanket or shawl using Diane's instructions, mail it to her, let me know, and you're entered. Good odds. GREAT cause. 


This is ridiculous. I'm not getting over this bike bug I have. I made a pledge to do all my errands by bike for the month of May (once a week, I allow myself to take the car to get things like dog food and pick up big packages at the mailbox). And I have done it. A couple of times I thought I wouldn't (going from our house in East Oakland to the Grand Lake area takes about an hour each way), but then I made myself and loved it. Once I took bike-to-BART to attend the Oakland Museum food truck half-price-entry night, which was great, and I can see myself doing that a lot more. How fun to think about going to San Francisco on a bike! I will do that soon. Things I carried on one trip this week have included: A zucchini plant, a burrito (naturally), a food processor blade, and my computer. I love its versatility, and let's face it, my SmartCar isn't THAT much bigger. 

Right now, though, I'm a still a little scared of night riding. I have ALL THE LIGHTS: 

 but our neighborhood is not ideal for night rides. Friends of a friend (male and female riding together) got mugged at gunpoint the other night not too far away, and that freaks me out. I like to be brave and daring! I like to pretend I'm not frightened of anything and then, eventually, I'm not. Some folks would be nervous to ride in our area during the day, but I've gotten over that, and now, while I ride quickly past the sketchier stuff (drug deals in progress and hookers at work in cars while pimps stand guard), I've gained a whole new appreciation for the beautiful things in our neighborhood (small produce stands, fresh tortillas, kids playing basketball in the street, saying hello to people). 

But night makes the scary folks that much more scary (click on Christian's link, above, to read a terrifying night ride experience in Sacramento) and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. That sucks, because night riding sounds awesome. I would like to ride and look up at the stars. I'd like to go see friends and have dinner and get home under my own power. I'm just not ready to do so yet. I might never be, not here, anyway. I might change my mind, and I'm sure I'd feel better riding with a group (but not just one other person, see above mugging story). 

That's okay, though. It's almost summer, there are plenty of daytime riding hours, and now that Lala's bike is fixed (she's the original cyclist in the family - remember when she rode to LA on the AIDS ride?), I predict a lot of summer rides to the movies and, of course, to ice cream. 

Mother's DayMay 11, 2014

For years now I've put together a Mother's Day drinks party at a local Oakland pub. The only ones invited are people who've lost their mothers, and we call it Dead Mother's Day. It's a place to go to be bitter about all the spam emails we've received ("Don't forget Mom!" As if we could.) It's fun, it's a bit more raucous than you'd think, and the bartender knows us now, knows why we're there year after year. 

This year I don't want to do it. I'm officially Unorganizing it. For the first time, I'm okay not being angry at the day. I'm still sad, mind you. I'll never not be that. 

But I'm not furious with Hallmark for promoting a day of shopping that serves to do nothing but rub my face in the fact that I'm motherless. I'm not as wildly jealous this year of those who send flowers to the mothers they still have. 

I'm just thankful I got the one I was dealt because she was the best, and I was lucky to have her. 

The way I honor her (every day--not just today because that's ridiculous) is that every book I write ends up being about mothers. 

My most recent book, Pack Up the Moon, is about a woman with a complicated history with her own mother.

Kate checked her cell. Stared at it. Clicked the button and scrolled right. Left. She pulled up the entry for Mom and pushed Call. It rang once, then the recording said, as it always did, “You’ve reached a number that has been disconnected or changed. If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” Once upon a time Kate could call her. In the year since her mother had died, Kate called the number at least twice a week.

Kate pushed the disconnect button and stopped the recording. Someday someone would answer the phone and she’d know that the number wasn’t hers to call anymore, but until then, it was.

 Kate loses her child (no spoilers; all this loss happens before the book starts), and with it, she loses the ability to mother. Then she finds the child she gave up for adoption, the girl who was adopted by two women. Was it really an accident that so many years ago Kate gave her own daughter double the number of mothers a girl usually has? 

Kate poured Pree the first cup, and then waited until there was enough to pour for herself. Pree pushed a blue-black curl out of her eye and then stared into her coffee cup as if she were having a hard time deciding whether or not to take the first sip. She was so beautiful. Young. Gorgeous in her casually-worn luminous skin. Alive. For one second Kate allowed herself to bask in this feeling of pride in a person she’d helped create. It had been a long time. She’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

What if, on the very small chance, Pree was here because she wanted to talk? What if she wanted something from a mother she’d never had, a mother she didn’t know?

Sternly, she reminded herself a child with two mothers doesn’t lack for maternal advice. But oh, God, if she did... There weren’t words in the English language to describe how she’d feel. The color didn’t exist that would paint the happiness it would bring.

To be a mother. That’s what Pree’s mothers had had, this whole time. Kate hadn’t been a mother in three years, and the urge to be one was almost overwhelming. The urge to touch Pree (to smooth the hair back off her face, to touch the tip of her perfect nose) burned in her knuckles and made her fingers twitch. It was ridiculous, not to mention socially and morally unacceptable. And still it was there, inside her, a feeling that might knock her down, physically, all the way to the ground.

It's a bit odd, the knowledge that I'll write about mothers and daughters for the rest of my writing career. You'd think it could be exhausted after a few books, but I've barely tapped what I know of it (wait till you read the next book, if you thought this one was mother-centric! Is this a good time to make sure you're on my mailing list so you don't miss it?). 

The love of a mother blazes with the sheer fury and wattage of the sun. A daughter radiates in it; she absorbs it. If she's lucky, the warmth is enough to sustain her her whole life, even when the sun goes out. 

I wish you a Happy Mother's Day, most especially to those of you shivering in that kind of cold. There are many of us who know how you're feeling today. Love to you. 

(Thanks, RedEnvelope, for inviting me to participate in the Mother's Day blog tour!) 


HildaMay 7, 2014

I got a bike. 

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I’m in love. You might have seen me tweeting or Facebooking about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. 

Lala thought I wasn’t a big bicycle person. After all, when she's talked about how great bikes are, my eyes have glazed over. During our ten years together, I’ve only owned a bike once.  When I bought that last bike, I rode it approximately five times. I eventually got so tired of it taking up space that I gave it to the neighbor girl next door. 

In my head, thought I wasn’t a big bike person. If I were, I’d have been riding that bike, right? 

I bought that last bike because it was adorable. It was an automatic 3-speed (pedaling powered the computer that changed the gears). But where I live there are hills. You need a lot more than three gears. It had back brakes, you know, the kind you had when you were a kid—the kind that take pedaling backward to stop. That’s totally fine, but only if your legs are in exactly the right position at the exact time you want (or need) to stop. Add to that the fact it was the wrong size, too, way too tall for my freakishly short legs, it meant that I fell over a lot. It wasn’t fun to ride. It should have been. I wanted it to be. But it wasn’t. 

That proved that I wasn’t a bike person, I thought. I had bike guilt. 

But that was wrong. I just had the wrong bike. 

What prompted me in this strange, new quest for a bike? I’ve been fascinated by money lately, about how to pay off debt and use it to build the life you want. Now that I know how little I knew about finances (my own included), I’ve been studying investing and interest and retirement funds and all that sexy frightening stuff. Dear blog reader K turned me on to Mr. Money Mustache, and now I can’t get enough of his blog. He retired at thirty! He tells you how to do it! (No, seriously.) One of his big tips is to ride a bike. Not only are you NOT spending fifty cents a mile on gas and wear and tear, but you’re extending your life span. That five bucks you didn’t spend on your car? Save it. Make those dollars work for YOU. I like this advice, and I suddenly found myself super attracted to getting a bike. 

It was all I could think about. One weekend I went to every bike shop in the Bay Area (all forty-three thousand of them) and I fell in like with a couple of new bikes, but I didn’t want to spend five hundred dollars or more in order to save money. Then I went to the Bikery, a nonprofit in Oakland that teaches kids how to fix bikes as well as the skills needed to run a business. I test rode a red bike that was SO CUTE. It did nothing for me. Then Lala pointed out the old Peugeot stuck in a corner. It was rusting. It squeaked. And by the time I reached the corner on my test ride, we were in love. $140 later, she was mine. 

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I’d forgotten that feeling. I haven’t my own Bike of Love since I was ten. I wanted a ten-speed so badly I couldn’t sleep at night. My parents didn’t have the money to buy me a new bike (either that or they were teaching me the value of a dollar—either way it was good), so I babysat every spare minute I had (omg, I just yesterday heard from one of my old clients who read Pack Up the Moon. How awesome is THAT?). When I finally had the ninety-nine dollars I needed, I went to the bike store in Arroyo Grande and bought the blue Schwinn that had been calling my name for six months. 

I lived on that bike. We rode the hills together, me and that Schwinn. I was free in a way I’d never felt before. This was the old days, so Mom didn’t keep track of where we were after school as long as she knew whose house we were headed to (I made friends based on whether 1) they were given sugar and 2) whether they had TV, two things we didn’t have at home). Before I had my bike, I could only get as far as I was willing to walk, maybe a mile or two. After my bike? I could go anywhere. I have a distinct memory of flying down a steep hill at least eight miles away from my parents’ house (I also have the memory of hitting the rock I’d seen too late and eating it but let’s not talk about the wipe-outs). 

I rode that bike constantly. I didn’t give it up until I turned sixteen and got my first set of car wheels (an unbelievably crappy Fiat that I bought for a dollar and paid too much for), and then I turned my back on that poor bike forever. 

I spent the next twenty-five years in a car (minus the time I spent on a mountain bike a boyfriend bought me, sobbing as I rode behind him in terror—don’t send me over rocks, please—and minus the time I borrowed a different boyfriend’s bike to ride to new job as a Perkins waitress and my backpack strap broke and knocked out the front wheel from in front of me and I ate it in front of a million cars and no one stopped and I had to limp into my new waitressing job and introduce my bloody self to my new coworkers and ask them for bandages). Since sixteen, it’s been me and cars. So this new(old) joy is new again and so joyful

2014-04-30 14.43.16

Taking Hilda to get fitted for panniers. 

This is what I’ve learned in the last ten days: 

* When you’re riding a bike, you’re traffic. Today, for the first time, I kept pace with cars who had to keep stopping at stoplights and stop signs (I did, too—I follow the rules, but I didn’t have to queue like they did). I passed them, they passed me. Repeat. It was fun. A weird, rather dangerous but addictive dance. 

* You talk to people more on a bike. You say hi to pedestrians and other bicyclists. You thank drivers who stop for you, whose windows are open. 

* You smell more things. Basically, I have a dog’s nose (which is why I love my convertible SmartCar). On a bike you get all the smells, too. I love that. I love smelling jasmine and barbecue and lint filters from dryer vents. I love smelling garlic and coffee and exhaust and new paint. All the smells, even the bad ones. I love them. 

* You’re using your BODY. Dude, I’ve spent the last four months chained to a desk writing Splinters of Light. I needed to move. (I gave up sugar—again—and it feels good to listen to what my body wants. It wants fruits and vegetables and motion. And no more g.d. Cadbury Creme Eggs.) 

This is a long enough post. Just this: I’m in love with my bike. Lala was right—she usually is about these things. It just took me a while to figure that out, that’s all. This obsession, like many of mine, might wear off, but I’m thinking this might be one of the few that sticks with me. So far, since getting Hilda (that's her name) a little more than a week ago, I've: gotten groceries twice, gone to the cafe twice and to the Mills tea shop twice. I've ridden to Alameda and gotten ice cream with my sister (ice cream is my sugar allowance, and it's low glycemic and step off if you think I shouldn't eat it--I SHOULD) and I've found a mural in Oakland that was amazing. I've accidentally found a street fair. I've gotten tacos from the taco truck and filled my panniers with a burrito as big as a baby. I've smiled at lots of people. 


Taco truck. 




Can you see me next to the elephant's leg? 


And I remembered this: There’s nothing like going down a hill as fast as you can. Nothing. 

Alice's EmbraceApril 27, 2014

Hi, friends. 

I've been a little quiet 'round here because I'm finishing the book that will be out next year from Penguin. I love it. (Yep, writers say that even though it's embarrassing. It's like a mom with a kid who's been playing in the mud. We don't want to admit we love our scraggly little unkempt beasts out loud, but then it just comes out. No take backs. This is after, of course, we've spent months hating it. That's probably less motherlike.) 

So this next book, Splinters of Light, is about a 44-year-old woman with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. It's also about twins and sisters and motherhood and love and death and all the good stuff, but my focus of research has been on EOAD and how really badly it sucks

So when I got an email out of the blue from Diane Lewis about the project she was starting, it felt like fate. (I truly wish I could participate in all the emails I get asking for help. I can't. I'm sorry. But I can do this.) 

Mom in SF - the look

Alice, saying, "Well, are you coming or not?!" 

From Diane's site: 

Not everyone can say that their mom was their best friend, but I can. I think back to how incredibly lucky I was to have her as my mom and it makes me smile. We spoke on the phone or saw each other every day. Being with my mom was like being in the most comfortable place one can imagine. She was HOME for me. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in November of 2005. I (and my three siblings) kind of became her mom as the disease progressed. We made sure she was healthy and happy. Making her smile was always a highlight of our visits.

Alice Figueira, my beautiful mom, passed away on May 29, 2011 from Alzheimer's Disease.

While my mom was in the midst of her disease I knit her a beautiful sage green blanket. Throughout the years that blanket provided her with warmth and comfort. Countless times I would visit her and she had the blanket on her and her fingers were intertwined in the stitches. It not only provided comfort in it giving her warmth, but also keeping her hands busy. Over the years it moved from her recliner to her lap when she was in a wheelchair and then ultimately to her bed.

After Mom passed away I wanted to help others who suffer from this dreadful disease. I knew that I wanted to start an organization to gather people who knit and crochet and ask them to create lap blankets and prayer shawls.

Isn't that so heart-breakingly lovely? My mom was also my best friend (she was only lost in dementia for less than a week and I will never forget how helpless and hopeless we felt), and I want to put out the call for this. 

Diane is collecting shawls and lap blankets and distributing them to others with Alzheimer's who could use something cozy and loving to hold. Not only that, but she's put out free patterns (all with their own sweet stories -- go look! I love Birds on a Wire) that are just awesome. 

And darling Diane would like for us to use her free patterns (rather than a shawl pattern that was your grandmother's favorite--although that is so CUTE) because: "When I deliver them, each and every person in the memory care unit will get one so we don't want to cause hurt feelings because someone else's is lacy or more fancy." Great idea, I think. 

See her site for lots of great details and patterns and yarn suggestions (wash and driable, not nubby in texture, etc). 

I'm committing to knitting one, right here. I love the idea that as I bring this book to a close, I'll be helping someone now, today, struggling with an awful disease. 

How about you? You in? 

OH HELL, I JUST LOST MY DAMN MIND. If you knit/crochet something for this and send it to Diane, I'll enter you in a drawing for a light yellow shawl I knitted that is currently hanging on my dressmaker's dummy, never worn (or blocked, for that matter, lazybones that I am). It takes a while to do this, I know, so I'll extend the contest till the end of August. Email me with a pic when you send it (I'll trust you if you say you did it--I just greedily want to see your gorgeous shawls/lap blankets) and you'll be entered. 

Mwah, lovelies. Thank you. 


Money, Honey. April 16, 2014

Howdy! My head is full of odds and ends--I've been up since 1:45am so I'm punchy, so please forgive me in advance. 

First, the winner of Dan Berne's The Gods of Second Chances is Renee the First (you've been emailed!). Thanks, all, for your awesome book recommendations, and for saying that you like my taste in books. I like yours.

Second, this morning I  did some math and my mind is REELING. We finally paid off an old tax bill this weekend, our last debt that wasn't a mortgage or student loan (which were acceptable debts, I thought). We're in the process of refinancing our house (yay! Fixed rate, finally!). 

So our last debt, besides the house, is my student loan. 

Let's talk numbers Because you know what? I'm still of the mind we don't talk about debt enough. So many of us are crippled by it, and we're not talking about it because of shame.

Screw that. Screw shame. We're all in the same rapidly leaking boat. Have I mentioned that on top of the tax bill ($25k, now paid off), we were $47,000 in credit card debt? It's all paid off, as are our cars (my goal of paying off the SmartCar in six months was met). We have three incomes and no kids, so it's a lot easier than some have it, but we weren't employed that whole time and we live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world, so that's harder. We work really hard at paying off debt. And we've been doing great. 

I didn't worry too much about my student loan even though it didn't really seem to be going down because everyone says, "Oh, student loans are at such a low rate and they're for a good reason." Yeah. Well. Truth? 

* A low rate at a high amount is still a damn lot of interest.

* Student loans let you defer payment when you graduate, which most people do, because they're not making enough to pay them. There's a penalty, of course, and there's interest added on top of that, but that's okay, because it's a low rate and for a good reason, right? 

* They make it SUPER hard to know what you're paying and what you've paid. Today I decided to figure out once and for all, why, after borrowing $40,000 for grad school and after deferring for five years and paying for seven, I still owed $50,000. 

True: $40k + 5 years deferral + interest = $56,000. 

True: Seven years of making payments every month= $26,000 paid toward the debt, TWENTY THOUSAND OF WHICH WAS INTEREST. 

Biggest, most awful truth:  Seven years and $26,000 later, I've taken $6,000 off my student loan, and I'm at $50,000. TEN THOUSAND MORE THAN WHEN I GRADUATED thirteen (fourteen?) years ago.

You know how I figured this out? You'd think I went to my loan's website and just pulled up the facts. No, I had to poke around on that site and press buttons and caress and cajole until I found a list of numbers with no totals and no information. I had to create an Excel spreadsheet and run the numbers to figure out this horrifying truth. 

Seriously. I'm gobsmacked. We'd always paid the minimum because we were concentrating on the credit cards and the tax bill. And because the student loan was "acceptable" debt. 

My student loans are not acceptable debt. There's nothing acceptable about a system put in place that cripples people trying to do the right thing. (And we get paid well! Don't even start me on the teachers I know who have the same debt and no way to throw money at it! Augh!) 

So: This is our focus now. Get rid of that student debt. 

But you know what? Today Katelyn, our dog walker who takes our dogs up into the hills to ramble for hours once a week came and picked up the dogs while I was working on these numbers. Also, Alex fixed our back deck, pressure-washing it, getting it ready to stain tomorrow. The handyman, Carlyle, came to give us a quote on getting a dishwasher because I've never lived with a real live dishwasher in my whole life. All of this, cash. We're not rich. We live frugally and we don't have piles of money in savings (if we did, I'd pay off that damn loan). But we've gotten to a place where we can do the things we want and not lose sleep over the bills. There were many, many years when I didn't sleep, and I truly think You Need A Budget, my budgeting software that I love so much, has helped us SO much in this. (Get $6 off with that link.) 

Talk. Talk to me, your friends, your loved ones. They've all been there, or ARE there and are too scared to admit it. If they haven't ever been there, then tie the laces of their Kenneth Coles together and we'll all laugh as they trip gracefully to their beautifully and expensively tiled floors.

Throw money at the debt. Make coffee at home. Eat at home. Move. Sell your yarn, sell your books. Let's change the way we live. Let's talk.  

The Gods of Second ChancesApril 9, 2014

You know how I love to bring you a book I love. As an author, I get asked to blurb other books. Sometimes, I can't do it (I don't love the book enough or I just don't have the time to read it). Other times, I'm quite happy to put my name on a book. 

And sometimes I'm lucky enough to be thrilled to be one of the first few to read something amazing, something I can tell you about. The Gods of Second Chances is one of  those.

I love the way Dan Berne writes. His voice, while matter-of-fact and succinct, is unique. For example: When you live on an island as small as Yatki, it doesn’t take long for folks to hear about the latest chapter in your life. Part of that is natural gossip and part is because we look out for each other. We have this natural contradiction of believing that people should mind their own business, but as soon as the winds shift, it seems like everyone is giving you the fish eye. 

From the back of the book: 

Family means everything to widowed Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter with help from a multitude of gods and goddesses--not to mention rituals ad-libbed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend. But statues and otter bone ceremonies aren't enough when Ray's estranged daughter returns from prison, her search for a safe harbor threatening everything he holds sacred.

Amazon* | Indiebound | B&N | Kobo

 I got a chance to interview Dan Berne, and Forest Avenue Press will give away a copy to someone who comments! 

TGOSC by Dan Berne cover 2014So happy to have you here, Dan! What I love about your book are the characters. They're real, vital, alive, and absolutely as flawed and vulnerable as real people. Even months later, I remember small details about them. 

What was your favorite scene while writing the book?

Early on in the novel, after receiving a letter from his wayward daughter, Ray goes to his local tavern and, uncharacteristically for him, gets drunk. He wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders outside his house. Still feeling the effects of the alcohol, he falls onto his back and looks up into the night sky. He imagines one of the constellations looks like his deceased wife. He pours out his longing and desire, fueled by the pain of loss. The raw emotion of that scene still gets to me every time I read it.

What was the hardest part of writing it?

The ending was the toughest. I had lost my wife to breast cancer when I was writing the first draft. I couldn't see my way through to an ending at that point and had to put the manuscript away for about six months. I think that is also what fueled the raw emotion in the scene above, which somehow was more cathartic to write.

Holy cow, I'm sorry to hear that. That explains the raw intensity, for sure. Can you tell us about your writing process?

I start with a pretty good idea of my main characters: what's motivating them, what’s getting in their way, and how I can make them human. Actually, I like to torture my characters a bit, bringing out their foibles even when their intentions are good. That being said, I am often surprised at where a character will take me. I don't outline but I do ask myself, "What ten things need to happen in this story?" Then I try to turn at least some of those upside down. For example, if I think two characters must get together romantically, I will ask myself, "Well, what if they don't?"

As I go along, I always ask myself what needs to change in the particular chapter I am working on.

I love to read other novels when I am writing. It keeps me inspired. Last, but not least, I love language. I love the sound of words. This can make me a slow writer. I will worry over a sentence and revise it several times, even during a first draft.

About Dan: 
DB__web3Dan Berne grew up in a working-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked in his way through college, with jobs in drugstores, warehouses, U-bolt factories, and cement plants. He moved to the west coast in 1979, settling in the Portland area in 1990. He has been an active member of a select writing workshop led by author Karen Karbo for ten years. His short stories and poetry have been published in literary magazines and he has won a literary award from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Dan owns a market strategy consultancy and is currently writing a book on market transformation. He lives with his wife Aliza in Portland, Oregon. The Gods of Second Chances is his debut novel. More can be found at his website danberne.com.
For a chance to win a copy of this gorgeous book, please leave a comment. I'll draw on 4/15. Any comment will do, but if you want to tell us the last book you loved, that would be swelligent, as well. 

 *Amazon associate link

Things I LikeApril 3, 2014

about being on book tour: 

1. You can stay in New Jersey with your amazing agent (and her darling kidlets!) and then take the train to Manhattan in the morning and write in a cafe just off 6th Ave, and then take an Uber to go to fancy lunch with your wicked smart editor. (There are many awesome things about that sentence, including the part during which I realized New Jersey is a state and not just a large city. If asked, I would have told you that. But I didn't really know it till this trip. I liked what I saw of you, NJ.) 


(Oh! I just remembered the first time I was ever in New York as a Real Writer. I had no book deal, no agent, but I did have a book being read by S&S as a result of that contest some of you remember me entering. I just reread that entry and it made me SO happy. This is why I write this blog, y'all. For that kind of memory.) 

2. Another thing I like about being on book tour is that you can stay the next night at the Jane, which is a pod hotel made from the bones of an old mariner's hotel (it's where the Titanic survivors stayed, and I've blogged about it before). It's under a hundred bucks, and you get a wee room barely bigger than the twin bed it holds

Photo-6 copy 4

(this is the whole room. The mirror helps.)

and the size of the room doesn't matter because...

3. ...because that night you're down the street having a drink with a friend and that drink turns into WAY too many drinks, and then you're tromping through the West Village (was there singing? There might have been singing!) and you're feeling so alive and you're in New York, and then you get back to the Jane and realize that you have to get up in five hours and there's no way you're going to live through the cab ride to the airport...


4. ...but it's not so bad because by all accounts, you should be dead of both a migraine and the shame, but instead your wife has brought all your migraine medicine to meet you at the airport (because you tend to get a migraine after even one glass of wine lately; this is going to be bad, so bad) and instead, you jump off the plane with a cheery wave and say, "Let's get In'n'Out! I want animal fries!" 

Book Tour Wrap Up

Honestly, there was very little not to love about Book Tour, including the fact that it's over and I can go back to being a 911-answering word slinger. I like my life as is. It doesn't need to be fancy. It often IS fancy, and I'm grateful for that. But mostly I'm glad for health, and happiness, and early (sober, headache-free) bedtimes and pile ups that happen on the couch that look like this:


(Yes, the pit bull is hiding under the chihuahua and the cat -- the thunder scared darlin' Clementine)

I'm grateful for all of it, including the fact that Lala and I just celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary (can you believe it?). We're going up the coast for a couple of days and we're going to do a lot of nothing. I'm looking forward to it.  And to what comes after it, too. 

Book Tour So Far March 23, 2014

I wanted to tell you about book tour, but I don't think I can. It's been too much, too wonderful, too inspiring and humbling. I'll throw a couple of things at you, but mostly I want to tell you about Niagara Falls. 

I got up at 5:30am yesterday in Indianapolis. I drove to Hudson, Ohio, and had a marvellous reading/gabfest/knitting party in the early afternoon at the Learned Owl bookshop. Then I got in the car and headed toward Toronto, another long, ambitious drive. 

After about ten hours in the car on a day that was already busy, I decided it wouldn't be safe to go all the way to Toronto. I called my sister Bethany (of the 18 month road trip) and asked for advice. She said: Niagara. I said where? She said, "Call you back." 

She did the research, which included two main points: Get to the Canadian side, and get to the Tower Hotel. I do anything she tells me to (this is true), so in the dark, I got Niagara.  

I have to confess something: My image of Niagara Falls was apparently a postcard from the fifties. I'm not sure how this got so impressed upon my brain (probably from looking at postcards from the fifties) but this is what Niagara looked like: A large waterfall. At the top of the falls, to the right, stands a twenty-room low-slung pink wooden motel. At the edge, almost ready to fall over the railing, a buxom cartoon blonde waves at the camera, her arm draped around her newly-wedded cowboy husband. In my imagination, there are maybe a couple of other little motels in the area, but that one, the little pink one right at the falls, that was the one to stay at. 

Instead, I drove up to the Canadian Vegas. Neon raced across the top of skyscraper hotels! Music boomed from nightclubs! There was a casino so casino-ish I could almost put a quarter in the side of the building and pull its slot. 

Overwhelmed and tired, I almost checked in at the outskirts of town. The La Quinta, or the Motel 6 - those would have been fine. Then, in the morning, I would go look at the falls and continue to Canada Proper. 

But I heard Bethany's voice in my mind. "Just go look at the hotel. It'll just take a second." It was Saturday night, I told myself. Of course I can't stay at a fancy place. 

I found the hotel in a warren of tall boxy hotels. It was, actually, a tower. 


My heart was racing at this point. I had to stay here. The gal at the front desk bit her lip when I said she probably didn't have a room, but could she check? "Well, I do have one left, actually. But it's kind of an obstructed view. I could do…" Pause. I mentally the math that I could afford. How much would I pay for an awesome view? Two hundred? Two fifty? (In a fluke, I'd gotten two comped rooms in Indiana due to an overbooking problem. I had a little extra in my hotel budget.)  "I could do $89? Would that work?" She was practically apologetic. 

"I WILL TAKE THAT ROOM PLEASE," I boomed as casually as possible. "THAT WOULD BE FINE."

I room up the elevator (the rooms start at floor 27 and end at floor 29). This was what I got. 


Also: there was a jacuzzi tub which also had the huge windows and the view (I had a little single malt Macallan and two Cadbury creme eggs in that magical tub). 


It snowed and the falls sent up steam. At 10:30, suddenly revived again, I ran to the elevator and then outside and watched the flakes swirl and the falls steam.  

I slept to their roar and woke up thinking I could hear the ocean. 


I took a picture of my face as I explored the room last night. This is how I felt: 


That's not what this book tour is about. This tour has truly been about connecting with readers who are also friends. (I repeat: I am the luckiest.)

Chicago: A whack of knitters and these tulips, sent by my sister Christy (which made me cry) at Women and Children First, followed by dinner with friends. Oh, happiness. 


Cedar Rapids: A tiny (really lovely) store in a tiny (honestly, not that lovely) town, and in a surprise twist, a whack of NON-knitters at New Bo Books. A town that cares about literature! It was humbling. Also, yarn was delivered to me (because I'd lost my own) by Perclexed (FROM WASHINGTON STATE!) and Catherine, local. Also humbling. Dinner with darling knitters and good friends Greg and Erick (I stole them from the FeralKnitter and I'm not giving them back). 

Indianapolis: A surprisingly awesome town! I really liked it. Fun reading at IndyReads which was everything I'd been scared of. Only seven people came--something I'd thought would throw me, something I thought would make me want to cry. Instead, it was intimate and SO FUN. Two of my Rachaelista street team members came! 

 (Not pictured: The Two Kates!)

Hudson, Ohio: I have to tell you, Jeremy and I have been friends for a long time. I hadn't met him in person, though. Until WE RAN INTO EACH OTHER AT A REST STOP ON I90. 


Our "cute meet" story will always be that: that we met at a rest stop. He was on the way to my reading. For that matter, so was I. That reading at the daring Learned Owl was also intimate (seven? Eight?) and RAUCOUS. Old friends and new ones (thank you, Rachel, for the g/f brownies -- they are breakfast today), and I was so happy. 

Then the Falls. 

I woke this morning to wonder how I'd ever work on my necessary book revisions in this room with this view, and then I just realized, I can't. I can write to YOU, friend, but not to my book. For that I need a beige wall, and the sound of housekeeping rolling loud carts in the hallways. I need an uncomfortable chair and a view of a dumpster. Not this heaven. So I'm checking out soon, going to meet the Falls in person (there are still occasionally flurries of snow floating past the great windows--last night I thought, why is there ash floating outside? THAT'S SNOW PUT ON CLOTHES PUT THEM ON AS FAST AS YOU CAN I MIGHT MISS IT!). 

I hope to see the Torontoians (?) in the house at Ben McNally on Monday night, 6pm. The rest of you I'll see on the next tour, hopefully. This is amazing. I'm the luckiest one. 

Book TourMarch 15, 2014


I've never been on book tour before. I'm having a problem not dropping it into every conversation I have.

"Why, yes, I do like artichoke soup. I surely do hope I can find some when I'm on BOOK TOUR."

"Oh, sure, I can lend you my favorite pencil (Papermate Sharpwriter), but only if you give it back to me before my BOOK TOUR." 

"The cat threw up on the couch? Again? THERE ARE NO CATS ON BOOK TOUR." 

But honestly, I think I'm going to love being on book tour. <---See? I just did it again! I can't help myself.


I've already done two gigs in the Bay Area and one in San Luis Obispo, all of which were AWESOME and nerve-wracking and embarrassing because I always tell too much about myself (like how NOW I'll mention (but didn't mention then) that at the beautiful Read Books in Danville (above), I forgot to turn off my phone because it's off 95% of the time and besides that, it never rings. So when it did (luckily, far away from me), I gave the area the ring was coming from a good glare. The nerve of that person!). 


I'm going around the Great Lakes, and I'm sorry in advance to those of you I won't get a chance to meet. I can't afford to do more than five stops for this book, so I chose five cities in the region I sell best in.

And I have to tell you -- I'm so excited. There's a part of me that just KNOWS I set this up because I have some revisions still to finish before I turn in my next standalone book in at the end of the month. (On the flip side, who does that? Who accidentally plans a book tour right before her next book is due? Sheesh.) 

But I'm going on a trip. Alone. I'm basically giving myself a writing retreat. Even with 5-7 hours of driving a day, it's still lots more time to write than I normally have, since I'm off work for eleven days. Lots of time by myself in plain, boring hotel rooms. Nothing to do but stare at my computer (if I were smart I wouldn't pay for wifi in the hotels but I don't know if I'm ready for that level of commitment). 

So if you're in or near Chicago, Cedar Rapids (in Iowa! I keep writing it wrong, even though I know where I'm going), Indianapolis, Hudson (OH), or Toronto, please come see me. (I'm having that terrible fear that at at least one of these, no one will show up. Oh, my god, that might be better than just one person showing up, because at least then I could run away and hide in my hotel room. But if only one person shows up, well... then I'll just have to take that person out for a drink. See what I'm doing here? I'm BRIBING you into being the only person who comes to one of my readings, therefore ten of you might think you're the only ones, and then BOY OH BOY you'll be there for the reading!) 

So, book tour. *gibbers* 

Please follow me on FB or Twitter to hear me babbling about how much MORE freaked out I will no doubt become. 

(And if you've already read Pack Up the Moon and left me a review (anywhere, not just Amazon), thank you. They are, literally, a lifeline for me right now. The book I'm working on now is at that gangly adolescent point, going through a phase of lobbing as many f-bombs at me whenever I open its door to tell it to clean its room. Knowing you loved this last book makes me feel like a writer. And seriously, if you've been on the fence about reading it? Go read some of those reviews. I sure don't always feel I deserve them all, but I sure am grateful for every one of 'em.) 

Pack Up the Moon (sneak peek!) March 4, 2014

Hello, you!  

It's today! My book is out TODAY! If you haven't read my books, this is the one I want you to read. If you're already a beloved reader of mine, this one is a little different. It's both heavier and lighter at the same time, a bit more intense and quite a bit more emotional. This will require more Kleenex than Cypress Hollow does, but I'm hoping it will also bring you even greater joy.  


Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Indiebound

 In Australia and New Zealand, it has a different gorgeous cover (I won the cover lottery for both): 

(Now, to whet your appetite, let me give you a quick sample. This is at the very beginning of the book, the moment Kate's life, off-track from a great tragedy, turns and heads in a new, wonderful, frightening direction.)


A girl pushed her head in. "Can I just have a quick word with Ms. Monroe?" 

Kate had seen the girl--no, the young woman--during the talk. She'd stood in the back, her spine straight, the picture of an earnest art student. She wore a black, oversized tunic with red pockets and torn black tights. Her hair was multi-colored, stripes of blue and green cascading through her black curls. Kate had looked right at her, thinking she was a pretty girl who probably didn't know how beautiful she was going to be. An idle thought, that's all it had been. 

Vanessa raised her eyebrows. "Maybe in a moment? We'll be out in a--" 

Kate felt something twist in her stomach, an edge of nervousness, and she said, "No, it's fine," even while she wasn't sure if it was. She held the stem of her glass more tightly. 

Something was about to happen. 

Vanessa gave Kate a sharp, curious look and then nodded. The door clicked behind her. 

"It's me," said the girl.


BOOK TOUR - Please come if you can!

With Sophie Littlefield 
Diesel Books, Oakland, CA - Book Launch Party!
Thursday March 6, 7pm  

Barnes & Noble, San Luis Obispo CA
Saturday March 8, 11am

With Sophie Littlefield and Gigi Pandian 
Read Books, Danville CA 
Thursday March 13, 6:45pm 

Women and Children First, Chicago IL 
Tuesday March 18, 7pm 

New Bo Books, Cedar Rapids IA 
Wednesday March 19, 7pm 

IndyReads, Indianapolis IN
Friday March 21, 7pm

The Learned Owl Book Shop, Hudson OH
Saturday March 22, 1pm

Ben McNally Books, Toronto ON
Monday March 24, 6pm

Do swing by and chat with me onTwitter or Facebook

Thank you, again, for reading and believing in me, and especially in this book, the book of my heart. It means the world. 

Stitches and What it MeantFebruary 26, 2014


Darling KnittedWit and my favorite wee thing, F. 

The thing about Stitches West is that, like all  yarn conventions, it's HUGE. The first time I ever went to one was back when it was still hosted in Oakland. My sister happened to mention she thought there was a "yarn thing" happening downtown. I thought I'd swing through and poke my head into the seven or eight booths that I'd find. 

Instead, I found hundreds of booths. Tens of thousands of skeins of yarn (I know this because I bought most of them). I learned to spin at that first Stitches, on a drop spindle made from a dowel and a CD (I was terrible at it). 

I had no idea there was so much yarn in all the world, and there it was, in my town, in a convention center. 


Knitmores! I haz them! 

Fast forward to 2010. My first book was coming out TWO DAYS AFTER Stitches. I'd been heartbroken about the timing, but I made flyers to pass out. Due to illness, one of my friends couldn't use her booth, and with her permission, I totally hijacked it. I had nothing but flyers, so I laid them on every inch of table. I passed them out to everyone I saw. 

 From my blog post, I'm reminded I got a lot of differing reactions, including this one: 

Knitter, looking at the back of the excerpt, where my picture is: "Oh, I know her. She's from LA."

Me: "I'm from Oakland."

Knitter (suspiciously): "Hmm." 

But people took them, and people bought the book that Tuesday in March, 2010. 

I know this because I saw them all last weekend, four years later. I can't tell you how many people said to me, "Oh! I love your books!" Or "I met you when you didn't even HAVE a book, just those flyers!" 

There is nothing as gratifying as hearing "I love your books." Nothing. I daresay the words "What a gorgeous child" don't compare. It's possible that the phrase "Your child is a genius" pales next to "When are you going to write another book like that one?" 

I came home all three nights completely exhausted, worn out to the bone. I perched for the weekend at the Verb booth (next to the amazing Romi) and seriously, while I wasn't tied to the booth in any way, I spent most of my time there. I was desperately scared I wouldn't be there if a reader wanted to say hello. 

A READER. That's the thing, dude. I have readers. Of my books

Pinch me. Hard. Four years and six books later, it's still not real. 

The most interesting interaction I had this weekend:

A woman approached me at a high rate of speed. She dropped into a crouch next to me. "You write books." 

"I do, yes." 

"So how do I finish the two novels I've started?" 

"You write, and keep writing till the end. It's not easy to finish, but I know you can--" 

"How do I make them good enough to publish?" 

"You revise. I have a blog post that might be helpful…" 

"No, no. I don't have time for that." 

"I hear you. I work 60 hours a week at my day job…" 

A raised eyebrow. "What do you do?" 


A flap of the hands. "Oh, well, yeah. My problem is that I have an INTELLECTUAL job. That's why I can't finish my books." 

What I didn't say was that after I got my MFA and found out that I sucked at teaching, I sat my ass down (literally, at a burger joint) and flipped through a trade journal looking for a job that wouldn't tax my creative brain. The writer friends of mine who were teaching or tech-writing weren't doing their own writing anymore. I picked 911 (not knowing then how creative you have to be on a second-to-second basis) in order to have a job I could leave behind when I took off the headset. 

Maybe this woman couldn't leave her intellectual work behind her when she got home. I could give her that with a smile. 

But the interaction made me realize something: I'd chosen the right path. I'd made a really long-range goal (get a day job that will pay for the writing habit) and I'd pulled it off. Fifteen years after that decision, I was at a convention, talking to my readers. MY READERS. That woman, as much as I laughed when she walked away, did me a huge favor by reminding me of that. 

 I haven't "made it." In my mind, I won't have made it until I'm making enough money writing that I can give up the day job (but giving up the chance to save lives? How does a person really give that up?). And if that someday happens, I'm sure I'll have a new goal that will equal "making it." I hope so, anyway. 

Because a girl has to have a dream. And I have so many.

Bonus for reading this far: Lucky and Clara video! 

I love how absolutely delighted Clara looks. LOOK! This chihuahua plays with ME! (You can see Miss Idaho looking on in disgust in the background.) Lucky goes back to his forever home tomorrow, and I'm going to MISS that little bugger. He's an absolute delight.  

*And yes, I bought some yarn this year, though I managed not to for most of the three days. Right at the last minute, 25 minutes before the closing bell, I fell down and swiped my debit card on my way to the floor which was padded with cashmere so I didn't really hurt anything but my budget. I have no pictures of the evidence, but I'm telling you: the find of the year was Sweet Fiber. I can't tell you how awesome this is. People. Go buy this stuff. Right now. So soft. The colors, so saturated. Damn. AMAZING. 

** Also, I hired an author's assistant to pick up the pieces I tend to drop. She's a knitter, and has been a friend for years. I'd tell you who she is, but then you might take her from me. DON'T DO THAT. Oh, okay, I'll tell you. It's FishWithSticks. She's already shining up my life, for reals. I feel so FANCY. 

*** T-minus-6 days till Pack Up the Moon. *eep*

Lucky Greg Update and Winner! February 18, 2014

Sorry it's been quiet 'round these parts. I'm in triage mode of launching a book and turning in a new book (to be published next year), and if it's not spurting arterial blood from my To Do list, I'm having to pass things by with longing looks.

But some things are important. You remember Lucky Greg, the chihuahua who was hit by two cars? I'm babysitting him while his adoring forever family is out of town, and OH MY GOD. For the first time, I understand the appeal of a lap dog. I kind of want this cuddly, happy, leaping, spinning crazy nutjob of a dog in my lap all the time, wherever I am. (I kind of already have two lap dogs who live here, Miss Idaho and Clementine. But Lucky is so FIERCELY cuddly.) 

The intro to the girls went as well as it could. All three of our female dogs have checked him, and the leg-humping is finally subsiding. Thank god. Kira K was over last night, and said, "I've been conditioned so long to think of a male's aggressive sexual advance as wrong that I want him to stop that! Right now!" 

Here he is, being submissive (finally) to Clementine, and what I love is Clementine's WHAT THE HELL IS THIS NOISE look. 


He really is the most darling boy, and he slept like a CHAMP last night in his crate. 



(Driving home from the dentist earlier today I saw a wee dead dog at the side of the road near where I found Lucky and I was SO SAD and so angry at all the people who let their dogs run around in our busy area. We have two neighbors who let their dogs out every morning and every evening to run in the streets so they can do their business. We've talked to them--they're unwilling to walk their dogs on leashes. They told Lala, "Don't worry, they're fast." Those dogs won't last long. GRRRR SO MAD.) 

On to happier things: 

Did I mention I finished a sweater? I did. 

It's Amy Herzog's CustomFit (take your measurements, make your sweater any way you like!) and I don't have any great photos of it, but here's one I just shot, with a Clara cameo. 

Photo on 2-18-14 at 10.21 AM #4

Ravelry post HERE

Oh! Let's draw a winner for Larissa Brown's BEAUTIFUL WRECK (which you have to read - check those comments, already full of people who read it and loved it). Winner: Maureen! I've emailed you. 

And I just counted the days till PACK UP THE MOON launches.  FOURTEEN DAYS FROM NOW.

*hyperventilates* *pant* *pant*

I have a BUNCH of places I'm going to be reading, and I'm going to be at Stitches West (not with MOON, sadly, since it won't be out yet, but I'll have Cora's Heart and Eliza's Home to sign) in the Verb booth, so come grab me and give me a hug! 


With Sophie Littlefield 
Diesel Books, Oakland, CA - Book Launch Party!
Thursday March 6, 7pm  

Barnes & Noble, San Luis Obispo CA
Saturday March 8, 11am

With Sophie Littlefield and Gigi Pandian 
Read Books, Danville CA 
Thursday March 13, 7pm 

Women and Children First, Chicago IL 
Tuesday March 18, 7pm 

New Bo Books, Cedar Rapids IA 
Wednesday March 19, 7pm 

IndyReads, Indianapolis IN
Friday March 21, 7pm

The Learned Owl Book Shop, Hudson OH
Saturday March 22, 1pm

Ben McNally Books, Toronto ON
Monday March 24, 6pm

Best Book I've Read in SO LONGFebruary 7, 2014

I've been dying to share this one with you, friends. It's a Viking time-travel love story, and it's AMAZING. Larrissa Brown is a knitter and a designer (especiall of lace) and she knows Iceland. This gorgeous, gorgeous book is what made me really want to go there (we will, next year!) It's stunningly well written, the plot is perfect, and the heat level--let's just say this, I haven't been dying for a first kiss like that since I was the one getting kissed. 

More than that, it's an amazing and impeccably researched look at a  community of women, and about a woman coming into herself while inside it. This was my quote for the book (I was lucky enough to read it early): “With a plot as exciting as it is bold, and with characters as real and important as family, Larissa Brown’s BEAUTIFUL WRECK weaves an intensely gripping tale about the strength of women and the love they carry. This is the story we’ve been waiting for.”

I mean it. You want to read this. 

Today (Friday) you can grab the Kindle copy for $2.99 AND get free knitting patterns with it! See THIS post for details. Tomorrow the e-book will go back to $7.99, and it's worth every damn penny. Big and long and sprawling, you'll be irritated every time you have to put it down to go back to real life. 


I got to interview Larissa so I could share her answers with you. And hey, I get to give a copy to someone lucky in the comments below! Keep reading! 

1. Why Iceland? 

For those who are not time travel romance readers, most of them are set in Scotland and involve men in kilts. I have to be different. So I set out to find a place and time where a Viking man might settle down and fall in love. What I learned was that settlement-era Iceland had a lot going for it romance-wise. Iceland has always been a place of rugged beauty, and – in its early years – of a kind of natural abundance that does not exist today. It was culturally isolated, with lots of room for creativity about day to day life and the developing Icelandic language. It was a time when the Christian values that drive most historical romances did not hold sway. And Iceland has some key romantic elements like lots of natural hot baths and angelica flowers to make mouthwash. I’ve always had a little trouble believing in the Medieval England time travel romances, y’know?

2. I know you traveled to Iceland for research for your book - what was the most startling thing you learned that you didn't know before you went?

I was stunned by how romantic the real Viking farm felt. When I began writing this book, I knew nothing about a Viking house except that it was covered in grass. So to imagine Ginn’s place, I loosely based it on a real Viking farm that was discovered in Iceland called Stöng. Much like my character, I studied that farm on a screen, wishing I could climb inside and see the real thing. I imagined it would be a stark place, where it would take the sheer force of a thousand years of love to make anyone want to stay.

I was so wrong. When I finally did arrive there, my small group of traveling companions and I walked around and simply came upon the most romantic spot in the world – a clear pool fed by two tiny waterfalls that turned into a stream and then joined a river that extended across the farm. I thought, no matter how hard life was here, someone cared about loveliness. Placing the house right there – that was poetry.

3. You're an accomplished knitter and knitwear designer, and I love your Viking collection, My Viking Love Song, six shawls and wraps. I've found in my own novels (which include patterns) that knitting a project while writing the connected piece makes each stronger. Were you working on the patterns while also writing the book? 

Thank you for your compliments on my knitting work! Yes, I did create the book and the shawl collection at the same time. The shawls are inspired by my fictional farm, and not at all what a real person – or even one of my characters – would have worn. The designs are a second, different way of expressing some of my story’s themes. I designed and published the shawl collection as a series over about a year, and when I started, I had only a vague plan of what the six designs would be. They changed as I continued developing who Ginn is and what her farm is like.

NOW. Rush. Go buy this book. Tell me you love it, because I KNOW you will. Leave a comment below if you'd like to be entered to win a copy, too. I'll draw a winner next week! 

ONE MONTH TO GO!February 4, 2014


I just realized it's only 4 WEEKS (just 28 days!) until PACK UP THE MOON is out! Don't forget, a preorder gets you a free signed bookplate! Email me at yarnagogo at gmail and tell me you bought it and give me your address. I'll get it right in the mail (even if you order electronically). 

Amazon: http:///TUUxzdFYX9
iBooks: https://t.co/aNvhzn9qqE
Indiebound: http://t.co/TeM7219zBb
B&N: http://t.co/SI52mrh52j


In other news, I'm DYING for Vietnamese or Thai food today, and specifically, I want to make it. Any ideas for a good starter recipe? 

Who Cares?January 28, 2014

I just realized something big about my writing process. 

This is why I hate a first draft: It's the Who Cares? draft. 

When I'm about 50,000 words into a 100,000 novel, you know what I start hearing in my head? WHO CARES? Who cares about these people? Do I? Not really, not that much. I've invested enough in them now (because by this point I've written 80k and thrown out 30k) that I do care a little. But I don't know the end of their story yet. That's the whole problem. 

Until I know what breaks--and then fixes--my characters, I can't care all the way. They aren't totally alive. At the midpoint of a first draft, each and every one of the characters could turn around on the page, flip me off, and walk out of the book and my life. 

When I write The End, though, I care so much it hurts. That's why, to me, revision is divine. I get to go in and play God, moving parts around and upping the stakes so that they really matter. So that the reader really cares. When I make myself cry at the computer (never during a first draft!) I know I'm getting closer. 

It strikes me that maybe that's why it took me so long to actually finish a whole novel. I had three incomplete novels under the bed that I gave up on when I couldn't silence the Who Cares? I had no idea that was normal for me.

Maybe it's normal for you. Keep pushing, keep writing your way all the way through it, even if, for a large part of that time, you just don't care. 

I bet you will. 

Winners and a Recipe! January 21, 2014

Because who doesn't love a crock pot recipe? If you don't have a slow cooker, you should get one because there is nothing better than coming home after a long day and the house smells like it's been cooking for you while you've been gone. AMAZEBALLS. Also, they're like fifteen bucks if you catch a sale. And they don't heat up the kitchen. But you knew that already, probably. 

But first: the lucky winners of the PACK UP THE MOON advanced reader's copy have been emailed and they are...

Pat L and Snow! <--- from comments

K. Barry, D. Hunt, and Shelda! <---- from my subscription list

Thanks for entering, y'all, and don't forget, you can still enter to win one of twenty-five copies over at Goodreads

Speaking of Lucky-AKA-Greg, that wee chihuahua from two posts ago? He's doing really well in his hopefully-forever home. He's such a cuddlebug. 

Much like Clementine and Clara are world-champion cuddlers: 

Photo-2 copy 2

Yes, though Clementine is the cuddliest dog in the world, she often looks  that worried. You know what she's worried about? She's worried we won't give her roast beef in the next five minutes, because that's what she believes should happen. Cooked crab would do, too. Or prime rib! Shrimp! Or pineapple pork al pastor! 


Pineapple Pork al Pastor for Taco Night!

(A friend modified a recipe which I then threw around the kitchen, and I honestly have no idea where it originated, forgive me. But now it's yours. Don't let the pineapple throw you off -- the dish isn't overly sweet or tangy -- the pineapple containes bromelain which breaks down the pork and makes it soft and juicy. It's also fun to say. Bromelain. Try it.) 


3-4 lbs pork shoulder, bone removed

One half to a whole pineapple, diced (it's not hard) or use a can or two if you don't have fresh (I use the whole pineapple)

1 jalapeño, diced

couple of cloves of garlic, chopped

1 white onion, diced

healthy dash of chili powder

4 tbs of cumin 

salt to taste

some canned chipotle peppers, mashed, with their sauce (I use about half the can)

1/2 cup water 

1/4 cup OJ or white vinegar

Throw it all in the crock pot before you leave the house! Turn it on low all day! Come home and warm some corn tortillas (or just put your fillings on a plate because you can't be bothered with the tortilla, that works too). Fill your soft tacos with this heavenly pork, avocado, a little chopped red cabbage, a bit of sriracha mayo or cheese or both, and DIE of bliss. Okay, don't die. But enjoy. 

ARC Giveaway!January 15, 2014

Penultimate is one of my favorite words, mostly because the only reason it exists is because someone like me said, "You know what I love? Not just the thing itself, but I love the thing right before that last part." 

I love the wedding rehearsal. That's when I cry. I love dress rehearsal, too, for the insane jitters and excitement. I loved my practice marathon even more than the real thing, even though both were 26.2 miles. 


And I love getting the advanced readers copies of my new books in the mail. It's even more exciting that the actual real copies themselves. (If you have any interest in watching how freaking crazy I freaked right the freak out when I saw my first ARCs, you can click here.) 

ARCs are Not For Sale. They are often not pretty, being wrapped in plain paper. They have typos, sometimes brand new ones! But they are you, when you wake up in the morning, unshowered, no makeup, really YOU, so incredibly gorgeous with those flaws in that fragile human body.

I feel so tenderly toward my ARCs, especially this one, the book of my heart. I'm sending Kate, such a flawed mother, out into the world. Nolan, sweet, broken Nolan, will be seen by the public. And their daughter Pree . . . *falls to the ground wailing*  My babies!  *clutches books to breast*

I'm giving my last five away, randomly drawn in seven days on Tuesday the 21st. Two will go to people who comment on this post and three will go to people drawn from my mailing list. Take care of them if you get them, would you? For me? 

RestJanuary 10, 2014


My publisher is giving away 25 copies of Pack Up the Moon! Make sure you're entered! WOOOO! 

In other news: 

Holy crap, y'all. My new word REST? Is working so well. I mean, I'm jumping the gun and all since it's only ten days into the new year, but consciously thinking "I have to rest today" means I'm kind of getting it done, even though I've been insanely productive, also. I've taken to flopping. I flop onto the couch, the floor, onto my back on the bed. Then I just lie there for a while. It's REALLY nice. Who knew? (Oh, well, I should have listened to you. Story of my life.) 

Anyway, welcome to the newly designed Yarnagogo digs. I wanted a static home page with my newest book on it, so that's where you might have landed first. For the seven of you left reading RSS feeds, you might have to redirect your pointer here. I still use a reader, too, but I swear I forget it exists for months at a time (thanks for NOTHIN', Google Reader. RIP). The blog is not dead! It might be on life-support, though. I still love my blog a LOT, though. *pats blog*

Right now, I'm listening to Passenger's "Let Her Go" while the dogs bark at the workers outside. We're getting a new gate! And our fence reinforced! We have new neighbors, very nice ones, who have ENORMOUS dogs and Clementine would love nothing more than to get under our fence at them. Can't let that happen! 

I just got home from the 911 job, and now I'm going to get some writing done before my darling friend Stacey Jay comes over to take home a wee chihuahua I found hit by two cars earlier this week. Story HERE.


He's such a darling cuddly boy, and I wish I could keep him, but we can't. Three dogs is enough. And Stacey's been wanting a chihuahua! Her husband said, though, that she could only have one if she, like, found one that had been hit by car or something. Ha! Take that, universe! I knew once he started throwing names out there, they were SUNK. Hopefully he'll get along well with kids (the chihuahua, not her husband) but we won't know that till she takes him home. Otherwise, I'll take the little dude back and foster him till we find a home.

Back at the words. And maybe a satsuma! And later, rest!



Meeting Stacey. He loved her immediately. 

IMG_0824 - Version 2

*fingers crossed!* 

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!) 

On GriefNovember 19, 2013

I know, two posts in one week! Alert the media! (Wait. Am I part of the media? I might be, tangentially, now that I think of it. Okay, consider me alerted.) 

I had dental work today and I'm almost recovered from the meds I took this morning. I can't talk (ow) but it's raining and I'm drinking tea. I was supposed to record a podcast for TapGurlKnits, but it wouldn't be kind to anyone involved, including the listener. Holly Cole is playing on the stereo (tell me you love her, too) and I'm not being sad about Digit. 

That's the thing. 

I can't be sad about Digit. (See two posts below, if you're not sure what I mean.) 


Here I would be drawn to insert that standard, expected apologetic clause (I know, he was just a cat, not like a person, not my child, but it still hurts, etc.) but I don't have to apologize to YOU, darling reader, because you are smart enough to know that sometimes animals are more important than people. Period. 

That's not my point. 

My point is that I do a weird thing with grief that I've beaten myself up over in the past, and it's not only time for me to let it go, but it's normal and it's worth writing about, in case you or someone else you know does it, too. 

I go numb after someone I loves dies. 

Not a little bit numb. A lot numb. I've teared up a couple of times, but I haven't cried since the day Digit died. 

When my little mama died? I cried, yes, that day. I cried a lot that night. Then I went totally numb, and that terrifying feeling lasted for days. It broke at the funeral, and then it came back and lasted for not weeks but months.

It made me wonder if I'd actually loved her.

I thought I had. I thought I'd loved her more than anything. Why, then, could I talk about her death with nothing more in my heart than a vague unease? I made jokes. "My mother died, let me have the last piece of bacon." I could even think about her being dead, and I only felt a dull throb of cotton-padded nothing. 

But this: it's normal. It's part of grief. It just IS. That's what I didn't know then. 

The day after Digit died, Lala texted me to say she'd left a little treat for me in the freezer. I texted back, "IS IT DIGIT?" And I laughed about it (because come on, that's funny).

I laughed because I'd already moved firmly into the numbness. 

I've been happy to realize that he was the one peeing over the lip of the cat box, requiring me to clean up after it constantly. I don't have to do that now! I'm pleased we won't have to buy the expensive cat food that I've shelled out for for more than a decade. When my mom died, there was more than a little part of me relieved that I'd never have to see her in a nursing home. (What is THAT?) And now there's a strange amount of relief that after I get through this loss, I won't have to go through it again (good god, I've already grieved this cat once. It's already annoying I have to do it again.)

And that's the problem. I'm goal-oriented. I would like to feel the pain now and move through it. I can handle pain. I know what to do with it. This numbness, as normal as it is? It's dumb. I hate it. I want to cry and I can't, and that pisses me off, almost as much as Digit used to when he would climb the leg of my jeans to get to my egg plate. (This morning, I had a second of feeling sad when I ate my eggs without him, and I leaned into. Maybe I'll cry now! But nope. I had nothin'.) 

But hell. This is me accepting it. Accepting that I am NOT callous and mean and small-spirited and unable to love. Although it feels counterintuitive, this stubborn numbness is proof that I am the opposite. 

I loved that jerk. And he knew it. Tears don't prove anything, but even with all this said, I'm looking forward to when I find them again. 


2013 Night of Writing DangerouslyNovember 18, 2013

The Night of Writing Dangerously is Prom for writers. (And it funds the Youth Writing Program for NaNoWriMo, what could be better?) 


It really is. 

It's six HOURS of writing, fueled by: caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. If at any point you feel weak, change your consumption order and write some more. If your hands get tired, stretch your fingers and write some more. Just. Keep. Writing. 

Okay, that's what you SHOULD do, but I also tend to be a Flitter. I flit from bar to table to bathroom to photo area and back to table. Even with all the flitting I did, though, I still got two chapters written (3000 words), so huzzah for productivity! 

It is, literally, my favorite night of the year. It's heaven. And this year, some of my favorite people of ALL came. 


Veronica Wolff, sister Bethany, me, Kristin Miller, AJ Larrieu, Gigi Pandian, and Shannon Monroe


This is me and Bethany grinning at our fairy godmother, whoever she is. Thank you for giving this to us. I feel like I still have my wings on, and my glass slippers never even got too tight! (When I took them off at home? Ouch. Another matter.) 


I love this shot of Veronica. Seriously, she's as smokin' hot in light drag like this as she is in a little black dress. 


Bethany looks on approvingly as I selfie. 


Oh, my god, this. Every writer got a short story from a 4th grader. This was mine. It says, "A boy who got lost in the woods. He tumbles on a secret passage to another world. Then he has to fight a villan who is trying to hipnotize the bay area." 


Gigi's card, though? She had an amazing one. From memory, it said something very close to: "I don't know what I'm going to write. I don't know how it ends. I'm going to put in a lot of action." 

That's my current work-in-progress, summed up right there. 

I'm still kind of floating on air today. I'm the luckiest writer in the world, I really, really am. (And dearest Fairy Godmother, you might like to know that I heard through the NaNo grapevine that someone got wind of what you did and sent someone else who couldn't have gone otherwise, so your kindness to us is making ripples out there. xoxox.) 

Digit, Actually Dead This TimeNovember 8, 2013

Digit was the worst cat ever. He arrived as a tiny little jerk. 


Even in that picture, he’s probably about to scratch me.  

He fell in love with me, though, instantly. I was mama, since he was too young to leave his own who’d abandoned him under a house in San Francisco, but he was never my “fur baby.” I didn’t call him my son. No offense to those who call their pets that—it’s lovely. It just wasn’t the way we rolled. We were bachelors together in that little mother-in-law hovel that clung to the hill in east Oakland. We both went out at night and came back tore up. I’d have careless cigarette burns in my clothing, and he’d have foxtails and other cats’ claws stuck in his. 


We bunked together. Happily. He nuzzled under my chin and shoved his paw in mine, using his claws to get closer if he needed to. He attacked visitors with creativity and enthusiasm, clawing his way up their jeans and over their shoulders to the sound of their curses. He drew blood first and often. I told visitors, “Don’t touch the cat, I mean it.” Then if they did that silly, “Oh, all cats love me, watch,” I never felt sorry for them and handed out bandages. 

My neighbors, when we moved to a tonier section of Oakland, hated my emeffing cat. They demanded recompense for Digit chasing their cat into their house and beating the hell out of her—and I was about to pay their vet bill until I saw their cat beat the hell out of Digit in my yard, so we agreed to pay our own bills.  

Digit saw me through six relationships. He didn’t care for most of the people I dated, but he loved Lala. Hated her dogs, though. Hated. He spent years thinking about ways to decapitate Harriet in her sleep, but Harriet could hold her own. He also hated me for a while, for introducing such low-bred animals into my life. He forgave all, however, when we got Clementine, a pit bull of his very own. For at least the first year that Clementine lived with us, all Digit had to do was breathe to make Clementine cower. Digit loved it. Nothing was better than punching Clementine and making her cry. It was fucking Disneyland. 


He cost me at least fifteen thousand dollars over the years, and that’s not including the five thousand the knitters raised for his care after he returned from the dead (first, he died. Then, three months later, I got schmittens. Then he came back from the dead. After that, there was a raffle that put him back together again. If you haven't read that story here or in my memoir, I'll let you have a minute). 

Fourteen years ago, I had him de-manned entirely, removing his penis because of a life-threatening disease. Last year, a vet told me soberly that, in fact, the cat I thought was male was actually female. I laughed my way out and I remain impressed with the remarkable job the first vet did. 


Because that cat was all male. He stood up to pee, his beer farts were terrible, and when he lost at poker we had to eat ramen for weeks. And he was my guy. I was his girl. We were each other's. We’ve been each other's since the very first moment. It was love at first sight for both of us, and tonight, as I held his paw as he drifted off, there was no one else in the whole world but him. 

Today's decision to let him go was the right decision. It was a terrible day, deciding. Lala called me at work this morning, and I was able to take vacation for the rest of the day.

I spent almost seven hours in bed today holding him as he slept like this.


By the time we got to the vet, he was almost all the way checked out, not even able to purr. Strangely, it was a relief to let him go.  

He was a jerk. A real, complete asshole. And he was MINE. 

My face hurts and my head aches. My eyes are almost swollen shut. I miss the hell out of that beast already and it’s gonna get worse, I bet, before it gets better. We have a lot of animals, yes. We still have three dogs and two cats left. And you know what? I like them all. I even love them.  

But I loved no one and nothing like I loved Digit. We came as a package deal, and for the first time in seventeen years, he’s not yelling at me, and I’m not yelling back.  

Lala has said for a while that his first name is Fuck Off. This is because of how many times a day one or the other of us said, “Fuck off, Digit.” Because he was a ridiculous, demanding jerk who tried to eat the food off our plates constantly. But he’s dying, I’d joke. 

Not a joke, I guess. 

Tonight, after we said our goodbyes, before the vet pushed the needle, I said, “Fuck off, Digit.” 

Lala said, “Fuck right off.” 

As we left, we saw the vet petting his body. 


Some cat. Fucking love of my life. 

StarsNovember 7, 2013

Last night I went out with (as I think of her) my Young Writer friend. My favorite barista at my beloved but now defunct cafe, she has stars in her eyes about writing, and is applying to MFA programs all over the country. We ate sushi and talked about writing, and I remembered myself in her.

When I was 25--her age--I packed up my tiny Ford Festiva with its roller-skate wheels and headed to Mills for my MFA. I was going to light the world on fire with my prose. Or at least, I was going to write. And I lit a lot of things on fire, namely the cigarettes I was still smoking back then. I was giving myself two years in the ivory tower, two years to really focus on craft. 

Then, for those two years, I avoided writing as much as possible. I did the bare minimum, because that's what we do sometimes, when it comes to what we love most, right?

Artists don't draw. Musicians don't play. Writers don't write. If we write, we fail (because when we're learning something, DOING anything at all, we fail. Just part of the process). And as artists, we strive for perfection and failing is really not ideal. 

So we don't write. I managed my 150 pages of a terrible novel for my thesis. I took an amazing dialogue class in which we read a book famous for dialogue every week and then wrote a three page scene in the voice of that writer (that did more for my skill with dialogue than anything else). I took a poetry class which almost killed me. 

Then I graduated and spent the next ten years also avoiding failure by not writing. Not writing = safe! Not writing = dreaming about the perfect words you'd string together if you just had time.

What I didn't realize was this: 

Not writing was the biggest failure of all. 

No matter how spectacularly I screwed up in the writing itself (which I did! Still do! Spectacularly!), when I finally started to write everyday (thanks, NaNoWriMo 2006), I was succeeding! 

And seven years (JEESH!) later, I'm still writing, all the time. Every day. Even when I fail, I win.

The job has gotten harder the more I learn. A rank amateur says LOOK I WROTE A BOOK YOU SHOULD READ IT OMG -- a writer who's spent years actively learning how to craft emotion out of words says, Well, you don't have to read it. It's the best I could do but it's still not as good as Murakami. Maybe someday. *kicks rock* (Also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.*)

I've been both of those people. (Admission: I've been both of those people this WEEK.) 

But I've changed my website a little bit because I want y'all to see that book up there to the left with its quotes and overview and all that because I'm proud of it and I'm excited for it.

Pack Up the Moon. It's literally the book of my heart, and it's available for preorder right now. I'll be releasing excerpts and reasons for you to preorder (gifts! prizes! kisses on the mouth if I see you IRL and you want one!) but the real truth is this: It's a good book. It will make you cry, and then--I hope--it will help heal you a little bit. 

I love the stars in my Young Writer friend's eyes. The funny thing is I still have them, too. 

* "The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average . . . Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding."

Winner! And Book Recommendations!November 2, 2013

THANK YOU for the book reviews! I love that y'all like Cora's Heart as much as you do. The reviews and the emails are amazing and when I get one, I do a little spin in my chair. My chair is almost spun out, I'm telling you. Might need a new chair. 

Randomly drawn winner of $50 book certificate: Anna, who's been reading me for ages and is always the first person to ask me "When is it coming out in the UK?" (I love it when long-time readers win things. Don't forget to sign up for my mailing list to be on the random win list! Sometimes I just send a book I like to a random winner! I'll probably do that again next week!) 

What I've Been Reading:
Amazon links for convenience but check your local shop 


Everyday Hero: A Darling Bay Short Story - If you like my writing, you might like Lila Ashe's -- she writes small-town California firefighters, set in a place called Darling Bay which reminds me very much of Cypress Hollow. (Firefighter romance is funny to me because I see firefighters as loud little boys who never got over their fixation on fire engines. Lila seems to know them, though.) This was a funny very short story (free on most platforms!) that introduces the town a bit... (There's one whole book about a dispatcher! Oooh!)



The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty -  I'm about 70% done with this, and I love it. It hits all my buttons -- a slow, intent look at family life, a secret that blows up, and female characters fully explored and realized... I'm reading slowly to make this Australian gem last.



Love on Main Street - A bunch of people I know - It's possible that I and my friends made up a fictional mountain town called Snow Creek and wrote a whack of interconnected stories set at the holidays. It's also quite possible I chose to write about the yarn store owner. As I do. It turned out even more darling than I thought it would, and I had high hopes. I have talented friends, yo.



Human Remains - Elizabeth Haynes - You know that when I talk about books, I like to present a wide variety. This is nothing like anything above dark, and it's incredibly gory (I even had to skip over a section when I was eating a gyro, and I'm a dispatcher and not much grosses me out--I can listen to people vomiting while eating oatmeal). (Oh, my god, was that too much? Maybe. Okay, if it was too much, though, don't read this book. Otherwise:) and SO GOOD. If you like  Gillian Flynn (which I do, Gone Girl not as much as Sharp Objects), you'll like this British serial killer novel. 

My Favorite Writing QuotesOctober 27, 2013

Google, in all their wisdom, has decided to shut down iGoogle, saying it's not used for much. All I do on my page is store my favorite writing quotes, so I guess they might have something there. I was casting about in my mind: WHERE WILL I KEEP THE QUOTES? when I realized I have a place! Right here! 

At the moment of commitment, the  universe conspires to assist you. GOETHE
(This is my favorite quote of all. The week I dedicated myself to writing every day, to really doing it even on the days I had to get up at 3:30am to get the work done, I got my agent. Coincidence? Probably. I'd already written the book, after all. But this quote was large in my mind. The universe does  conspire to help you, and it knows when you're finally truly serious.) 

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else. GLORIA STEINEM
For most of my life I felt like this. Now I write so much that now when I'm hanging out with loved ones, or watching Scandal and knitting, I feel just fine, thanks.

Write about it by day, and dream about it by night. E.B. WHITE

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult. E. B. WHITE
I think me and ole Elwyn would have gotten along well. 

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. THOMAS EDISON

In fiction, veracity is nice...but believability is all that you're really required to provide and all that your audience has a right to expect. ROBERT MASELLO - Robert's Rules of Writing

 Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears. E.B. WHITE 

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. LOUIS L'AMOUR

I’m like a big old hen. I can’t cluck too long about the egg I’ve just laid because I’ve got five more inside me pushing to get out. LOUIS L'AMOUR
Don't you just love this man?

Don’t get it right, just get it written. JAMES THURBER

I have so little control over the act of writing that it's all I can do to remain conscious. DAVID RAKOFF
I die over this line. 

No one ever said it would be easy. ANNIE DILLARD

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. TRUMAN CAPOTE

When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself. ISAK DINESEN
Like knitting!

Writing is when we make the words. Editing is when we make the words not shitty. CHUCK WENDIG

How much a character cares about his/her goals is in direct proportion to how much the reader will care.  LAURA DEVRIES

Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. MADELEINE L’ENGLE

You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer, an almost physical nerve, the kind you need to walk a log across a river.  MARGARET ATWOOD
I saw her speak recently. She remains my hero. A smarter, classier, funnier woman I think there never was.

As for discipline—it's important, but sort of overrated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you.  ELIZABETH GILBERT

Nulla dies sine linea. Let that be their motto. And let their work be to them as is his common work to the common labourer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving,—as men have sat, or said that they have sat. More than nine-tenths of my literary work has been done in the last twenty years, and during twelve of those years I followed another profession. I have never been a slave to this work, giving due time, if not more than due time, to the amusements I have loved. But I have been constant,—and constancy in labour will conquer all difficulties. Gutta cavat lapidem non vi, sed saepe cadendo. - Trollope
Someday, the first line of this will be a tattoo. 

If I waited until I felt like writing, I'd never write at all. ANNE TYLER 

Talent is cheap. What matters is discipline. ANDRÉ DUBUS
My first writing teacher, Al Landwehr, told me this many, many years ago. He told me I had the first, wasn't sure if I had the second. I was SO MAD, mostly because I knew he was right. So I went about proving him wrong about the latter. (Not about the former.)

I write pieces and move them around. The fun of it is watching the truthful parts slide together. What is false won't fit. ELIZABETH STROUT

Never be ashamed of your subject, and of your passion for your subject. JOYCE CAROL OATES

 The tradition I was born into was essentially nomadic, a herdsmen tradition, following animals across the earth. The bookshops are a form of ranching; instead of herding cattle, I herd books. Writing is a form of herding, too; I herd words into little paragraphlike clusters.  LARRY McMURTRY
I am the border collie of active verbs!

Easy reading is damned hard writing. NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
This is why I am pleased instead of insulted every time anyone says my books are easy to read.

Writing is driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make whole trip that way. E.L. DOCTOROW

Writing makes no noise, except groans, and it can be done everywhere, and it is done alone.  URSULA K. LEGUIN 

Every time I hear writers talk about “the muse,” I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job. NORA ROBERTS
"Sister Mary Responsibility kicks the Muse's ass every single day." Nora Roberts, great video HERE.

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath. F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. HENRY MILLER 

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork. PETER DE VRIES 

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives… ANNIE DILLARD
I had a postcard with this phrase on my refrigerator. I looked at it daily during the ten years I wasn't really writing. It didn't feel good to think about. Then I started Really Writing, and this is true: I lost the postcard. I know how I'm spending my life. 

Humor is what happens when we're told the truth quicker and more directly than we're used to. ANN PATCHETT 

Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor. JOYCE CAROL OATES

The first 8 drafts are terrible. MALCOLM GLADWELL

Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving. NEIL GAIMAN 

Take the time to write. You can do your life's work in half an hour a day. ROBERT HASS 

You run it through your mind until your tuning fork is still. MARTIN AMIS

If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you. BILLY WILDER 

An overflow of creative urges is the reward for indulging in the new. JULIA CAMERON

I think the hardest part about writing is writing. NORA EPHRON 

All I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world. E. B. WHITE 

Be obscure clearly. E.B. WHITE

Scenery is fine, but human nature is finer. JOHN KEATS

A word after a word after a word is power. MARGARET ATWOOD

The only way to become a better writer is to become a better person. BRENDA UELAND 

The writer must wade into life as into the sea, but only up to the navel. GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

There are techniques and skills to be learned for writing as in any profession or trade. All the stories fall into certain patterns of behavior that we call plots. Plots are nothing but a constantly recurring human situation, patterns of behavior. It’s my belief that 90% of all fiction is based on just 12 to 18 plots, and you can find them in any metropolitan newspaper in any given week. The same plots used by the ancient Greek dramatists were also used by Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens. Nobody “invents” a plot.  LOUIS L’AMOUR

Writing is the hardest work in the world not involving heavy lifting. PETE HAMILL

Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine. MARGARET ATWOOD
No whiners. This rule can be broken if you're talking to your writing partners. Then whine with élan.

I don’t grasp it very readily at all, the “it” being whatever I’m trying to do. ALICE MUNRO

If I’m going slow I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them. RAYMOND CHANDLER
This is my biggest sign that I'm going the wrong direction--the words just don't come. It feels like block, but it's only that I haven't found the right door yet. If I feel around the room blindly, I eventually find the handle.

We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now none of us does that fully: few of us do it even halfway. Don’t wait for one hundred percent acceptance of yourself before you write, or even eight percent acceptance. Just write. The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance.  NATALIE GOLDBERG

I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don't know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose. P.G. Wodehouse

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. Robert Frost 

Once you’re into a story everything seems to apply ... Wherever you go, you meet part of your story. Eudora Welty

What keeps me writing is that I can only know through writing—my major sense organ is apparently a pencil.

The whole process of writing a novel is having this great, beautiful idea and then spoiling it.

I never think when I write; nobody can do two things at the same time and do them well.

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!

One of the things I had to learn as a writer was to trust the act of writing. —E. L. Doctorow

I write because I want more than one life; I insist on a wider selection. It’s greed, plain and simple. -- ANNE TYLER

There are only two things to write about: life and death. -- EDWARD ALBEE

I write pieces, and move them around. And the fun of it is watching the truthful parts slide together. What is false won't fit. -- ELIZ. STROUT

I have always kept notebooks and I go back to them over and over. They are my compost pile of ideas.—Louise Erdrich

I always begin with a character, or characters, and then try to think up as much action for them as possible.  -- JOHN IRVING

The imagination needs moodling—long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering. --BRENDA UELAND

When I finish a 1st draft, it's always just as much of a mess as it's always been. I still make the same mistakes every time. - MICHAEL CHABON

The process of rewriting is enjoyable, because you’re not in that existential panic when you don’t have a novel at all. - ROSE TREMAIN

Writing is the action of thinking, just as drawing is the action of seeing and composing music is the action of hearing. - BRENDA UELAND

Go looking for an idea and it'll show up. Begin now. Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough. - IRA GLASS

It just requires so much of you, and most of the time you feel dumb.- SALMAN RUSHDIE


You start at the stupid end of the book, and if you’re lucky you finish at the smart end. —SALMAN RUSHDIE


MindfulnessOctober 22, 2013

I feel like I have a new toy. I really do. (And it's not the fact that I'm now a New Zealand citizen, although that is AWESOME, too! I am sure my first sheep is on its way from the consulate. RIGHT?) This whole meditation thing has clicked, and it's because I'm using guided meditation, which--for me--has been the ultimate way to learn to do it. 

Doesn't guided meditation sound so woo-woo? Like you're going to lie on your back and someone will talk to you about imagining a field of lilies while really you're just trying desperately to keep from thinking about lunch? Or maybe you'll have to chant something at the end or pretzel your limbs into a position that you haven't been able to get into for fifteen years before drinking some tea that smells like feet?

What I've been doing is a meditation class. (I have no reason or motivation to pimp this except that it's Something Rachael Loves.) Andy Puddicombe, lovely man, talks to you as sit upright in your chair with your hands on your lap. This is something you can do at your desk if no one minds you closing your eyes for ten minutes. Or at the kitchen table. Or on the couch. (I have a low settee in my office that I use.) 

Then you listen to him talk you through things for a few minutes. If you've been reading my blog a while, you know that I have energy to spare. I don't sit still, ever, unless I'm sick. But during these sessions? I just rest. My mind rests, and my body rests. 

It's amazing to find that stillness. And it's even nicer to learn how to not worry about finding that stillness. It's there, you just go visit it, you don't have to do anything but show up. You don't have to make anything work. You just sit and breathe. (Before, when I'd tried, I'd always thought meditation was so much work.) 

The program starts with a free 10 day 10-minute course, and then if you like it, you can advance to a subscription, and the next course is 15 days of 15 minutes a day. Then you get 20 days of 20 minutes a day. I'm ten days into the 20 minute course, and I can tell you this: This section has blown my MIND. 

OMG I AM SO CALIFORNIA HIPPIE RIGHT NOW but dude, if you're reading this, so are you, so light up that nag champa and sit next to me on my locally-sourced hemp chair. (Just kidding. I freaking hate the smell of nag champa. Too many drunk nights as a college student with those sticks burning. Burn some sage instead.) 

Today I learned this: Permission. I think this may be a thing you have to learn on your own and I'm sure I've read it a million times as people chronicle their own discovery, but to me, that's what this mindfulness is all about. Giving yourself permission. You allow thoughts, feelings, and sensations* to arise and fall. 

Today, in the middle of the practice, I got a TERRIBLE itch in my eye. I mean, it was the rub-it-till-it-bleeds kind of itch. I thought, Oh, no! How am I going to resist this? How am I going to ignore it? How will I stay in the meditation, following my breath? 

I thought about what I'd learned in the last month or so and just gave my eye permission to itch. I kind of rested there. Go ahead. Itch. I don't mind. And I just went on breathing. 

My eye still itched. It's not like it went away. But I didn't care. It was just a thing. Eventually my eye watered and the itch died, and then later, I noticed it was gone. 

THIS IS HUGE, PEOPLE. I IGNORED SOMETHING. I didn't twitch, scratch, fret, or tic. When I sit and write, I can get 2500 words/hour and still fix my hair into three different buns in sixty seconds. I move. 

Meditation is being still. Being present. Giving yourself permission. Holy crap. 

If you're like me, a person who can't rest, you might want to give Get Some Headspace a try. 

And for the knitters who are still patiently reading, a bonus photo: 


My gorgeous friends, Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield in their new shawls. I rarely knit for family, and even more rarely for friends, but after my surgery last month -- even then -- I couldn't sit still. So I knitted a lot. (Super easy pattern, Shaelyn. I'm knitting my third now. It's addictive.) I love the look of delight on their faces in this shot. 

* My least favorite sensation I get during meditation is something that I've had happen in yoga classes, too. With my eyes closed, I feel as if my head is turned, looking over my left shoulder. IT IS NOT. It's dizzy-making and I hate it. Today it happened, too, and I said, All right. Then it went away. DUDE. 


Blatant BriberyOctober 17, 2013


The gist of the above video, if you don't have time to watch me and Digit perform: leave a review for any of my books on a book review site (not in the comments), and be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice. (Doesn't have to be a good review, just an honest one. Want to leave more reviews? Each review counts as one entry. If you're looking to read one of my books for the first time, might I recommend my newest one? Cora's Heart? Drop me an email at yarnagogo at gmail to tell me you reviewed something, and I'll enter you in the drawing. I'll draw on Halloween. SPOOKY, right?)  

And thank you, SO much. 

Also: WHY DO I NEVER REMEMBER TO BRUSH MY HAIR BEFORE I MAKE THESE MOVIES! Gah. At least my lipstick was on relatively straight. 

Cora's HeartOctober 8, 2013


It's here! It's finally here

Cora's Heart, available for the last few months in Australia and New Zealand, is now available in the US, Canada, and the UK in e-book form. 

It's not out yet in paperback, for those of you who love the feel of a real book (I do, too) -- it should be coming very soon, hopefully within the month. I was thisclose to not telling you all about the ebook versions until the paperback version was out, too, but I COULDN'T STAND IT. I had to tell you. 

See, I love this book. I really do. Wiith this book, I could actually feel my writing craft developing. I felt the characters grow under my fingertips, and I cared about them SO MUCH. I love Cora. She's neurotic and worried and likes to make contigency plans for everything. When the Big One hits, she'll be the one who will have her go-bag in the car, and she'll be carrying Advil and bandages for everyone. 

Of course, there are no contingency plans for love, especially when a large-animal vet named Mac comes back to Cypress Hollow. 

You can read an excerpt HERE if you'd like to, and I really, really hope you enjoy this visit to Cypress Hollow. 

Rachael who is so excited she can't STAND it. 

Available here:

Amazon UK

Paperback to come SOON! (Make sure you're on my mailing list so you don't miss the news!) 

Winner! October 1, 2013

The Revolution of Every Day goes to Amber D! I've emailed you privately, and thanks for entering, all!  (And for those of you who want the personalized touch on your copy of Cari's book, I happen to know she'll mail you a bookplate -- email her at cari at cariluna dot com.)

And now: I'm rushing back to get a project done by a completely arbitrary and therefore exciting deadline. I leave you with a look at how Clementine relaxes, with her ears straight out. 


Well, I suppose that's the safest way to sleep. Otherwise, you end up with sad, deflated ears and Digit vulturing you: 


And to increase your happiness level today, two songs from the new (perfect) Moby album, Innocents: 

 With Inyang Bassey -- that VOICE. 

 And this next one! With Cold Specks! Oh, this album is wonderful. Don't miss this: 



Giveaway! You Will Love This BookSeptember 25, 2013

Many (many!) years ago, there was blog called Dogs Steal Yarn. The writer, Cari Luna, was a knitter. She was smart and funny, and she liked me, too. We fell in, you know, as you do. I had a permanent room at their Brooklyn brownstone (until they had kids, WHATEVER) and even now, if I showed up on their doorstep on the other side of the nation, bedraggled from the Portland rain, Cari would hug me till she was as damp as I was, then she'd wrap me in handknits from the top of my head to the tip of my toes while she dried my clothes. She'd put tea in my hands, and she'd talk with that incredible voice of hers, and she would listen, and everything would be okay even if nothing was okay. 

I learn from her. All the time. She's my best friend. (Who has a best friend at 41? Me! Lucky me!) 


Cari is one of the most gorgeous writers I've ever had the luck to read. Me, I'm a good writer (I'm not putting myself down or pumping myself up -- this is just true. I'm solidly, pretty reliably good at writing). Cari is one of those Great Writers. In terms of greatness, I admire Andre Dubus (Sr.) and Alice Munro and her. 

I read almost every draft of her debut novel, which just came out from the prestigious Tin House Press. Every time I read it, the book touched me more deeply. It's one of the two books in my life that, at times while reading, I HEARD out loud. I heard that incredible last chapter.

The book is about squatters in New York City in the 90s, when the city came to evict people who were both living their lives and making a difference. The book, however, is even bigger than this ambitious plot. Sitting here in the cafe, thinking about Amelia and Gerrit and Steve and Anne, I miss them.  

I love this book. Obviously, I love Cari, but I would love this book if I didn't know her and then I'd be all fan-girl when I met her and I would freak out when I found out she was a knitter, and it would be ugly. (She's getting great reviews all over the publishing world, from BUST to Kirkus.) 


Cari will send a personally inscribed copy to a randomly drawn commenter on this post. Personally, I think you should just buy it. You'll love it. 

And please enjoy this excerpt, and the book trailer at the end. 

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell's / Indiebound

Back at the house, Gerrit hefts his bike up onto his shoulder, thumbs his key in the lock, and slips inside. He’s greeted by that good honest smell of fresh lumber and plaster, and also the more worrisome smell of must and wood rot. Over the years they’ve rebuilt most of the joists, replaced crumbling plaster ceilings with drywall, fixed the roof. But there’s still so much they haven’t had time or money to do, like the rear facade. It’s not watertight; it needs repointing. Until they can get that done, water will keep finding its way in, softening the wood around the windows, compromising the building’s structure. Already the weather is too cold to work with mortar. If they can hold on until spring, they’ll do it then.
            Suzie is on the folding chair by the front door, dog-eared paperback in hand. “Nothing?” she says.
            “Quiet. Here, too?”
            She nods.
            Footsteps on the stairs, Ben headed down to relieve Suzie. He has a deck of cards in hand, and a thermos tucked under his arm. “Hey, man. Want to play?”
            “No, I’m headed up to bed.”
            Marlowe emerges from his first-floor apartment, coat on, ready for his shift. He’s wearing the green scarf Amelia made for him a while back. Amelia said he cried when she gave it to him.
            Her knitting is like magic. She’ll take a huge old sweater bought for a dollar at the Salvation Army, unravel it, wash the wool, and knit two smaller sweaters, a hat, and maybe some mittens from it. Gerrit’s got a drawer full of warm socks she’s knitted for him from recycled yarn, a scarf, two watch caps, three sweaters. She has no idea that when you slip on that hat or scarf or sweater she’s made for you, you feel the work of her hands in it. You feel her love for you. That was why Marlowe cried. Gerrit gets it. He feels the same way every time he pulls one of those hand-knit sweaters over his head. The girl thinks she’s invisible. She has no idea, the impact she has on people. Seven years he’s been trying to get her to see it. Maybe she never will.



OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS BOOK. Leave a comment for a chance to win. 

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell's / Indiebound

Happiness UpdateSeptember 16, 2013

Remember last November when I said I was suffering from depression? That was a brutally honest post, and I can't even tell you how big (and wonderful) a reaction I got from people. I just realized that some of you might wonder how I'm doing now. 

I'm doing great. 

Yep, I'm still on the medication at a low dose. I have absolutely zero side effects. And I still feel completely normal, like I finally did when I wrote that post. I have regular day-to-day highs and lows (I got a royalty check! The cat puked on the couch!) and I'm myself. I'm still singing along to songs in the car and in the kitchen. I laugh a lot. My productivity is high. 

Taking care of myself last year was really the best thing I could have done for myself. 

Other Health Areas 

(Sleeping is the most exciting part. Skip to the end if you want to get to that.) 

Food: I'm still eating almost as well as I have been for more than a year now: only meat, eggs, vegetables and fruit (a modified anti-inflammatory diet). I try to eat no grains, beans, dairy, or processed foods, although I've fallen off the sugar wagon since my gallbladder surgery. Augh. Such a hard wagon to get back up on. Speaking of wagons, my wine consumption is way down (I realized this was all sugar, and it was messing with my moods, big time). I've also given up caffeine again, but I don't expect this one to stick because I hella heart a great big coffee with cream. Oh, now I'm yearning. 

Migraines: (I knock wood when I write this) GONE. Gone! I haven't had a migraine I couldn't trace directly to gluten since the beginning of the year. Anytime I accidentally eat gluten? (Like when I was at a friend's house and ate her couscous because I thought it was rice-based?) I get smacked with a migraine within hours. If I stay away from it, I never even get the threat of a migraine. 

Confession: This makes me feel like a great big hipster tool. *Nose in the air in the bakery*  Do you have anything gluten-free? But avoiding gluten has changed my life and has removed an enormous amount of uncontrollable pain. So I do still go all hipster about it, and try not to mind the eye rolls sent my direction. 

Meditation: OH MY GOD, I'm SO going to be a hipster tool right now. Maybe I should just accept that's what I am. Deep breath. Okay, that's done. Adjusts fedora.

So, I found this meditation app. I warned you. It's AMAZING. It's called Headspace, and they have a free Take-10 ten day trial, and then you subscribe if you like it (which I did, immediately). The subscription gives you 365 daily meditations. They're led by a British guy called Andy Puddicombe, ex-monk and circus performer (his TED talk here), whose voice and attitude everyone universally loves.

I'm learning the basics, all over again. That meditation takes actual practice, and that you can't sit down and just be good at it (which is good because I was always so BAD at it). That you can't get upset about what your brain is doing, because that just ups your anxiety level. Andy gives you things to do, and you do them, and in the process, you find yourself in the moment and not-doing. I expect at the end of the year he'll tell me to rob a bank and send him the cash, but until he does, I'm going to listen to this guy. 

The best part so far? The free sleeping meditation I found on their site! 

Sleep: See, I have trouble sleeping because of my crazy shift work. Because of my job, my going-to-bed time varies from 6pm to 2am. Every single day it varies, and I can't change that. That's a lot of stress on the body. I try not to take sleeping aids other than valerian/melatonin, etc, but every once in a while I'll get a bottle of Ambien from my doctor and I GO TO TOWN. The two addictions that I will always struggle with are cigarettes (I haven't had even a puff in eleven years but I still want one) and Ambien. If that stuff's in the house, I can't not take it. I so desperately crave sleep, and that blessed pill knocks me out so deeply that the next night I MUST HAVE IT AGAIN SO GOOD YES PLEASE. 

So yeah. I asked for Ambien for the three nights I was at the hospital, and they gave it to me (helped wonders for sleeping in pain). Then I got my Rx filled and took it every night during my recovery. That's fine. It helped. The problem comes when I stop taking it. Usually I can't sleep for a week, and it's awful and painful and I always swear I won't get any more refills and then I dooooo, but that's another story. (I know it's scary stuff, I've read all the you-will-die reports -- they don't help. I want it.) 

The first night I was off Ambien this week, I didn't sleep. At all. 

The second night, I found the above linked meditation to listen to (and I've listened to LOTS of them, they never work). I'm going to spoil it a little for you, so stop reading if you want to be surprised (?), but first Andy walks you through turning off your muscles. I've tried this on my own approximately eleventy million times, and have never succeeding. In fact (this is true), last month when I couldn't sleep, I managed to pull a butt muscle trying to turn off my muscles. It hurt for a week. But when Andy explained it to me? I could do it. 

Then? He said to count backwards from one thousand. My brain stalled. One THOUSAND? I count backward from a hundred often, and it always PISSES ME OFF because I get to one and then I'm all like WHAT NOW BEEYOTCH? If I count sheep, they get all interesting and wooly, just like my thoughts. But counting backward from a thousand? I supposed I could give it a try. 

I fell asleep somewhere around 300. And stayed asleep. 

Last night, I only got to 829. (I remember because I kept drifting away. 830! Ooh, pleasant feeling... 830, 829... ooh, this feels nice! 829... 829, um, 829...)

And again, I stayed asleep. (When I say I stayed asleep, that means I only woke six or seven times before falling right back asleep. That great sleep for me.) 

You should try it. Now my darling chickens, this has been all about me. What about YOU? 

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